Biden Trips and Falls

W.J. Astore

Does it matter?

Yesterday, President Joe Biden tripped and fell at the Air Force Academy after handing diplomas to roughly 900 graduating cadets. He was helped to his feet by an Air Force officer and two Secret Service agents.

There. That seems straightforward. Biden tripped and fell, apparently not seeing a small sandbag in his path that was being used to weigh down a teleprompter stand. No big deal. We all stumble, bump into things, trip, and fall.

Why didn’t the Secret Service neutralize the sandbag that tripped our president?

So I have no idea why the New York Times described it like this: 

President Biden appeared to trip and fall to his knees after handing out diplomas to graduates at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

He “appeared to”? Why the hedging? He obviously tripped and fell. And he had some trouble getting back up. That’s OK. He’s 80 years old and has some arthritis. We shouldn’t be surprised that this happened, nor should we try to qualify it. “Appeared to” trip and fall—c’mon, man, as Biden might say.

What worries me much more about Biden is that he never holds press conferences and rarely speaks extemporaneously. Remember when presidents would hold televised press conferences and occasionally take challenging questions? These simply don’t happen anymore. Biden is kept isolated from the press, and when he does appear, the questions appear to be scripted, with Biden calling on reporters by name in pre-determined order.

Add to this the DNC’s policy that there will be no Democratic candidate debates in 2024, irrespective of how well rivals are polling, and it truly makes you wonder about Biden’s fitness for office. If he can’t handle a real unscripted press conference and can’t endure a 90-minute unscripted debate with rivals like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Marianne Williamson, how can he possibly be well enough to serve as president, unless, of course, he’s merely a figurehead, pushed and shoved and propped up by those around him?

Even Hillary Clinton of all people has said that Biden’s age is a legitimate issue in the 2024 election. (Clinton said this, it seems, as a reminder to the DNC that she’s ready to run if Biden should stumble and fall in the primaries.) I don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes, but so far the DNC is standing by their man, no matter how much he has to be propped up.

Personally, I don’t want Biden to run again for many reasons, but one is most certainly his age. He deserves to walk away with some dignity intact. Another four years as president for Biden would likely kill him; charges of ageism aside, the physical and mental demands of the presidency are simply beyond most people in their eighties. That’s no knock on Joe; it’s just reality.

Quick Words on Ron DeSantis

W.J. Astore

A Greg Stillson-like Candidate?

Yesterday, Ron DeSantis announced his candidacy for President on Twitter; it didn’t go well due to “technical difficulties.” Something about his butchered announcement is telling. Yet what creeps me out about him isn’t his botched announcement with Elon Musk or even his record in Florida, which is bad enough, but rather his record in the U.S. military.

As a JAG (military lawyer), he seems to have facilitated torture at Gitmo (the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba) and assassinations by Special Forces teams in Iraq.  He was also fond of posing like a combat officer in desert camo holding an assault rifle.  I doubt DeSantis was ever truly in harm’s way (same with me, by the way, but I never posed like a commando), but he loves to strike a pose. He even made a campaign commercial based on Tom Cruise’s “Maverick” in which DeSantis, of course, is the “Top Gun” of Florida.

Ron DeSantis, lawyer, ready to rock ‘n’ roll in Iraq

Meanwhile, speaking of image-making, according to the New York Times his wife Casey is cultivating a Jackie Kennedy-like image with her fashion choices (as a former TV news anchor, she knows the power of positive visuals). If image is everything, as those old camera commercials claimed, Ron DeSantis is burnishing his as a warrior-dad, which, I suppose, is better than the reality of a Harvard-trained power-hungry lawyer with no scruples. 

There is something “off” about DeSantis, something inauthentic and dishonest, even more so than the typical politician. Call it a gut feeling.

But, moving past my “gut,” there’s the stunt DeSantis pulled in shipping immigrants seeking asylum in Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. People are just pawns in his political power game. Again, not that unusual for an ambitious pol, but that doesn’t mean I want this charlatan to have his finger on the nuclear button.

