What Should Biden Do?

I’ve spent the last few days hiding under my bed with mint ice cream, Xanax, my L1A1 and some full clips. Between the debate and the supreme court’s ridiculous decision, I have been feeling helpless, and I don’t like that feeling in the least little bit. But I can’t help trying to think, even when not much happens. This afternoon, while I was filing out the mekugi hole on a dagger named “Beast Mode” it all clicked into place. I’m not sure how to write it – whether I should fictionalize, or be sarcastic (e.g.: “ask the strategic genius”) so I am just going to wing it and see if it works.

President Biden walked slowly up to the microphone, with Vice President Harris on his arm. They unfolded and stood behind the podium and looked around the room, silently, until they were met with dead silence in response.

Biden started slowly, sounding a bit nervous or tired, “I made a big mistake the other day, and forgot for a moment what the presidency of the United States is. My ego got in my way and I found myself down in the gutter trying to respond to an outrageous stream of lies that were coming out faster than I could even think to respond to them. As Mark Twain, a great American, once said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” It only takes a few words to tell a lie, like that Democrats favor post-natal abortion – a ridiculous absurdity – but if I was going to argue about that I’d have to move past a half dozen other lies. I respect you all enough to imagine that you’re not going to fall for bald-faced bafflegab like that, but all I see in the press and elsewhere is a sort of “well, Trump just lies a lot,” shrug. As if nobody wants to come to grips with the fact that the stump speeches and debate performance of the nominee for one of the US’ political parties does very little but blow smoke, and everyone just smiles and nods as if that is somehow acceptable. Seriously, people, do you want a President who you cannot believe anything that they say? I know I was shocked during my predecessor’s response to COVID, that he wound up repeating lies and quack medicine, so that over 200,000 unnecessary American lives were lost. Nobody with any powers of observation can possibly not see that this guy lies constantly, and it’s mostly because he’s so ignorant he doesn’t even know what the truth actually is. Journalists: you need to ask him real questions like, “where is the evidence you have said several times that you’d present, regarding election fraud in 2020?” Some judges have asked that – and not gotten it – and some journalists, who then seem to shrug it off. Journalists accepted his story that he wasn’t going to release his taxes because of some audit, and of course we eventually found out because this pretend billionaire had cheated so ruthlessly on his taxes that he only paid $750 one year.”

He sighed audibly, and looked over at Vice President Harris, who nodded encouragingly. “My ego told me that I could clobber a blowhard like that in a debate, but the truth is that I’m slower and less energetic and I couldn’t keep up with it. It was like watching a train-wreck, you don’t know where to start. And, now, there are many people calling for me to step aside as the Democrat nominee, because I’m too old, or I didn’t prepare right, or any of a host of other things. And I’ve taken all of this pretty hard. It’s hard to hear these things, but I realized that probably the biggest job of the President is to listen.” A long pause. “And I had to listen and think, and now I want to tell you how I think we will proceed going forward.”

Vice President Harris stepped forward a little bit. She was now even with and standing next to Biden. He nodded to her, “I started to realize that America is putting a whole lot behind this choice of a single person, to act as the front-piece for the United States. I’m just a guy. So’s my opponent. But one of the things that really makes a presidency is the team that they surround themselves with, and who they collaborate with in mutual support. You can tell a lot about a person by who they surround themselves with.”

“There was a series HBO did called “Veep” that was quite good and took some real digs at what it’s like to be Vice President: it’s an important role but it’s overshadowed. I know how that feels, I was Barack Obama’s Vice President for two terms, and I felt like I could have contributed more, but he was pursuing that single person model of Presidency. Vice President Harris and I, and my cabinet and staff, the Attorney General, the Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State, Director of the CIA, NSA, etc., the whole team that makes up the Presidency – we are going to do things a bit differently. If you’re worried about my age, now you can relax, because Vice President Harris is going to be much more involved in operations. We can’t have a co-Presidency but we’re going to operate in close step, on the assumption that she’s going to be doing half of my job, with me, and she’ll be learning the ropes so that if anything does happen to me there will be a smooth, orderly transition of power. I’m going to delegate, more. If Donald Trump wants to do another debate, he can debate my Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, who can handle that kind of noise. If it looks like things are going well, and I’m tired of the rough and tumble, I’ll step aside part way through my term, so I can work on my golf, again. By the way, I don’t cheat. Kamala?”

