Biden’s Loved Ones Owe Him the Truth


Joe Biden wearing a suit and speaking into a microphone in front of a backdrop reading "Let's Go Joe"; Jill is seated behind him.

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The only good thing for Democrats to come out of last night’s catastrophic debate was its crystal clarity: Joe Biden, for the sake of his party and for the sake of his country, needs to step aside.

The odds are still against that, but they became dramatically higher just minutes into the debate, when all of the worst concerns about Biden were confirmed. The president appeared frail, confused, and disoriented; at times he was utterly lost. His answers trailed off mid-sentence. Sometimes he interrupted himself; other times he appeared slack-jawed.

Biden looked every one of his 81 years.

It was painful to watch, a decent but now ancient man humiliated onstage in front of a national audience, with nowhere to hide. Out of sheer human decency, at times, I simply had to look away. I sensed that even Donald Trump, the cruelest of men, sometimes felt sorry for Biden.

This bell cannot be unrung.

Joe Biden cannot defeat Donald Trump. Democrats now know this. Those who tell you otherwise are lying. The question is what they will do about it.

Because Biden is the nominee—he won almost 99 percent of the delegates in the primary—and the rules make it virtually impossible to depose a nominee without his consent, the only realistic way for Democrats to win in November is for the president to step aside. Democrats are fortunate that this first debate was so early, and that the Democratic National Convention remains more than seven weeks away. There’s still time for the party to change horses. The Chicago convention would be a free-for-all, rambunctious and chaotic, but that beats a walk to the political gallows.

Biden is a strange combination, at once insecure and arrogant. He finally won the presidency, after decades of trying and failing, and now there might not be anything in the world that would persuade him to pull out of the contest. But Democrats, panicked and terrified, need to try.

There are a few key figures who might be able to make that happen. Barack Obama, who elevated a late-career Biden to national prominence when he chose him to be vice president, is one. James Clyburn, who saved Biden’s candidacy in 2020 by endorsing him before the South Carolina primary, is another. Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons, a close friend of Biden’s, could weigh in; large donors could make their views known, too.

But the ones who matter most are those who are personally closest to Biden—his longtime, trusted advisers Ron Klain, Mike Donilon, and Ted Kaufman; Biden’s sister, Valerie; and his wife, Jill. If all of them, or most of them, were direct and honest with the president, telling him that he’s served his country well but that his time is up, Biden might listen to them. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that he could ignore them.

A conversation asking a president who is the nominee of his party to step aside because he’s no longer up to the job would be extremely emotional and very difficult. But those who have cared for Biden the longest, and who have loved him the most, cannot allow him to continue. Not knowing what we all know, not having seen what we all saw.

What happened last night to a man they cherish was mortifying. To allow him to go through such a spectacle again would be heartless and inhumane. It is Joe Biden’s worst enemies, including Donald Trump, who want him to stay in the race. No one who has his best interest at heart can tell him to continue as the nominee.

There is, finally, the good of the country. Donald Trump is a dagger pointed at the heart of America. He needs to be defeated. Joe Biden did it once, and for that alone he deserves a special place in the American story. But he isn’t capable of doing it again. Those who are closest to the president owe it to him, and they owe it to us, to tell him so.



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