I see him as a proto-Greg Stillson (from Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone”). A dangerous man. Strange as it may sound, Donald Trump strikes me as more authentic and less dangerous than DeSantis. Which, by the way, is no endorsement of Trump.

Joe Biden Is Running Again

W.J. Astore

And Likely Biden Will Be Running Away from His Record

Joe Biden is running for reelection, or so the major networks say, the formal announcement coming as soon as this Tuesday.

It’s been on my mind as I read Chris Hedges’s latest column in which he reminds us of Biden’s string of broken promises:

Democracies are slain with false promises and hollow platitudes. Biden told us as a candidate he would raise the minimum wage to $15 and hand out $2,000 stimulus checks. He told us his American Jobs Plan would create “millions of good jobs.” He told us he would strengthen collective bargaining and ensure universal pre-kindergarten, universal paid family and medical leave, and free community college. He promised a publicly funded option for healthcare. He promised not to drill on federal lands and to promote a “green energy revolution and environmental justice.” None of that happened.

Biden’s main appeal is simply that he’s not Donald Trump (or Ron DeSantis). He represents normalcy, if “normalcy” means dysfunction, division, and increasing levels of dystopia. He represents neither hope nor change but more of the same, and as Chris Hedges notes in his article, America can’t stand much more of that.

What’s interesting to me is the idea floated by Democrats in 2020 that Biden was willing to promise to be a one-term president, given concerns aired back then of his physical and mental decline, if such a promise would secure him the support needed to defeat Trump. That promise not to run for reelection, floated but never fixed in stone, is all but forgotten today as the DNC continues to sell the idea that Biden is perfectly healthy and superbly capable of serving as president until he’s 86 years of age.

But age is just a number nowadays, right?

RFK Jr. in 2017. He gets it.

A few days ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced his candidacy as a Democrat. The immediate response by The New York Times was to smear him as being anti-science because he questioned the efficacy of vaccines while pointing out their risks. Basically, the NYT was angry at RFK Jr. for daring to deviate from party lines, which makes him even more intriguing to me.

Kennedy has spoken out powerfully against the permanent war state in America and the wanton wastefulness of empire, so he has my vote. Of course, the mainstream media will do its best to ignore him as well as Marianne Williamson, and when they can’t be ignored, they’ll smear them so that shuffling Joe Biden can continue in office as a figurehead, shoved along by his handlers, likely with ever decreasing dignity.

Most readers of Bracing Views, I think, are looking for true hope and change, and we know it’s not coming from the two major parties. Still, I hope readers will give candidates like RFK Jr. and Marianne Williamson a long look. It sure beats swallowing a little bit and voting for Joe again.

Strange Doings in the Democratic Party

W.J. Astore

Taking Democracy Out of America

Amazingly, the presidential election of 2024 isn’t that far away, and already the Democratic Party is doing its best to remove democracy from the process.  Once again, the DNC is uniting behind Joe Biden who, if reelected, would be 86 if he finished his second term of office.  Already South Carolina has been awarded the first primary in place of New Hampshire, since Biden performed much better in SC than in NH in 2020. Already the DNC has announced it wants no primary debates even though Biden faces at least one challenger of substance, Marianne Williamson.  Already Democrats are being told you shouldn’t want a younger, more dynamic, more progressive candidate, that more candidates and more choice is bad, that no possible mainstream candidate is better than Biden, and anyway Democrats can’t be distracted by choice when the Republican candidate is likely to be Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.

At the same time, Kamala Harris remains Biden’s heir-apparent, even though Harris is both politically unpopular and ham-fisted.  As Krystal Ball, who can’t be accused of being anti-women, explained, Harris lacks political talent, full stop.  Like most VPs, she has accomplished little, but when she has taken center stage, she hasn’t inspired confidence.  Nevertheless, she’s important to the image of the party and its alleged commitment to diversity.  Old white guy Joe needs to be balanced by a younger woman of color irrespective of her lack of political acumen and her lackluster record in office.

