“Watch Me,” Biden said. We did, Joe. It’s Time to Pass the Torch of Leadership to a New Generation.

Look, Biden’s performance in the last week’s Presidential “debate” was terrible AND Trump’s very existence as a national political candidate is terrible. Those two things are true at the same time. That doesn’t mean we have to settle for the status quo.

I’ve taught debate; I’ve coached people for debates; I’ve written speeches; I’ve run for public office; I’ve engaged in public debates on policy issues. I worked with and closely observed Mario Cuomo, perhaps one of the finest public speakers and debaters of our time. Admittedly, I pictured him eviscerating Trump, lie by lie by lie, the other night, leaving The Convicted Felon gurgling for help from his mental cell-mate, Hannibal Lecter.

By every single measure, Biden’s appearance on the CNN “shooting gallery,” — where the President of the United States allowed himself to be exposed to a firehouse of flagrant lies from a convicted felon, while moribund “moderators” Jake Tapper and Dana Bash failed to do their jobs — was the worst “debate” performance I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.

Biden’s constant lost look, frozen in place on camera shot after camera shot, reminded me of the vacant look I’ve seen on elderly relatives wandering the halls of nursing homes, searching for the rest room, or for someone who is not there.

How Biden’s incredibly intelligent and qualified staff allowed this to happen — the “debate”, the format, the camera shots, the “no-fact checking” — astounds me. Even worse, when Editor & Publisher reported on the day of the CNN cage-match that no journalists from Black Owned media outlets were credentialed by CNN for admittance, that alone should have been cause for Biden and his team to blow apart the ticking time bomb of a sur-reality show. In fact, I worried that Trump would cleverly use that reason to bow out of the debate, boxing Biden in. Neither happened.

Despite all of that, the most egregious result from that horror show where CNN happily handed a convicted felon and pathological liar an unfiltered megaphone for 90 minutes, was that Biden himself has become the central issue of one of the most important Presidential campaigns in this country’s history, with our very Democracy and individual human rights at stake.

Biden himself, a good man with an excellent record as President, asked and answered the most telling question, as CBS’ John Dickerson said in a brilliant analysis on CBS Sunday Morning, June 30, 2024:


“When President Biden has been asked about voter concern about his age, he has said, ‘Watch Me.’ They did. Now he must look in the mirror…and see whether he wants to be an agent or an impediment to Donald Trump returning to office.”

The issue — commanded by the merciless camera angles and an abandonment of all journalistic standards by CNN — quickly became Biden’s frighteningly weak look and tepid performance and not the abject criminality, venality and volcanic flow of lies erupting from Trump’s bottomless, bile-filled mouth.

Yes, Trump is a convicted felon, a serial liar, a convicted sexual abuser, delusional and lives in a dangerous fantasy world totally untethered from reality. Yet, all of that, coupled with Trump’s horrendous record as President regarding jobs, the economy, COVID, family separations, reproductive rights, and his poisoning of the Supreme Court, has not been enough to stuff Trump into the garbage can of history where he belongs, poll after poll tells us.

Biden’s age, and continued ability to carry on, keeps cluttering up people’s minds, and turning what should be a slam dunk election on values, issues and character into one that’s too close to call. But, please, don’t take my word for it — the word of a 75 year old man who has watched in pain as friends have slipped into mental and physical decline. Judge for yourself. A quick comparison of tapes from Biden’s 2020 Presidential debates vs. Trump, and last’s weeks, holds the answer. One look and you can see the huge difference between Biden’s communication abilities — never great to begin with — between age 77 and age 81.. Just watch the tapes. Neither this nation, nor the world, can afford the luxury of Biden’s age nor his health becoming the central issue of the campaign.

Or, as John Dickerson puts it, “Ego can get in the way of the greater good.”

In fact, at the very same time the country was distracted by the fallout from CNN’s pseudo-debate, the Far Right controlled, and corporate-owned US Supreme Court dismantled the ability of key federal administrative agencies (EPA, FDA, SEC) to enforce reasonable regulations against corporate excess, putting that responsibility in the hands of extremist judges (like Judge Kacsmaryk of Texas, a Christian Nationalist who tried to ban the drug mifepristone), overturning 40 years of precedent as recklessly as they repealed Roe. Singlehandedly, and without answering to anyone, Justices Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett, implemented a key provision of the GOP’s Project 2025, a blueprint for the destruction of Democracy, which calls for erasing all Federal Agency enforcement power, as well as the Civil Service.

