A New York Times columnist argued it wasn’t a question of whether President Biden should drop out of the 2024 race, but a question of “how” he should do it, following last week’s widely-panned press conference and tough special counsel report.
“Joe Biden should not be running for re-election. That much was obvious well before the special prosecutor’s comments on the president’s memory lapses inspired a burst of age-related angst,” opinion columnist Ross Douthat urged. “What is less obvious is how Biden should get out of it.”
The release of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report last week on Biden’s handling of classified material fueled questions about Biden’s mental acuity when it described the president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who could not remember significant life events. Biden then held a last-minute White House press conference to dispute the notion, but the event was slammed as a “political disaster” even by The New York Times.
While Douthat believed that Biden had “delivered results” despite his “obvious” decline, he feared that another nearly five years of Biden as president would not bode well for the country.
“The impression the president gives in public is not senility so much as extreme frailty, like a lightbulb that still burns so long as you keep it on a dimmer,” he wrote, predicting memory lapses from the 81-year-old president were bound to show up more frequently during the campaign season.
However, there is no easy way for Biden to drop out of the race now because of “his own terrible vice-presidential choice” in Kamala Harris, he argued.
She is “even more likely” to lose to Donald Trump than Biden is, Douthat said. But if Biden didn’t endorse Harris, it would only fuel more controversy and intra-party fighting.
“[H]e’d be opening himself to a narrative of identitarian betrayal — aging White president knifes first woman-of-color veep — and setting his party up for months of bloodletting and betrayal, a constant churn of personal and ideological drama,” the Times columnist feared.
The columnist proposed Biden stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention in August, “when he would shock the world by announcing his withdrawal from the race, decline to issue any endorsement, and invite the convention delegates to choose his replacement.”
While it might be momentarily “painful” for the Democratic Party, it would be briefer than a long primary battle between Harris and other high-profile Democratic contenders like California Gov. Gavin Newsom or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, he figured.
“The proximity of the general election would create stronger incentives for Harris or any other disappointed loser to accept a behind-the-scenes proffer and fall in line if the convention battle doesn’t go their way. And the format would encourage the party-as-institution, not the party-as-mass-electorate, to do a party’s traditional job and choose the ticket with the most national appeal,” Douthat predicted.
This solution would surely give Republicans a “field day” but at least a more “popular and competent-seeming” candidate would relieve concerns voters have about Biden’s age and mental acuity, Douthat argued.
A bow out plan would allow Biden to “stick it out” if he sees no better alternatives for the Democratic Party, but would also make a path for the country “to escape a choice that right now seems like divine chastisement,” he wrote.
A number of Democratic advisers and media commentators slammed last week’s press conference and special counsel report as a “nightmare” and “disaster,” fearing they put a glaring spotlight on Biden’s memory issues heading into the 2024 election.
The Biden campaign did not immediately return a request for comment by Fox News Digital.
Fox News’ Brian Flood and David Rutz contributed to this report.