Sadly, we’re at a place where to critique Joe Biden is to be accused of ageism; to critique Kamala Harris is to be accused of both racism and misogyny.  To ask for more candidates, more competition, more democracy is to be accused of being an operative for Trump.  So it’s likely Biden/Harris again for 2024, like it or lump it.

Well, at least they’re happy

The last true liberal/progressive Democratic nominee who tried to bring real hope and change to America was George McGovern in 1972.  Nixon trounced him, of course, and Democrats at the top abandoned “leftist” notions for a pro-business, pro-banking, pro-military, and pro-money agenda, as implemented by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  Both were two-term presidents, both were good at posing as champions of regular folk while implementing agendas that were old-school Republican.  Meanwhile, the real Republicans drifted ever further to the right.

America today is stuck with two rightist parties, a uniparty of sorts, where the agenda favors the richest few versus the poorest many, the powerful versus the powerless.  Sure, the Democrats profess they are more “woke” and are willing to talk about systemic racism, sexism, LGBTQ issues, and so on, while the Republicans, incredibly, are both more populist and more willing to question massive spending on weapons and war.  Yet both parties remain bought and paid for, serving the interests of the big-money owners and donors.  In short, 2024 promises a rigged deal, not a new one, no matter which major party candidate wins.

And that’s a shame, because America needs a New Deal for the poor, the powerless, the workers, the regular folk, but they’re not even allowed to have a candidate, let alone a choice.  At this moment, the most likely “choice” is between Biden/Harris and Trump/DeSantis, and if you think either ticket will support meaningful change…

Establishment America is bereft of new ideas and new possibilities; thus, the dynamism of our nation is dying, smothered by greed and cynicism.  It’s “no change” Biden versus “very unstable grifter” Trump, or possibly “younger grifter” DeSantis.  What a choice!

So, who would I vote for if the election were held today?  Marianne Williamson.  She’s not perfect (there is no perfect candidate), but she’s articulate, empathetic, and open-minded.  Better yet, she’s not bought and paid for.  If I were a Democrat (I’m not), I’d vote for her just because the establishment dismisses her as an unserious crystal/aura lady.  Imagine: she dares talk about love and compassion and pursuing peace.  We can’t have that in America!

I hope Williamson gains traction within the party, enough so that the DNC can’t suppress debates, because real debates would reveal what many have already noted: that Biden has slipped too much to be entrusted with the presidency for another four years.  Yet, unless he collapses on stage, or even if he does, the DNC will continue to prop him up as vigorous and able to serve.

That ongoing sham reveals a harsh reality: who is president doesn’t really matter in America when the candidates and their staff are pre-selected by the real power centers like Wall Street and the National Security State.

Are Biden and Trump Too Old to Run Again?

W.J. Astore

Corporate Capture of Government, not Age, Is the Problem

In honor of Presidents’ Day, let’s look ahead to the 2024 presidential election.

Right now, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are the leading candidates of their respective parties for the 2024 election. Biden will be 82 if reelected; Trump will be 78. Are they simply too old to serve?

Another battle of aging white men wearing red power ties?

The short answer is “no.” Sixty is allegedly the new forty, so I suppose eighty is the new sixty. Seriously, age alone isn’t the issue. Many people are mentally alert and physically vigorous well into their eighties and beyond. But many people aren’t; age does take its toll, we do age unequally, so it’s best to take this case by case, person by person.

Trump’s problem isn’t that he’s too old; he’s simply too much of a con man and a narcissist. Even as a businessman, he was largely a loser. When you go bankrupt running casinos, where the odds are stacked in your favor, you truly are incompetent. Trump wants to be president again because he lost and hates to lose. He lacks a positive plan for America, which isn’t surprising, as he has no empathy for others. He’s not too old; he’s just supremely focused on himself. 

Biden isn’t too old, in theory. But more so than Trump, he does appear to be in physical and cognitive decline. At the British Guardian, Margaret Sullivan wrote that:

“Of course, I wish Biden were 20 years younger; I wish he didn’t stumble over his words and sometimes make inexplicable mistakes. I worry about his cognitive decline and physical frailty. But right now, he looks like the best bet to stave off a likely-disastrous Republican presidency and his record, while not flawless, is impressive.”