Without moving much, Vice President Harris briefly leaned toward the microphone, “I think the President has made all of the important points we had decided upon. I am tremendously honored and enthusiastic about being able to a collaborative understudy with this great man. I look forward to sharing more of the load, and working with all of the cabinet members who, after all, I already know. The message we want you to take away from this is that you are voting for a team. We are already a functioning group who have worked together, and we all share President Biden’s view of what needs to be done, and his morals. Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, George Papadopolous, Peter Navarro, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Mark Meadows, Roger Stone – variously convicted, pled guilty, served time, got pardoned, have been disbarred, or bankrupted for defamation. This is not anything that President Biden or I have had anything to do with, all these court cases against our predecessor were because he surrounded himself with a team of criminals, liars, fraudulent accountants and dishonored lawyers. The various indictments against convicted felon Trump, civilly liable for sexual abuse and defamation, tax fraud, financial fraud, and election interference – those indictments were voted for by grand juries of ordinary Americans, picked at random. Those juries were made up of ordinary Americans, picked at random. And all of them have returned unanimous guilty verdicts, multiple times. I’m a former attorney general, myself, and a district attorney, and I have a great deal of confidence in the United States Justice System and our judges, who have been navigating uncharted legal waters; we have never had a President in the history of this country who has such a busy criminal history. This does not bring me joy. It leaves me puzzled that someone so corrupt, who tried to overthrow the government of his country by tampering with an election that he and all his advisors and flock of now-disbarred lawyers knew he had lost. I’m puzzled and amazed that such a person could be the nominee of one of this country’s biggest political parties. I’ll stop beating a dead horse, and let Joe finish his remarks.”

“Thank you, Kamala.” He took a long breath and smiled ruefully and looked around the room, “this old dog is going to learn some new tricks. We are going to restructure the Presidency to be more responsive, more open, and deeper. That means I’m not going to be the ball hog in front of the team, I’ll be one of the players. I won’t be the sole decider, I’ll even consult with the Republicans, if they want to play fair. We have seen that putting egotistical people front and center of the United States is not a great idea – what matters, what you are voting for, is a team. There are some people from my team in the room, today, and I’d like to recognize them. Merrick Garland, Attorney General. Let’s give him a hand…” The applause were long and loud.

Ok, I’m sure that by now you’ve been able to figure out the meta-strategy I am recommending. Acknowledge that the debate was not a good performance and acknowledge and recognize people’s fears that the candidate is too old. Redirect their fears from the not-particularly-reasonable “is he too old?” to “is he surrounded by a bunch of crooks, dick pill salesmen, and Qanoners?” That’s basic interpersonal dynamics 101: if someone has a concern, answer it. And it had better be an honest and testable answer. I think one of the things that made Biden’s debate performance so terrible was that he did a few rounds of smack-talking “any time, any place” with Trump before the debates, and maybe he really should have said “any time, any place, but not after my bedtime.” I look at the calendar in horror every so often and realize that I will be 62 on November 5th this year. [And all I want for my birthday is for Donald Trump and Republicans up and down the ballots to be conclusively crushed.] I used to make my living as a consultant, and teacher, thinking fast on my feet, speaking and planning what I was going to say, and – I’m not as good at it as I was when I was 40. A bit smoother in some ways, but definitely less energy and a bit less flourish in the language. I think that the Democrat operatives who are frantically trying to convince us that Biden had a cold, or something, are just screaming “we think you are stupid” when, in fact, they’re the stupid ones. I found out today that one of Biden’s strategy advisors who apparently has been “helping” him weather this crisis is some 85 year-old guy who’s possibly in touch with politics before the Civil War, but almost certainly will not effectively message to the TikTok generation.

stable diffusion [“joe biden and donald trump are squaring off with golf clubs. bloody and battered] (look at the shiv Trump has! It looks like something I’d make!)

