President Biden, I’ve Seen Enough

President Biden is a good man who capped a long career in public service with a successful presidential term. But I hope he reviews his debate performance Thursday evening and withdraws from the race, throwing the choice of a Democratic nominee to the convention in August.

One of the perils facing this country, I believe and Biden believes, is the risk of a victory by Donald Trump. And after the debate, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that Biden remaining in the race increases the likelihood that Trump will move into the White House in January.

Biden has never been a great debater, but his voice and manner didn’t put to rest the doubts about his age and effectiveness. Rather, he amplified them. I happened to chat today with a woman who is undecided about whom to vote for — she says she distrusts both Trump and Biden but will choose based on who will do better for the economy — and I bet that now she will be supporting Trump.

In some sense, this may be unfair. This was one debate. A candidate’s physical frailty, hoarse voice and rambling responses may not be good predictors of how that person will govern. But in this election, they probably are good predictors that the candidate will lose in November and not have a chance to govern.

We see the world through narratives, and one of the narratives about Biden is that he is too old. His performance reinforced that narrative when he needed to shatter it. Biden, unable to puncture Trump’s repeated falsehoods, allowed a convicted felon to win the debate.

Biden can resolve this by withdrawing from the race. There isn’t time to hold new primaries, but he could throw the choice of a successor to the convention in Chicago. The Democratic Party has some prominent figures who I think would be in a good position to defeat Trump in November, among them Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce. And there are many others.

My phone has been blowing up with texts from people saying, as one put it: “Dear God. What are we going to do?” Another, also a fan of Biden, texted: “It’s imperative we change horses.” But Democrats have been reluctant to say this out loud and undermine Biden. So it will be up to Joe and Jill Biden to make this choice themselves.

This will be a wrenching choice. But, Mr. President, one way you can serve your country in 2024 is by announcing your retirement and calling on delegates to replace you, for that is the safest course for our nation.