Her argument is simple: Biden is the best bet to defeat Trump (or DeSantis), so ignore his faults and frailties. It’s OK for a president to stumble over his words, to make inexplicable mistakes, even to exhibit signs of cognitive decline and physical frailty. Why? Because Democrats apparently have no other viable candidate to defeat the Republicans.

The willingness of the mainstream media and so many otherwise sensible people to dismiss obvious signs of Biden’s decline inadvertently points to a larger truth: Biden, if reelected, won’t be running the country anyway, so why worry about his physical and mental health?

As Chris Hedges and others have argued, America isn’t a democracy. Presidents aren’t public servants. America is an oligarchy, and presidents largely answer to the oligarchs. A corporate coup d’etat enacted over the last half-century ensures the real rulers of America are on Wall Street, in big finance, and with the national security state and similar powerful interests. 

So, which figurehead do you want, Trump or Biden? That seems to be America’s “choice” for 2024, making this Presidents’ Day grimmer than it should be.

Show me a candidate who wants to fight against the corporate capture of the U.S. government, and I’ll joyfully vote for that person irrespective of their age.

(A coda: Speaking of age, can you imagine two women the ages of Biden and Trump contesting for the presidency in America? I can’t. They’d be dismissed by too many as “old hags,” obviously well past their prime, as Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley was recently described by CNN host Don Lemon, and Ms. Haley is only 51! Yet again, America has a “choice” between aging white men wearing red power ties, each with serious flaws. Democracy!)

Democrats Keep Control of the Senate

W.J. Astore

Democracy Is Saved!

I woke up today to the news the Democrats will keep control of the Senate through 2024. Democracy is saved! I guess the Russian bots didn’t steal the election this time around, nor did election deniers mount a coup against democracy. The status quo prevails in America. What great news for all workers, all those who are struggling to make ends meet, to learn that nothing has fundamentally changed in the best of all possible countries.

Heck, it’s even good news that Republicans are likely to gain a narrow majority in the House, thereby demoting Nancy Pelosi to House Minority Leader. I can look forward to House impeachment proceedings against various Democrats, because such proceedings are truly what working-class Americans want and need from their government.

President Biden promised to take action to codify Roe v Wade into law if the Democrats won, so I suppose he’ll weasel his way out of this promise if the House tips Republican. Not that his action was going to change anything, since Biden refuses to touch the Senate filibuster.

What we can look forward to is two more years of divided, do-nothing government in Washington, DC, with politics being dominated by Donald Trump’s new run for the presidency against Sleepy Joe and Giggles Harris. Happy days are here again!

Of course, a “divided” Congress will still come together to support massive Pentagon spending and a blank check of military aid to Ukraine. Nothing unites Democrats and Republicans like weapons and wars.

What you won’t see, of course, is a higher federal minimum wage, single-payer health care, or anything else the working classes could truly use. America, of course, is an oligarchy and Congress and the President serve the oligarchs. As George Carlin memorably said: “You have no rights” — and no say.

Ready for a depressing repeat?

One clear result from this election is Joe Biden’s commitment to run again in 2024, when he’ll be 82 years old. Truly, anyone can be president in America, as long as the oligarchs sign off on you. Biden running again reminds me of the Weimar Republic in Germany in the early 1930s, when Paul von Hindenburg, also in his eighties, ran against and defeated a certain Adolf Hitler in 1932. Of Hindenburg it was said that the men around him “shoved him — with dignity.” And I suppose the operatives around Biden will also shove him about, with (or without) dignity, as age takes its inevitable toll on him. 

Biden will likely keep Kamala Harris as his vice president, not wanting to admit his mistake in picking her. Put charitably, Harris has been a non-entity as VP, so she’s perfect for the job, but if Biden runs and wins in 2024, there’s a decent chance she could become president during Biden’s second term. Of course, the oligarchy vetted and picked her exactly because she’s predictable and obedient to power. But some people will crow about how amazing it is to have a Black Asian female president when her views and allegiances are almost exactly the same as a white Catholic male president like Biden. But, you know, diversity!

