ashland.news
July 14, 2024

Relocations: Even I no longer believe that Biden is fit for the presidency

CNN debate image from progressivehub.net
July 5, 2024

And so we face the bleakest of futures

By Herbert Rothschild

I rarely write about electoral politics. Although that’s what most people understand politics to be, electing leaders is a mechanism in furtherance of the purpose of politics, which is to create conditions in which all members of the state have a reasonable opportunity to thrive, meaning to be their best selves. As Aristotle put it in the 5th century BCE, the state exists for the good life.  

Ashland.news-Secretary-Herbert-Rothschild
Herbert Rothschild

So, leaders must be judged by the policies they enact. Do they serve well or ill the creation of conditions for general human flourishing? I have spent almost all my time in the public forum focused on policies, although in 1984 I was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 6th District of Louisiana. And public policy, broadly understood, is what I write about most frequently in this column.

Not so my friend Peter Sage. He writes about electoral politics in his daily blog, “Up Close with Peter Sage.” He’s very insightful; I recommend that you read it.

The difference between my political focus and Peter’s couldn’t be sharper, at least as regards presidential politics. Here is what he wrote in the column he published the morning of the debate last week between Biden and Trump: “The debate tonight is the purest example I could create of a central premise of this blog. Presidential leadership is only a little about policy positions. Policy is the scaffolding for presenting what is important: body language, tone, image. Who looks and sounds like a leader. It is a Hollywood casting decision.”

He continued: “My Democratic readers are hoping for a strong, articulate, clear-headed Biden. My Republican readers expect to see confirmation that Biden is feeble, and hope that Trump avoids looking like the crazy bully that he appeared to be in the first debate with Biden four years ago.”

As president, Joe Biden didn’t reject a commitment to U.S. global dominance and the militarized foreign policy it necessitates. I would have been surprised had he done so. But I have been impressed by his domestic policy achievements. He rejected the neoliberalism and service to the rich that characterized the policies of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Instead, he revived the New Deal effort to democratize economic security and support the working class. He has helped revitalize our industrial base and invest in our deteriorating infrastructure.

Though Biden’s record on addressing climate change has been mixed, he has unequivocally declared the necessity of action and has achieved much in the face of severe resistance. Last, I’ll mention his management of our recovery from the economic shock of the pandemic. By every measure — job creation, the unemployment rate, real gains in the average wage, and reduction of inflation to a level that would have been celebrated during the second half of the last century — our economy is strong and getting stronger.

Several months ago my wife asked me who I regarded as the best president during my adult lifetime. I was born in 1939, so I couldn’t choose Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman, both of whom I think were better than any who held the office since. And despite Lyndon Johnson’s extraordinary achievements regarding civil rights and economic justice, I consider that the death and suffering he inflicted on the Vietnamese and what that war did at home cancels them out. So, my choices were among Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama, Donald Trump and Biden.

I chose Biden. It’s true that none of the others set a high bar (although Bush 1’s foreign policy achievements were impressive). Two of the others (Bush 2 and Trump) are strong contenders for the worst presidents we’ve ever had. Still, I didn’t choose Biden reluctantly. He has achieved a great deal in a period when the Republican Party has made it hard to enact any constructive policies.

All that I have just written about Biden is a preamble to saying that, after the debate, I sent an email to the White House website calling upon Biden to withdraw from the presidential race. That night he looked as feeble in mind and body as any Trump supporter could have wished.

Peter is correct. How presidential candidates project themselves as persons matters enormously. While he writes about that in the context of their electability, their self-presentation relates inextricably to how we believe they will function in office. Biden’s self-presentation during the debate made even me decide that he is now unfit to lead our nation. The presidency is a demanding, high-stress job. It takes a heavy toll on those much younger than Biden. I couldn’t help asking myself, if he is so impaired now, what will he be like in 2026, 2027 and 2028?

I am deeply troubled by this development. A second Trump presidency will be much worse than the first. Given the immunity for lawless acts that the U.S. Supreme Court just granted the president, I fear the safeguards against tyranny built into our system won’t hold against his promised onslaught. My best hope is that Biden will withdraw in time for a more eligible Democratic nominee to emerge and prevail.

Herbert Rothschild’s columns appear on Friday in Ashland.news. Email Rothschild at herbertrothschild6839@gmail.com.

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Jim


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