Also, my strategy recommendation above would leave Biden a perfect “off ramp” for some of the corners he has painted himself into. He could say, “I have my own strong feelings about Gaza and Israel and so do many on my team. Maybe the United States’ foreign policy should not be based mostly on what I think – we’re going to get together and review our national policy about this, and talk to some of the protesters on both sides, and we may have to adjust some things, quickly, because I am in a bad position where we are supporting both Israel and genocide, and that’s not a tenable position.” Another thing he should do – absolutely should do – is actually meet with representatives and senators, and get their opinions about things. Of course he should ignore MTG and Lauren Boebert, etc., but he could further marginalize them by pretending to interact more closely with the non-batshit-crazy wing of the republican party. Divide and conquer, as basically everyone says.

My other strategic recommendation would be, as I said, to avoid debating Trump. Joe turns out to be a shitty debater. He can read from a teleprompter OK. But, if you think about it, the idea of presidential debates really is kind of silly. Who cares if the lies were spouted out of a certain mouth. Trump could have been replaced by John Lithgow in his character of Lord John Whorfin, and that performance would be compelling. Biden should, seriously, send someone who really knows how to debate, and then sit in the audience and listen with dignity. What he should do is start practicing golf right now, and challenge Trump to a golf game. Then make sure there are lots of cameras there. But only if the practicing works out. And ask someone like Taylor Swift’s new boyfriend to carry his golf bag. The point there is that Trump is playing down to his audience and is treating them as complete idiots. Biden and his people are doing a really shitty job of getting people to realize that. There ought to be articles in the New York Times dissecting Trump’s campaign whistle stop lies. Heck, Biden could easily get some comedian to do it. In my diseased imagination that would be Frankie Boyle but that might be too much. But only because George Carlin can’t. I’m afraid that one thing that is going on is that the machine around Biden is protecting him and keeping him away from people. That just amplifies their legitimate concerns. Biden should do sit downs with Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. Just don’t do it after his bedtime.


  1. lochaber says

    I doubt it has any chance of happening, but I’ve been kinda wondering what would happen if Biden just went all “dark brandon” and leaned into that SCOTUS ruling that seemed to be perfectly cool with the president using Seal Team 6 to assassinate opponents. – clear out the supreme court, the political leadership embracing fascism and disinformation, appoint new Supreme Court justices (with the important caveat that they overturn that immunity decision), and then step down/resign.

    I know it’s horribly unethical at best, but I feel like we are watching a house burn down, and arguing over whether we have the legal right to use the neighbor’s hose without their permission, or form a bucket brigade from a pond we don’t own.

    We all know the right fully plans on doing whatever it takes to gain power, and are planning on making almost everyone’s lives a lot more miserable, at best.

  2. geoffarnold says

    The first three paragraphs are exactly right: Biden needs to acknowledge that this is about the American people, not about him. But the co-president thing (because that’s how it would be simplified for reference) is too gimmicky. And it simply postpones the handover. Better would be this: Biden resigns as President, President Harris appoints him as VP for the rest of this year, and in consultation with the delegates at the Convention she will select the person who will be her running mate for the upcoming election. This has the advantage that she won’t have any difficulty getting Congress to approve a new VP for the short term. (This would not be the case for many other choices, because #maga.)

  3. says

    We are going to restructure the Presidency to be more responsive, more open, and deeper. That means I’m not going to be the ball hog in front of the team, I’ll be one of the players.

    I feel like this metaphor could be expanded and might play well with average Americans:

    The President is the Quarterback, but the Quarterback can’t win on his own. He needs a whole team, with everyone doing their jobs, or he’s eating dirt. His job isn’t to score, but to hand the ball to the right player. He might, from time to time, run the ball himself, but more often than not, his job is to call the play and then let go of the ball.

    Just a random thought that struck me.

  4. flex says

    actually meet with representatives and senators, and get their opinions about things.

    Reading between the lines on the actions he has taken and the legislation he has been getting through I think he’s been doing this the entire time. He’s been in D.C. for too long to not know how important this is. However, it is not publicized. Which has been an attribute of the Biden White House since the beginning. Nothing is made public until the plan is completed. Now there may be some reasons why Biden operates his time this way. It’s harder for opponents to figure out how to stop you if they don’t know what you are planning. In the case of meeting with representatives and senators from the opposing party, if that was widely known those politicians may have trouble getting re-elected (meaning more MTGs who do not understand government and cannot be reasoned with). But while there are benefits to this strategy, there are downsides, like the appearance of doing nothing.

    the idea of presidential debates really is kind of silly

    Yes. I was thinking yesterday while mowing the lawn that a better format would be a presidential conversation. Let the two of them sit down, in comfy chairs, maybe in front of a fireplace, and present to the other their views for the future of the USA and their opinions of the other parties platforms. If Biden says that we need to invest in alternative energy to both reduce emissions and doing so will create jobs, let Trump say he doesn’t think climate change is happening and he’d rather see jobs be created by drilling or mining. Which could lead to Biden pointing out that with the automated methods of oil/coal extraction these days very few jobs would be created. Let them even call upon their experts who could be standing by to answer the questions when a candidate would prefer to defer the answer to an expert.