So it’s two more years of hearing Democracy is in peril because Trump is running again when we all know or sense that whatever democracy we had ended in America decades ago, and most certainly by 1980. (Of course, America was founded as a republic by a bunch of privileged white guys, who weren’t exactly trusting of democracy, seeing it as mob rule.) Still, I like to think there’s hope in America, because more and more people are waking up to the harsh realities we face as a people. Don’t tell me I’m wrong about this; I’d like to keep a scintilla of hope, if only to preserve my own sanity, which will be sorely tested in the run up to the 2024 election.

So here’s to another two years of “democracy,” American-style, meaning no democracy at all. I wonder why an obvious con man like Trump gains so much traction here in the land of the not-so-free?

Are Joe Biden and Donald Trump Too Old to Serve?

W.J. Astore

President Joe Biden turns 80 this year. If he chooses to run and is reelected in 2024, he’ll be 82 and will serve as president until he’s 86. His Republican rival, Donald Trump, will be 78 in 2024 and is overweight and perhaps obese. Biden, meanwhile, is moving more slowly and appears to be experiencing signs of age-related cognitive decline. Leaving aside their politics and policies and personalities, are either of these men truly fit to be president?

We all age differently, of course. But it used to be said that being POTUS was the toughest job in the world. Younger men like Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush aged noticeably in office due to the strains of the job. Yet pointing out the rigors of the presidency, and raising questions about whether men in their 80s are truly capable of handling such rigors, exposes one to claims of bias based on age.

A lot of jobs have mandatory retirement ages. My dad was a firefighter and he had to retire at 65. While we don’t expect the POTUS to climb ladders or charge into burning buildings or carry bodies, there’s still something to be said for the difficulty of men in the twilight of their lives serving as the “leader of the free world.”

(I say men here because women live longer and often age more gracefully. But I think it’s also true in the U.S. that a woman “pushing 80” would be dismissed out of hand as too old for the presidency; societal bias against older women still exists, though of course older women can cling to power with the same tenacity as men: just look at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.)

I remember the bad old days of the Cold War when Soviet leaders were mocked in the U.S. as a gerontocracy of sorts. So when Leonid Brezhnev died at the age of 75, he was briefly succeeded by Yuri Andropov (died at 69) and Konstantin Chernenko (died at 74 after serving for just over a year as General Secretary). Then the much younger Mikhail Gorbachev took over at age 54 and more than anyone helped to revolutionize U.S.-Soviet relations.

In a way, Joe Biden is the U.S. equivalent of Andropov and Chernenko, a time-server who was elevated by his party as a caretaker. “Nothing will fundamentally change,” Biden said of his administration, a promise he has indeed kept. Those same words could have come from Andropov and Chernenko.

The problem for the Democrats is that there’s no clear younger heir-apparent to Biden. Harris? Mayor Pete? Gavin Newsom? (Newsom, like Mitt Romney, has presidential hair but little else.) Where is the Democratic equivalent to Mikhail Gorbachev?

The Republicans have their own issues, the main one being the cult of personality surrounding Donald J. Trump. But what really empowers Trump, besides his own craftiness at cons and culture wars, is the weakness and hypocrisy of the Democrats. When your most likely opponent is a “no hope, no change” figurehead in his early 80s, even Trump appears by comparison to be a change agent of sorts.

America truly needs fundamental change, someone like Mikhail Gorbachev, a leader willing to face facts and tell harsh truths. Someone with a fresh perspective and the energy to convey it. Both Biden and Trump are too old, if not in their bodies, then in their thinking, to be the reformer America so desperately needs.

Liz Cheney Loses

W.J. Astore

The big news in U.S. politics today is Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, losing her House seat to a Trump-backed challenger.

