If you thought Joe Biden would finally see the handwriting on the wall after a catastrophic special counsel report and leave the presidential race, you will be disappointed – or perhaps pleased if you are a fan of Donald Trump – to know that, by all accounts, he apparently has no such intention. As the wavering commander-in-chief holds on for dear life, and as his allies pray for divine intervention every time he steps out in public, his shrinking gang of apologists now appears just as out of touch as the man himself. The president’s friends have failed to heed the hard-learned lesson that the way to get out of a hole is, for starters, to stop digging.
It’s not like this issue suddenly appeared. In November of 2023, USA Today published a piece that now seems prescient, entitled “Earth to Democrats: Biden presidency is a dumpster fire. How many warning signs do you need?” Now, three months later, that fire has all but burned up Biden’s electoral prospects, leaving only hard-core partisans to make excuses for his collapsing presidency.
Exhibit A in the hapless, futile attempts to deny what everyone else can see clearly with their own eyes would have to be the face of far-left MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, whose defense of Biden’s mental capacity is that “he rides a bike!” That was the best she could do, even after the president’s well-chronicled tumble off his bicycle in 2022. The expected attacks by the left on Robert Hur as just another pro-Trump Republican have hardly landed with anyone outside the fishbowl of Washington because they ignore the oversized elephant in the room: the fact Mr. Hur was appointed by Biden’s own Attorney General Merrick Garland, on whom Democrats’ attacks have now focused since Hur has left the stage. Democrats are experiencing a recurring nightmare that began in 2016, when the infamous former FBI Director James Comey effectively issued a political indictment of Hillary Clinton without actually indicting her under the law.
Joe Biden Unmasked
Before we get to the profound and vexing question of where the Democrats go from here now that the ship of state commanded by their president is listing and threatening to capsize, there were some more feeble attempts by left-wing partisans, which we offer up only to demonstrate how desperate and shallow the defense of Biden has become. In the long-time liberal magazine The New Yorker, author Jonathan Chait sings the familiar anthem of the left, asserting that it’s “strange that Biden’s age should even rate as a concern when his opponent is a deranged criminal authoritarian.”
Then there is the familiar Washington parlor game of what-about-ism? To the oft-repeated charge that Biden is not even in control of his own presidency – and of no one knowing who actually is – Chait notably offers no denial, instead reaching deep into his political spin bag to argue that – wait for it – it doesn’t really matter: “Well, if he’s controlled by advisers, is that unacceptable? If the advisers are making good decisions? Reagan was pretty senile and controlled by advisers. Everybody’s forgotten this, but the accounts of his mental state are harrowing. Nobody cared because the results were fine.”
While many a Democrat predictably protested loudly, claiming they see no evidence of cognitive decline in their private meetings with Biden, familiar Trump-deranged figures – such as disgraced CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin – also registered their outrage. They sent the nation back to school on the word “gratuitous,” employed liberally by everyone from the president to the vice president to his embattled press secretary to accuse Hur of political partisanship. What the critics had in common was the age-old fallback of blaming the messenger – focusing on Hur’s behavior, not Biden’s.
But think about what they are saying. They claim it was strictly gratuitous, i.e. not genuinely relevant, for Mr. Hur to report that the leader of the free world could not recall, “even within a few years,” when his son died, or the years he was vice president, after confusing the live and dead leaders of two key American allies or, in the act of protesting that his memory is fine, calling the president of Egypt the president of Mexico. Even more devastating, while somewhat overlooked, is Hur’s reporting that Biden “could not remember details of a debate over Afghanistan that appeared very important to him.” There is a reason 75% of Americans say Biden is not up to the job anymore.
Then there is big-time Democratic strategist and “Obama whisperer” David Axelrod, who has continuously infuriated the White House over the last few months with his thinly veiled suggestions that Biden should consider dropping out of the race before it’s too late – which it certainly appears to be now. Axelrod’s immediate reaction to the Hur report was to observe that this is the worst kind of crisis for a president, when people’s darkest, long-held fears about him are reinforced. But while observing that “the president will never forget the shiv the special counsel stuck into the Biden re-election campaign,” Axelrod admitted this was “another log on a raging fire that threatens to engulf Biden’s re-election.”
There is not a single indication so far that Biden is reconsidering his re-election bid, according to people familiar with his thinking who spoke with The Wall Street Journal, which further reports, unsurprisingly, that “First Lady Jill Biden, a key voice behind the scenes, has been a strong supporter of his decision to run for another term.” And in a statement that sounds like burying one’s head in the sand, a White House official told the WSJ, “We don’t feel like we had some tectonic shift here. The matter is closed … He is going to keep doing what he is doing … There is not going to be some major strategy shift here.”
If the Hur report and Biden’s reaction were not bad enough by themselves, consider the cascading consequences of his report and Biden’s reaction. As former President Trump faces 32 criminal counts for essentially the same crimes as Biden, he can now rightly protest a double standard on retaining classified documents. His legal troubles will now take a back seat to the incapacity of the sitting president. His temperament will become less of an issue. And the charge that he is a danger to democracy already holds no water in light of Democrats’ brazen – and likely unsuccessful – attempts to remove him from the ballot – the most classic anti-democratic action a party could possibly pursue.
What Can the Democrats Do Now?
If Biden carries on and refuses to either resign or at least drop out of the race for another four years, what the heck are the Democrats to do? His only opponent for the nomination since new-age personality Marianne Williamson dropped out of the race, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN), is registering in the low single digits and has no chance. And since this crisis has hit after some 80% of primary filing deadlines across the land have passed, it is too late for anyone else to enter the primaries. Biden could pass the torch to his vice president, but that would likely guarantee a landslide for Trump in November. At the same time, dumping Kamala Harris and her sub-30% approval is not a real possibility given the very reasons she was selected by Biden in bowing to an increasingly left-wing party – race and gender. Canceling Harris would infuriate two of the party’s most crucial voting blocs, white progressives and black women.
The most common solution batted around by the political class is to let the president carry on and continue vacuuming up delegates until the Democratic Convention in Chicago starting August 19, and then somehow convince him to release his delegates and throw the convention open. At that point, a free-for-all would likely ensue, with VP Harris, perhaps a couple of prominent governors, California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, and God knows who else lining up to try and win over the delegates. Such a scenario is obviously fraught with peril – and while it is hard to envision any Democrat performing much worse than Biden or Harris in November, the incumbent pulling out at the last minute would send the message to voters that the Democratic party is a hot mess. Their best hope would be that the substitute candidate is more effective at harnessing hatred for Trump, something Biden and his minions have failed at miserably, with Trump’s poll numbers pushing north every time one of Biden’s allies issues another indictment of the 45th president.
Can Joe Biden somehow convince the electorate that his age and decades of experience in politics are beneficial rather than detrimental to the country? It seems the time to make that argument has passed. The shame for Biden is that he could have avoided all of this and become a hero among Democrats instead of a millstone around his party’s neck if he had stuck to his original implicit promise to be a transitional figure, i.e., a one-term president. After driving Trump out of the White House and seeing Democrats overperform in the 2022 midterms, he could have taken a victory lap, bowed out, and left the job of keeping Trump out of the Oval Office to someone other than a doddering old man no longer in full control of his faculties. But now the barn door is closed, and Joe Biden’s thirst to retain power has unmasked every one of his flaws. It has not only permanently stained his legacy among Democrats who considered him heroic not long ago, but it has also created a near-existential crisis for which there appears to be no solution.