Friday, July 5, 2024

It's time for Biden to be a statesman

 In 1796, George Washington cemented his status as a revolutionary and an American icon. On that day, the father of our country left office voluntarily. Washington could have had a third term as president since there was no constitutional limitation at that point, but he valued the peaceful transition of power more than “four more years.”

This was actually the second time that Washington had peacefully and voluntarily relinquished power. In 1783, after winning the Revolution, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief of the army. Not many successful revolutionary leaders in the two centuries since have stepped aside to allow the democratic process to take hold.

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If we are to be honest, neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden is fit to fill Washington’s shoes. Donald Trump stands in stark contrast to Washington, not only in being the only president in American history to try to violently cling to power but also in his apparent inability to tell the truth and respect the law.

In Biden’s case, the current president should take a lesson from Washington and step aside for the good of the country. After Biden’s debate performance, I gave the president the benefit of the doubt and said that if the debate was an aberration, Biden should be front and center interacting with crowds, reporters, and people on the street to prove to the voters that it was a one-off. He hasn’t done that, and I don’t expect him to despite an upcoming interview with George Stephanopoulos.

Biden has given some strong speeches delivered with a teleprompter, but doubts have continued to rise about his abilities. Donors and Democrats are getting nervous. Voters are past nervous. Where Biden was rising in the polls before the debate, he has shown a marked decline since, a decline that I have serious doubts is recoverable. Even The New Republic is pointing out that formerly safe blue states are starting to become battlegrounds. The confused and contradictory messaging from the White House is not helping matters.

It isn’t just Biden’s current mental state that is in question. So is his ability to do the job of president for four more years. At this point, his continued ability to lead the country is a legitimate question.

To the MAGA Republicans tittering away, I say that Trump has many of the same problems. And worse. And you guys aren’t even considering replacing Trump. I at least give Democrats credit for having the discussion about replacing Biden.

But back to Democrats.

The Biden situation is not going to get better. The questions about his fitness are going to dog him until November and distract Democrats from pressing the case about Trump’s fitness to lead.

Democrats need to replace Biden, but they can’t do so unless Biden steps aside. So today, I’m calling on President Biden to follow the examples of George Washington and Lyndon Johnson in going back to civilian life for the good of the country.

It’s often difficult for people to admit that they are no longer as sharp as they used to be. I saw this with several senior pilots that I used to fly with. In private aviation, there is no age-65 rule so retired airline pilots, especially those with AIDS (aviation-induced divorce syndrome), often move to corporate and charter aviation after retiring from the airlines. Some of these guys were still good pilots, but some were losing their edge. At some point, it’s time to hang it up.

If he stays in the race, Biden will be a distraction and on the defensive. He could very well drag down other Democratic candidates. If Trump does become president again, it will be vital to have strong opposition in Congress. At this point, Biden threatens that second line of defense as well.

If Biden leaves the race, Democrats can shift the argument and make the campaign about Donald Trump. If the race is about Trump, Trump loses. If the race is about Biden’s fitness, Trump wins. It’s that simple.

And the race should be about Trump, the most dangerous and incompetent man to ever hold the presidency. Don’t forget that Nikki Haley made an issue of Trump’s fitness in the Republican primary after a series of foibles that included confusing her with Nancy Pelosi. Since then, among other things, we have seen other bizarre behavior that includes a lot of talk about sharks on multiple occasions as well as questioning whether electric airplanes can fly at night or in clouds. (Spoiler alert: They can. They have batteries and are not necessarily solar-powered.) There is also the fact that some 40 former high-level members of his administration have warned against re-electing him.

And that doesn’t even begin to touch on Trump’s destructive policy ideas. For a candidate who is vigorous and articulate, Trump’s plans for a 10 percent tariff on all imports, mass deportations, and remaking the federal government in his own image with Project 2025 make juicy rhetorical targets. And now there is also Trump’s “peace” plan for Ukraine which involves giving Vladimir Putin almost everything he wants. As a platform-formerly-known-as-Twitter user noted, “No Kings” makes a powerful campaign slogan in the aftermath of the Trump immunity decision.

Biden is not effectively doing any of this. There are powerful arguments against returning Trump to power, but we can’t talk about those if we are talking about Joe Biden’s brain.