Liz Cheney has recently built a reputation as the “sensible” Republican, calling on other Republicans to reject Trumpism, alternative facts, fake news, and all the rest of Trump’s baggage. She was an outspoken critic of Trump’s role in the January 6th Capitol riots. She broke from the Trump cult and was punished for it.

Liz Cheney concedes defeat

Trump’s hold on the Republican Party is indeed strong, but I don’t see him as a cult-like leader. I think many of Trump’s followers are with him because of the lack of viable alternatives. Trump’s strength, in other words, is the weakness of his competitors, including Republican has-been challengers like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, but especially of Democrats like Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Nancy Pelosi.

There’s been much hype in the mainstream media about Joe Biden having finally found his groove, with legislation being passed that is supposed to address climate change, to lower prescription drug prices, and to make health care more affordable. But when you look closely at what Biden has signed into law, the benefits largely disappear. Provisions to address climate change include massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry. New regulations to lower drug prices won’t come into effect until 2025 at the earliest, and only for a small number of drugs. (The cost of insulin will remain high for anyone not on Medicare, i.e. anyone under 65 without excellent health insurance.) Subsidies for health insurance are available but drive people into the “marketplace” where they can buy private for-profit health care plans that include high co-pays and deductibles.

In short, the Democrats, the main opposition to Trump, are up to their usual tricks, promising to make things better for the working classes while doing the bidding of their owners and donors. It’s Democratic actions and inaction, more so than the wonders of Trump’s personality, that drive so many people to look to Trump as a viable alternative.

The Democrats could win back many of Trump’s supporters if they simply kept their campaign promises. Those included, among others, a $15 federal minimum wage, significant student debt relief, a public option for health care, and family-friendly benefits for child care, family leave, education, and the like. They simply haven’t done it, and won’t do it, because the quest for corporate money and donors continues to drive policy.

So the Democratic playbook for this fall is the same as it’s been for years: scare the people into voting against “crazy” Republicans. Indeed, the Democratic establishment has actively funded more extreme right-wing candidates, boosting their chances in primaries against more moderate Republicans, because the Democrats assume they’ll have a better chance defeating the “crazy” right-wingers in November. One might ask Hillary Clinton how that worked out for her campaign in 2016 as she boosted Donald Trump against candidates like Jeb Bush, knowing in her heart that Trump would be far easier to defeat. What happened there, Hillary?

Trump, of course, has always been a sly con man. In a sense, he isn’t a hypocrite. What you see is what you get with Trump. With the Democrats, what you see is not what you get. We keep being told that Biden is accomplishing great things, that he’s channeling FDR (!), when it’s obvious he is what he’s always been: a centrist law-and-order Democrat who’s loyally served Wall Street, Big Pharma, and similar big money and corporate interests for virtually his entire 50-year career.

Those Americans who choose to follow Trump, in short, are not a bunch of irredeemable deplorables, they’re not gullible cultists, they’re not bigots, racists, and white supremacists. Not in the main. They’re Americans looking for answers, caught in a vise, being squeezed by the uncaring powers around them, including their own government, and including politicians like Liz Cheney.

Liz Cheney’s father didn’t prevent the 9/11 attacks. He got America involved in two disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that killed and wounded tens of thousands of U.S. troops and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi people. He was a director of America’s military-industrial complex that harmed so many of the sons and daughters of parents who became Trump supporters because they were tired of endless wars that served no one but the friends of Cheney. And Liz Cheney used her father in campaign ads that touted her as a patriot against the corruption of Trump.

That obviously didn’t sit well with the people of Wyoming.

There’s an increasing sense of desperation in America, a growing sense that things are getting worse, that we’re headed for Dickensian times of hardship and exploitation. And Democratic “solutions” aren’t even half measures. Nor was signing up Liz Cheney as an ally to rail against Trump and his MAGA followers.

The answer — and we’ve heard it before — is hope and change. Real hope and real change. We had a candidate and a movement in 2008 who seemed to embody true change, but as soon as he won the presidency, he disbanded his movement, kowtowed to Wall Street, and passed a Republican health care bill that ironically became known as Obamacare. After that record, you can see why so many Americans decided they “won’t get fooled again,” and why more than a few Obama supporters switched to Trump in 2016.