    That type of discussion would, of course, never be possible for a man like Trump. If something like that was arranged, Trump would treat it like an opportunity for a stump speech. But Biden could openly smile and laugh at Trump’s blustering, and possibly more people would be aware that Trump has nothing but grievances. I say possibly because anyone who isn’t aware of who Trump is by now probably won’t have their opinion changed by either a debate or a conversation.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    The premise that Trump is such a serious danger to American democracy that Biden must drop out of the race is deeply flawed, which has already been pointed out by those representatives of the press who are not calling for Biden’s immediate withdrawal.

    To serve his country, Donald Trump should leave the race – Philadelphia Inquirer, June 29, 2024

    I did not watch the debate, it wouldn’t change my mind. We already know enough about these candidates. And if the choices are Trump or Biden, I would still vote for Biden if he were comatose and being kept alive by machines.

  6. Allison says

    The premise that Trump is such a serious danger to American democracy that Biden must drop out of the race is deeply flawed…

    Not so much “deeply flawed” as a complete non sequitur. Maybe word salad.

    If Biden drops out, Trump wins (unopposed.) At this point, it is not possible to replace him as a candidate; in many (most?) states, it would not even be possible to have him removed from the ballot. There isn’t even a credible alternative, and hasn’t been for most of Biden’s term of office.

    The choice is Biden or Trump, and to not vote is to opt for Trump.

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    @5: addendum: Even if they unplugged the machines, I would still vote for Biden’s corpse.

  8. outis says

    @5, 6, 7: exactly. Even if it were revealed that Ol’ Joe is a reanimated zombie, there would be no alternative, as the other side is worse. Not only the person, the whole party: it is not often that one sees a more-or-less normal humdrum political party transmogrify in a full-fat subversive org, normally those come from outside.
    And the whole American fixation on “debates” I’ll never understand. I mean, 2500 years ago a bunch of impressively-bearded Greek philosophers were complaining about how easy it is for a smooth-tongued grifter to pull the wool over the eyes of a whole audience, what else is left to say? (minus points if said grifter, rather than smooth-talking, is a gibbering, orange, grasping, incoherent, ignorant, perverted baboon).

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Newsweek takes a poll of 14 people.

    Several Undecided Latino Voters say Debate Shifted them to Biden

    One of the men told a journalist he had chosen Biden because “Trump sounded like a crazy liar,” according to Matt A. Barreto, professor of Political Science and Chicana/o & Central American Studies at UCLA.

    The man being interviewed said Trump “said the same thing time after time” and was not answering questions or “saying how he would fix things,” according to a Newsweek translation.

  10. rwiess says

    Many of us have cared for elderly parents. Sundowner syndrome is real. Most of the time someone is normal, but some evenings they are just out of it. It’s more than just cranky past bedtime. I saw it in the debate. It worries me – I want a president who can deal with a sudden crisis, no matter when. (Maybe I’m influenced by having watched The Longest Day last month on D-Day, and wondering if the invasion would have failed if Hitler hadn’t been out with a sleeping pill and not available to release the Panzers for hours.) I think Biden has been a great president, and will continue to do so, unless events conspire…I like your solution, would like to seen sundowner addressed head on.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    Biden lacked oomph, but the transcript tells a different tale

    President Biden obviously did not have a good night in his debate with Donald Trump. The White House claimed he had a cold. His soft voice and bumbling manner played right into the MAGA narrative that he is past his use-by date. The chattering class said it was a disaster for Biden. He even alarmed many Democrats.

    But, reading the cold transcript, we get a very different picture of Biden. Substantively, he ably and forcefully made the case that that Trump should not be allowed back in the Oval Office…

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