Analysis & Comment

Opinion | President Joe Biden, 86, …

This article is part of David Leonhardt’s newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it each weekday.

When I heard earlier this year that Joe Biden might promise to serve only one term as president, my initial reaction was: That’s nuts.

It would focus voters on arguably Biden’s biggest vulnerability, his age. “It accentuates your weakness,” the Democratic strategist John Podesta told Politico’s Ryan Lizza. “It doesn’t fix it.” And should Biden win in 2020, his promise would deprive the Democratic Party in 2024 of the large advantage that incumbency brings, as Josh Barro of New York magazine points out.

But as I read the full airing of the one-term idea — in Lizza’s article yesterday — I at least understood why some people like the idea. The current circumstances are not normal. President Trump is doing grave damage to the country, but he also has a good chance of winning re-election. So it’s worth considering even radical ideas in the service of defeating him.

Lizza writes:

While the option of making a public pledge remains available, Biden has for now settled on an alternative strategy: quietly indicating that he will almost certainly not run for a second term while declining to make a promise that he and his advisers fear could turn him into a lame duck and sap him of his political capital …

But the case for going public has some advocates. A political strategist [said]: “ … Biden wouldn’t be running if it were President Jeb Bush or President Marco Rubio. He’s running because it’s an exigent circumstance — Donald Trump. The next president will have to have oppositional virtues to the last president. We have a presidency that is defined by abject selfishness, self-regard and self-interest. So a one-term pledge would be viewed as an act of selflessness, putting the country ahead of any ambition.”

Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, issued a classic semi-denial about the Politico story. “This is not a conversation our campaign is having and not something VP Biden is thinking about,” she wrote on Twitter.

Still, I found one of the most striking parts of Lizza’s article to be the description of Biden’s changing public remarks on the idea of a second term. He has switched from insisting he would not run for only one term to being considerably more ambiguous.

Which feels right to me. A one-term pledge seems weak. On the other hand, having an 86-year-old Biden as president — the age he would turn in 2028 — is far from desirable. Yet it still isn’t nearly the emergency that the Trump presidency has become.

For more

Astead Herndon of The Times: “The people supporting Biden already see him as an emergency Trump fix and steadying hand during crisis, so I’m not sure this is as indicting as some might think.”

Jordan Weissmann, Slate: “If Biden thinks there’s a chance he simply won’t be able to handle the job in five or six years, he should realize there’s a chance he won’t be able to do it in two or three either. Being president is hard; it tends to age politicians rapidly, and Biden shouldn’t gamble on his ability to fill the role.”

Molly Nagle, ABC News: “‘No, I never have,’ Biden said when asked by a reporter on Wednesday if those discussions were taking place. ‘I don’t have any plans on one term.’”

Steve Kornacki of NBC News: “Ronald Reagan was 68 when he set out to run in 1980, nearly a decade younger than Joe Biden now is. But back then, Reagan’s age was seen as a major liability and there was a widely held view that he’d only serve a term if elected (though he refused to commit to it).”

If you are not a subscriber to this newsletter, you can subscribe here. You can also join me on Twitter (@DLeonhardt) and Facebook.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

Source: Read Full Article