Joe Biden is “too old” and should “step aside,” writes Mark Leibovich, New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent.
“I’ve spoken with 10 official and unofficial advisers to the administration who have spent time around the president during these deranged and divided days,” Leibovich wrote for The Atlantic on Thursday, “asking them, essentially. ‘How is he holding up?’”
It’s a “recurring theme” from insiders “predisposed to liking the president” that Biden “just seems old.”
“The age issue will only get worse if Biden runs again,” Leibovich wrote, and already “it can be painful to watch him give prepared speeches.”
Lest you think Leibovich is a conservative, he also said that “It all feels impolite to point this out — disrespectful, ageist, and taboo, especially given the gross Republican smears about Biden being a doddering and demented old puppet.”
I’m not sure how “gross” those “smears” really are when even Leibovich feels compelled to remind readers that “Biden would be enjoying his 15th year of retirement if he had spent his career as a commercial airline pilot, or his 24th year if he had been an air-traffic controller.”
“There’s a reason the FAA mandates compulsory departure times for these positions.”
In a similar vein: “There is nothing like the U.S. presidency to accelerate the aging process.”
Leibovich going public with his thoughts in The Atlantic this week is a bigger deal than it might seem at first glance.
As National Review’s Jeff Blehar put it:
The author of the bestselling This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital, Leibovich has been a fixture on the Washington scene for two decades or more.
Leibovich, for better or worse, is one of those wired-in journos who can act as the semi-official voice of Establishment Washington. And The Atlantic is one of those magazines that everyone who’s anyone wants everyone else to see them reading.
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In other words, Leibovich’s column isn’t quite Henry II asking, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
But politically, it’s close. The Establishment can’t get rid of Biden now, but they want voters to know he’s finished.
Why should Biden announce that he won’t run now, months before the midterm election?
I’ll give you a hint: It has nothing to do with Biden’s upcoming 80th birthday.
It has everything to do with Biden’s approval rating, which is a number half his age.
No single factor determines the outcome of a midterm election than the president’s own approval rating, and Biden currently sits at a RealClearPolitics average of 39.9%. Also on average, 54.4% of voters disapprove of Biden’s performance.
Quinnipiac came up with the harshest figures: 35%/56%, for a 21-point hole. Even the nicest figures, from The Economist, are brutal: 44/51 and a 7-point deficit.
Donald Trump was in a slightly better position before the 2018 midterms when the Democrats took back the House.
The Red Wave is going to drown a lot of Democrats this fall, maybe in almost unprecedented numbers, and they’re going down strapped to an albatross named Joe Biden.
Maybe — just maybe — if Biden pre-announced his lame duck status, he won’t figure so prominently in midterm voters’ minds.
Let’s call Leibovich’s column what it really is: A plea to virtually step aside from the Democrat establishment to a stubborn old man charting them on a course to disaster.
Will it work? I doubt it. But at this late date and with everything still going wrong all at once, what other options do desperate Democrats have?