What’s the answer? One thing is certain. It’s not “centrists” like Liz Cheney — or Joe Biden. The voters have spoken.

Please, Joe Biden, Don’t Run in 2024

W.J. Astore

I watched Joe Biden as he tried to answer simple questions from Jimmy Kimmel and it just made me sad. Comedian Jimmy Dore skewers sputtering Joe here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVG6-qWjXMo

And I use the word “sputtering” because Biden apologists still like to suggest that Biden’s problems are attributable to a stutter, which Biden overcame decades ago. Watch Biden speeches from the 1980s to when he was Obama’s Vice President and you hear a person who can speak fluidly, if often not honestly. Joe’s ability to speak clearly and to remain focused had obviously declined by 2020 when he campaigned. It’s likely, given the demands of the job, that his acuity will continue to trend downwards, as Ronald Reagan’s did in his second term in office.

What’s to be said here? First, it’s hard to believe Biden’s handlers thought it was a good idea for him to go on TV in a somewhat unstructured environment, but I guess they did. Second, Jimmy Kimmel showed a lot of class in not exploiting Biden’s incoherence. Third, to state what’s obvious, at least to me, Joe Biden shouldn’t run in 2024. He’s not currently up to the rigors of the duties of the office he occupies, and only Benjamin Button ages in reverse. If the DNC and Joe’s wife and family allow him to run again, it will truly be shameful.

The scary thing for true-blue Democrats is the apparent alternatives, Kamala “Giggles” Harris and “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg. They hit certain diversity targets, but neither is inspiring. Both in their own way are political lightweights. Both, however, are beloved by party operatives because they’re willing to take orders from the owners and donors. Harris is a Clintonite and Mayor Pete is the ultimate square-checking apple polisher. Here’s hoping both fade away and quickly.

Perhaps Michelle Obama will enter the fray as the great Democratic savior. At the very least, she could save Joe Biden from a possible second term that would likely be even more disappointing if not disastrous than his first term is proving to be.

Disclaimer: Sorry, this isn’t about Trump. If Trump runs again, I won’t vote for him. Why? Because Trump is a man who serves only himself. So please don’t spin my worries about Joe Biden as some kind of weird endorsement of Con Man Donald. It isn’t.

Joe Biden’s Early Report Card

Joe Biden and his alleged nemesis

W.J. Astore

Joe Biden’s been president for a year and a few months; it’s time to award him a provisional grade for his performance as president.  Here are a few factors to consider:

* Biden ended the Afghan War.  Sure, it was a disordered ending, a pell-mell evacuation, a calamitous collapse that saw Afghan innocents killed in a final drone strike (nothing new about that, I suppose).  But he did end a twenty-year war, so credit to him for that.

* Biden was able to pass an infrastructure bill, though it was disappointingly small.  Still, America truly needs to invest in its infrastructure (rather than, for example, nuclear weapons), so credit again to Biden.

* Biden kept his promise to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court.  The court is still overwhelmingly conservative, so her presence won’t make a critical difference to decisions, but dare I say, it’s about time the court looked more like the diversity of America.

* When Biden announced his candidacy, the first thing he did was meet with Comcast executives and other high and mighty media- and business-types.  He told them nothing would fundamentally change under his administration.  That’s a campaign promise he’s kept.

* Another promise Biden has kept is sizable increases to the Pentagon’s budget.  If you’re part of the military-industry complex, you’re probably more than satisfied with Biden’s budgets.

* Finally, some people assert that Biden has stood firm against Russia and Putin, marshaling the West against Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine.  I beg to differ with this assertion, but more on that below.

Now, let’s look at where Biden has failed or proven to be a disappointment.