Having said all that, I will vote for Joe Biden if he is the nominee because the prospect of a second Trump presidency is more terrifying than the prospect of a president in mental decline. In fact, we’ll have a president in mental decline with either Trump or Biden, and Trump adds a strong degree of corruption and lack of respect for laws and norms to the mix. But if Biden is the nominee, Democrats will most likely lose, even with my vote because Trump’s problems aren’t as obvious.

As Steve Berman wrote recently, Trump’s incompetence saved us once before. He has not gotten more competent or sane in the intervening four years, but I’m not prepared to bet the country that Trump’s incompetence will continue to exceed his corruption. For one thing, his hold on the Republican Party is even stronger, and principled conservative resisters have mostly been purged, retired, or coopted. It’s difficult to underestimate the depths of Trump’s depravity, but underestimating his political ability has ended many careers and gotten us to where we are.

If the most important thing is keeping Trump out of power, Biden needs to step up and step aside. As I said recently, Biden once saved the country from Trumpism by stepping up. Now he needs to help save it by stepping aside.

What happens if Biden does step down is uncertain. Vice President Kamala Harris might well become the nominee as the heir apparent. There do seem to be other options such as a brokered convention. Nate Silver suggested in the New York Times:

The party could hold an open audition for the nomination process. Candidates who raised their hands would hold two or three debates against one another. They could give speeches and hold rallies. And Democrats could vote in straw polls sponsored by donors in a combination of virtual locations and physical ones that reflected the demographic breadth of the Democratic Party — say, in Atlanta, Phoenix, Pittsburgh and one or two more rural locations. Voters would also express their opinions in regular opinion polls.

Delegates could take this information into account at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago and make a more informed decision. This plan would require Mr. Biden to declare his intention to exit the race sooner rather than later.

The bottom line here is that to continue on the present course puts Donald Trump back in the White House. If Joe Biden and Democrats truly believe that this would be a threat to democracy, then the only acceptable answer is to change course.

Would this be awkward? Yes. Would it be embarrassing for Joe Biden to go down in history as a president who backed out at the last minute? Yes, but probably less so than to go down in history as the president who selfishly stayed in the race and allowed an authoritarian to be elected. And the Biden White House’s decision to conceal the president’s condition played a significant role in putting him in this awkward position.

Many Democrats are arguing that Republicans failed to replace Trump when he was similarly plagued by problems late in the campaign in 2016 and ultimately won. My reply to that is to ask whether Democrats really want to look to Trump and the Republicans as role models. This is a chance to show how they are different.

Unlike a politician, a statesman puts his country ahead of himself. We don’t see many of those these days, especially in the Republican Party. But President Biden has an opportunity to head off an electoral disaster by refusing the nomination and helping to unify Democrats behind a younger, more capable candidate.

So today, I ask President Biden, “Are you a politician or a statesman.”

I think he will make the right choice.

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TRUMP IMMUNITY: I wrote about the Supreme Court’s immunity decision a few days ago. I’m seeing people defend the decision by arguing that the majority opinion does not give absolute immunity for criminal behavior because presidential power is limited to lawful acts. This is not what the decision says.

As a recap, the Court specifically said that official acts using core constitutional powers carry conclusive (absolute) immunity. Peripheral powers carry presumptive immunity. Unofficial acts carry no immunity.

Further into the decision, the Court rejects the argument that unlawful acts are not official acts by definition when Roberts writes, “Nor may courts deem an action unofficial merely because it allegedly violates a generally applicable law.”

In other words, to use the Mar-a-Lago drone strike example, issuing orders to the military is a core constitutional power that “Congress cannot act on and courts may not examine.” If a court did dare look at the murder of a political rival, the Supreme Court instructs that murder isn’t necessarily an unofficial act just because it is illegal for the little people to murder each other.

It has also been pointed out that the Constitution specifically says that impeached officials, including presidents, are subject to the law:

Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. [emphasis mine]

More and more, this seems to be a case where the Supreme Court’s textualists abandoned the text for political expediency. I predict that the Court will one day have to correct the vague, confusing, and contradictory mess it has created. I wouldn’t be surprised if that case includes Donald Trump as well.

From the Racket News

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