Maureen Dowd, the most influential columnist in America, has joined the chorus of media leaders and many Democratic politicians calling on President Joe Biden to retire after one term. Like the slave who rode beside the triumphant Roman general in his chariot and who reminded him “a memento mori”, that all life was fleeting, Dowd is calling for Biden to step away at his greatest moment.
A long-time friend of the Biden family who has not seen eye-to-eye with the president, in recent times, she killed him with soft kindness in her Sunday New York Times column, listing his many achievements but nonetheless wishing he would go. Her opinion carries extraordinary clout.
The main reason she gives is that he is just too old. In her column entitled “Hey Joe Don’t Give It a Go” Dowd writes.
“Biden’s advisers think if you just ignore the age question, it will go away. But it is already a hot topic in focus groups and an undercurrent in Democratic circles, as lawmakers are pressed to answer whether they think Biden should run again or not. (Axios has started a running tally.)"
She accepts Biden has done some remarkable things, not least his massive anti-inflation and climate change legislation passed just yesterday, which is Biden’s crowning achievement, yet she thinks it is not enough.
She writes: “These are dangerous times — with inflation hurting us, weather killing us, the Ukraine war grinding, China tensions boiling, women’s rights on the line, and election deniers at CPAC, where Viktor Orbán spews fascist bile to a wildly enthusiastic audience. It might be best to have a president unshackled from the usual political restraints.”
She says the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the cautionary tale.
“She missed the moment to leave the stage... She thought she was an indispensable person, and that ended in disaster. Her death opened the door to the most conservative court in nearly a century. Her successor, a religious zealot straight out of 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' is erasing Justice Ginsburg’s achievements on women’s rights."
Biden’s inner circle, which features a lot of older white men, is adamant that Biden, who will be 82 at the next election, is not too old to get the job done.
Dowd fears if Biden runs he will be defeated by a candidate like Florida Governor Ron De Santis who has made his name picking on gay kids and drag queens. She could well be right.
Just a few weeks back I would have agreed with Dowd but Biden’s remarkable run of successes such as getting the Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, who replaced Osama Bin Laden, passing his massive economic bill, driving a remarkable deal to unite NATO in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine, tackling climate change, infrastructure, getting Senators Manchin and Sinema onside when all seemed lost are hugely impressive accomplishments.
I do believe that Biden should stand his ground and run if the opponent is likely to be Donald J Trump. The GOP is following Trump off a cliff. He won the election in 2016 despite losing the popular vote, but lost the House and the Senate and the White House by 2020 -- and this is the chosen one?
He is more like a broken-down nag at Camptown races than a sleek thoroughbred on Derby day.
If it is not Trump then it becomes a different issue. A young Republican would remorselessly use Biden’s age against him as well as taking off after Hunter Biden, the president’s flawed son. Biden also has difficulty passing the torch because VP Harris has performed very poorly.
As Dowd writes “The timing of your exit can determine your place in the history books.
"This is something Joe Biden should keep in mind as he is riding the crest of success."
Is that the best time to leave? I think only two people, Biden and his wife, Jill, know the answer. They know they can beat Trump again, which is a huge factor, but if it did not look like Trump, better to step aside with a noble record in place and above all, democracy saved.