* Biden has kept none of his progressive promises, which is unsurprising, given his track record as a senator from Delaware.  No $15 federal minimum wage.  No public option for health care.  No student debt relief (just moratoriums on payments).  On these and similar issues, Biden’s defenders place the blame on obstinate “centrist” senators like Manchin and Sinema, or they blame the Senate Parliamentarian for ruling against the $15 wage increase due to a technicality.  It’s all special pleading.  When their own Senate Parliamentarian got in their way, the Republicans simply replaced that unelected person with someone more tractable.  Chuck Schumer could easily have done the same.  Manchin and Sinema can be cajoled or coerced if Biden had the will to do so.  But “centrist” Democrats adore Manchin and Sinema because they serve as convenient scapegoats for why Biden can’t be more progressive.

* Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan died a meaningless death, but, once again, this was more by design.  Recall Biden’s key promise that nothing would fundamentally change under his administration.

* Again, withdrawing from the Afghan War was a sound decision, but it was poorly implemented.

* The Russia-Ukraine War: Biden has gone all-in with his military approach to the war, meaning more money for the Pentagon, more weapons for Ukraine, harsh sanctions that hit ordinary Russians the hardest, and rhetoric that declares Putin to be a genocidal war criminal.  Diplomatic efforts have taken a back seat to efforts to effect regime change in Russia.  Some people may see this as tough and hard- minded; I see it as provocative and incredibly foolhardy.  Brinksmanship with Russia risks nuclear war, with Biden’s harsh rhetoric leaving little room for a negotiated settlement.  More than a few people see the U.S. as weakening Russia in a proxy war in which Biden is willing to fight to the last Ukrainian.  Toughness is not about more weapons and war; it’s about finding ways to build fewer weapons and to end war.

* Inflation is reaching new highs and many Americans are struggling economically, but Biden’s main approach here has been to blame Putin.  Unlike Harry Truman, the buck never stops with Joe Biden.

* The Biden team made a disastrous choice for his vice president.  Biden has no affinity with Kamala Harris, and Harris herself has wilted on the world stage.  High staff turnover suggests she’s a polarizing figure and a poor boss.  The only good thing about Harris, from the Biden perspective, is that people dislike her more than they do the president.

* Biden’s unpopularity.  Predictions for the midterm elections this November are dire for Democrats.  It’s possible, even likely, Republicans will regain both the Senate and House, leaving Biden a lame duck for his final two years in office.  Few if any Democratic candidates are seeking Biden’s support or planning to ride his coattails to victory.

* Biden’s mental status.  Biden will be 80 this November.  I’m not an expert on dementia.  But I’ve seen plenty of speeches by Biden where he’s become forgetful; when he can’t remember words; when he gets frustrated.  I feel for him.  He can read from a teleprompter but get him off-script and he becomes unpredictable and says nonsensical things.  Occasionally, he looks lost or at a loss.  Something similar was happening to Ronald Reagan in his second term.

Always looming in the background and foreground is the party of Trump.  To my mind, the best way to defeat rightwing popular authoritarianism is to have leaders who answer to the people rather than to corporations and oligarchs.  The Democratic Party is venal and corrupt, which allows Trump & Co. an opening to play a (false) populist card.  The Democrats, as presently led by Biden, Schumer, Pelosi, et al., are easy foils for authoritarian dipshits like Trump.

Trump would be far less dangerous if the Democrats actually believed and acted on their various campaign promises to help people rather than oligarchs and corporations.

The ultimate grade of Joe Biden’s presidency will depend on whether through his actions and inaction he gives Trump an opening to win the presidency in 2024.  Assuming Trump wins again in 2024, Biden’s final grade will be an “F.”

His provisional grade?  First, I’m not a Democrat.  Second, I despise Trump, a man totally unqualified to serve the public in any capacity.  Overall, my grade for Biden is a “C-,” and on less generous days I’m inclined to give him a “D.”  He is a man who’s often out of his depth, a man well past his prime, a man who perhaps shouldn’t have run in 2020 and who most certainly shouldn’t run again in 2024, given the demands of the presidency. (Recall that when Biden suggested a run for the presidency in 2020, Obama told him, You don’t have to do this, Joe. Not exactly an inspiring vote of confidence!)

What do you think, readers?  What grade has Joe Biden earned so far in your opinion?