For Biden to stay in the race would be pure vanity

For Biden to stay in the race would be pure vanity

David Remnick writes:

There is an immense bounty of bunk about the wisdom of age available to all of us who require it from time to time, but, as the pitiless Mark Twain put it in his autobiography, “It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it.”

On Thursday night, it was Joe Biden’s turn. But, unlike the rest of us, he went to pieces on CNN, in front of tens of millions of his compatriots. At some level, Biden’s supporters were hoping that he would defy the realities of time, the better to puncture the vanities and malevolence of his felonious opponent. And so there was a distinct cruelty to it all, the spectacle of a man of eighty-one, struggling terribly with memory, syntax, nerves, and fragility, his visage slack with the dawning sense that his mind was letting him down and that, as a result, he was letting the country down. It must be said, with fellow-feeling, but it must be said: This was an event that, if unremedied, could bring the country closer to another Trump Presidency and with it a diminishment of liberal democracy.

The question is: What will Joe Biden do about it?

We have long known that Biden, no matter what issue you might take with one policy or another, is no longer a fluid or effective communicator of those policies. Asked about his decline, the Biden communications team and his understandably protective surrogates and advisers would deliver responses to journalists that sounded an awful lot like what we all, sooner or later, tell acquaintances when asked about aging parents: they have good days and bad days. Accurate, perhaps, but discreet and stinting in the details. In Biden’s case, there certainly were times where he could pull off a decent interview or an even better State of the Union. If he worked a shorter day, well, that was forgivable; if he stumbled up the stairs or shuffled from the limo to the plane, a little neuropathy in the feet was nothing compared to F.D.R. in a wheelchair. The prospect of Donald Trump’s return permitted, or demanded, a measure of cognitive dissonance. And wasn’t Trump’s own rhetorical insanity even worse? To say nothing of thirty-four felony convictions, a set of dangerous policy goals, and an undeniably authoritarian personality?

But watching Thursday’s debate, observing Biden wander into senselessness onstage, was an agonizing experience, and it is bound to obliterate forever all those vague and qualified descriptions from White House insiders about good days and bad days. You watched it, and, on the most basic human level, you could only feel pity for the man and, more, fear for the country. [Continue reading…]

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