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The Biden Problem

Trump - Biden Debate - WSJ
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By: The Editorial Board – wsj.com – June 28, 2024

The debate showed the President clearly isn’t up to four more years in office.

This isn’t a partisan thought; it’s a patriotic one. Democrats across the country were privately saying the same thing last night, and some of them on TV not so privately. Mr. Biden lost the debate in the first 10 minutes as he failed to speak clearly, did so in a weak voice, and sometimes couldn’t complete a coherent sentence. His blank stare when Donald Trump was speaking suggested a man who is struggling to recall what he has been prepped for weeks to say, but who no longer has the memory to do it.

This isn’t to say he didn’t score points against Mr. Trump now and again. He can still recall a line or a policy once in a while. But without a script provided by his aides, and without his usual teleprompter, the President looked and sounded lost. Voters already sensed this, which is why two-thirds have been saying for more than a year that they’d rather he not run again.

The President’s faltering effort allowed Mr. Trump to win the debate despite a mediocre performance in his own right. The former President was strong on inflation and the economy, where he knows he has an advantage. He rightly nailed Mr. Biden’s policies as the main inflation culprit.

Mr. Biden’s response that Mr. Trump caused inflation by the way he handled Covid was preposterous. The economy was recovering smartly when Mr. Biden took office, and his $1.8 trillion spending blizzard in March 2021 flooded the economy with money. Add an accommodating Federal Reserve, and that’s the cause of 9.1% inflation.

Mr. Trump also won the exchanges on taxes, linking his 2017 tax cut to the economy’s strong pre-Covid growth. And his linkage between Mr. Biden’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is almost certainly true. Ambitious dictators move when they smell weakness.

But Mr. Trump also ducked question after question—and his exaggerations and falsehoods kept coming. The former President was coached to keep his cool and stick to hitting the Biden record, and for the most part he did. But as the debate progressed he couldn’t resist returning to his self-pitying line about the “stolen” 2020 election.

Mr. Trump began one answer shrewdly by saying his “retribution” would be the “success” of a second term. But then he couldn’t resist saying Mr. Biden deserved to be charged as a criminal, and he didn’t rule out charging him. This sense of personal grievance and fear of four more years of ugly mayhem is the reason Mr. Trump isn’t winning by more than he is. If Nikki Haley were the GOP nominee, the race would be over.


But the bitter truth for Democrats after Thursday is that Mr. Trump’s liabilities may not matter if Mr. Biden is the party nominee. Mr. Trump at least looked vigorous and reminded voters of the pre-Covid economy. Mr. Biden looked like a feeble man no American should want going head to head with Mr. Putin or China’s Xi Jinping.

One inevitable question is why those closest to Mr. Biden let him run again. We and many others warned them. It was clearly a selfish act for him to seek a second term. But did they really think they could hide his decline from the public for an entire election campaign? It’s hard to believe they wanted this early debate as a way to change the campaign in their favor.

The debate instead has exposed him and their long cover-up of the truth. If they believe that Mr. Trump is the threat to democracy they claim, they did a disservice to the country by nominating Mr. Biden again. They owe an apology to Dean Phillips, the sole Democrat willing to challenge the President.

All of this presents Democrats with an excruciating choice. Mr. Biden has the delegates to win the nomination, and the only way he won’t be the nominee is if he decides to withdraw. The question is whether any prominent Democrats will now break from their party-wide omertà and call on the President to consider stepping aside. Perhaps there will be a delegation of the President’s closest friends willing to tell him so privately.

A Biden withdrawal would create some temporary panic as Democrats seek a new nominee. Vice President Kamala Harris isn’t the answer. But others would come to the fore as candidates, and the Democratic convention would command the attention of the world. You know Mr. Trump is counting on Democrats to stick with Mr. Biden, but the country deserves a better choice.

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Source: Democrats Can’t Avoid the Biden Problem – WSJ