Last year, the New York Times wrote a glowing endorsement of Joe Biden’s candidacy for president. “Mr. Biden has also vowed to ‘restore the soul of America.’ It is a painful reminder that the country is weaker, angrier, less hopeful and more divided than it was four years ago,” the editorial board wrote. “With this promise, Mr. Biden is assuring the public that he recognizes the magnitude of what the next president is being called upon to do. Thankfully, he is well suited to the challenge — perhaps particularly so.”
Fast forward to the present, and we have a New York Times columnist begging—literally begging—Joe Biden not to run for reelection.
“Is it a good idea for Joe Biden to run for reelection in 2024?” writes columnist Bret Stephens. “And, if he runs again and wins, would it be good for the United States to have a president who is 86 — the age Biden would be at the end of a second term? I put these questions bluntly because they need to be discussed candidly, not just whispered constantly.”
Stephens concedes that “From some of his public appearances, Biden seems … uneven. Often cogent, but sometimes alarmingly incoherent.”
It’s almost incredible that the New York Times printed that. Conservatives pointed this out long before the election, yet so many who hated Trump refused to see it. That the New York Times is not only acknowledging it but also not even mincing words about it is telling.
In fact, Stephens argued that, between Biden’s age and undeniable cognitive issues, he should not only not run for reelection, as he says he plans to, but he should also make it clear now that he won’t run.
“So what’s the president to do? He should announce, much sooner than later, that he will not run for a second term,” Stephens said, arguing that there’s a tradeoff to Biden becoming a lame-duck president.
“Right now he’s worse than a lame duck, because potential Democratic successors are prevented from making calls, finding their lanes and appealing for attention,” he explained.
“It would put an end to the endless media speculation. It would inject enthusiasm and interest into a listless Democratic Party. It would let him devote himself wholly to addressing the country’s immediate problems without worrying about reelection.”
“Greatness is often easier to achieve when good policies aren’t encumbered by clever politics,” he added. “Biden should think on it — and act soon.”
In most ways, Stephens is right. Democrats doubt he will run for reelection, and they believe that the only reason the White House is claiming that Biden plans to run is to “avoid weakening his standing.” Would it? Sure, but until Biden says he won’t run again, any potential replacements are essentially unable to do anything to prepare for a possible run, which hurts the Democrats in 2024. Biden can’t get much weaker than he already is, so why not clear the road for his successor?
But the real question I have is: Why is Stephens giving this advice? Stephens is not a Democrat. He’s a conservative, albeit an anti-Trumper. Yet his plea for Biden to put 2024 off the table seems to be motivated by a desire to see Democrats do better in the next election cycles. While it’s true that Trump appears likely to run again in 2024, he hasn’t announced it yet. Does Stephens think this country is better off under Biden or another Democrat than under Trump? Has he been paying attention at all?