While the incumbent President was looking hapless and feeble on national television before 48 million viewers, the US Supreme Court, turned into a mirror of MAGA by the three grotesquely ideological appointments of Donald Trump, was disemboweling the Executive Branch of the federal government of a tremendous amount of power in public health, environmental protection and accountability in financial institutions.

As long as Biden remains the focus of this campaign, and not the Felon Trump and his Fascist followers pushing a Reich-like agenda, everything is at risk. Contrary to the arrogant arguments of Biden’s inner-circle that “he alone can fix it,” since he defeated Trump once, there are far more articulate and effective advocates for the values and policies at stake, who can bring the case to the American people far, far better than Biden does.

Of course, it won’t be easy, but it won’t be as chaotic for the Democrats as Biden’s apologists — some of them who don’t work for the campaign, like Nancy Pelosi and James Clyburn, are over 80 years old themselves, are trying to persuade us. Just because the Democratic Convention is in Chicago, doesn’t mean it’ll be 1968 all over again, and Biden’s team should stop advancing such a shallow, simplistic and inaccurate analogy, and instead, focus on how this can be achieved smoothly and positively. Everything is different now.

Despite the War in Gaza, the National Democratic Party, and its elected officials in Congress, the Senate, and State Houses, are remarkably unified against Trump and the Extreme Right Wing, Christian Nationalist Agenda. There is a deep bench of Democrats — moderate and progressives from every region of the country — who can articulate the issues — and the Biden Administration’s record — much more aggressively than Biden himself, removing the shadow of age and diminishing ability hanging over the President’s own candidacy. That would assure the focus on values and issues — and on the Felon Trump — without the matter of Biden’s age or cognitive ability muddying things up.

Those candidates include, but are not limited to: Kamala Harris, Senator Mark Kelly (Ariz), Corey Booker (NJ), Andy Beshear (Gov. Kentucky), Josh Shapiro (Gov, PA.), Gina Raimondo (Sec. of Commerce), Pete Buttigieg (Sec. of Transportation) Gavin Newsom ( Gov, CA.), Gretchen Whitmer (Gov, Michigan), Tammy Duckworth (Illinois), and Julian Castro (TX, former Secretary of HUD).

The key element in all of this, is whether, and how gracefully, Biden decides to withdraw from the race, and concentrate on his achievements in his one, extraordinary term. If he does, his long record of loyalty — and his desire for “continuing the job” — would point to his supporting Kamala Harris as his successor.

In my judgment, few Democrats — with the possible exception of Gretchen Whitmer — can articulate the issues of Reproductive Rights, Voting Rights, and the preservation of civil and human rights, better than Kamala Harris. As a skilled prosecutor who put felons behind bars, she can advance the criminal case against Trump as well as anyone. Unless Harris chooses to remain as the Vice-Presidential candidate, or announce she will not run for re-election if Biden is not on the ticket, her continued presence on the ticket must be guaranteed, or risk justifiable outrage from Black and female Democrats — especially with Roe v. Wade looming as an enormous issue this fall.

Pairing Harris with a strong, white male candidate — Kelly, Beshear, or Shapiro — would be the kind of ticket-balancing usually done behind closed-doors at National Conventions. It could be an uplifting, public process in Chicago, to showcase the depth and breadth of the Democratic party and its national leadership.

For months, I have been in favor of a national Democratic ticket of Harris and Senator Mark Kelly — with either one heading the ticket. A Kamala/Kelly, or Kelly/Kamala, ticket would communicate ideological balance, as well as the elevation of a charismatic and heroic Astronaut and US Navy Captain to the international stage, sending a powerful message of unity and strength domestically, and abroad, underscoring our commitment to our Allies.

The added bonus to this would be giving the remarkable Gabby Giffords, Kelly’s lifelong partner and a crusader against Gun Violence, a bigger national platform at the very moment the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared Firearm Violence to be “a public health crisis in America.” With Gabby Giffords and Gun Violence coming to the forefront in the 2024 campaign, younger voters, led by Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivor David Hogg, born in 2000, and other young leaders of March for Our Lives, would have another compelling reason to organize and vote in record numbers, in the most important election of their lifetimes.

Biden, of course, holds the key to all of this, and to whether, as John Dickerson said, he wants to be “an agent or an impediment to keeping Donald Trump from office.”

We’ve watched you, Joe. We’ve voted for you. We applaud your achievements. Now it’s time to gracefully pass the torch of leadership to a new generation of good people who will protect democracy at home and around the world, and advance justice and human rights.

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