The Knives Come Out for the Gun-Banner-in-Chief

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

It's no longer just a matter of whether Joe Biden should be the Democratic candidate for president. After a string of reports about Biden's "lapses" in office, including a damning report that he's basically functional for about six hours every day, there's a real question about whether Joe Biden should remain in office at all. 


More Democrats are starting to publicly share their concerns about Biden's ability to do his job on the campaign trail. But if they're concerned he's not up for another four years, a lot of Americans are concerned he doesn't have the juice to handle the job for the next four months. I'm sure there are plenty of other Democratic officials who are just as freaked out by Biden's mental fade, but like Sen. Joe Manchin, they've been pressured to keep silent. 

Sen. Joe Manchin became greatly concerned over Joe Biden’s standing after the president’s debate performance last week — so much so that he considered voicing his worries in a Sunday national TV interview before being convinced otherwise, a person familiar with his thinking confirmed to POLITICO.

In the days following the debate, Manchin (I-W.Va.) called a number of key allies to share his concerns over the president’s performance and his belief that the American people needed to hear from Biden directly.

After speaking with Biden allies — including Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) — Manchin decided against participating in a previously scheduled appearance on The Sunday Show With Jonathan Capehart, according to the person familiar.

By the time Manchin decided he wasn’t going to do the Sunday show appearance, he received a call from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who heard about his concerns with Biden’s performance.


POLITICO is also featuring a guide to replace Biden authored by the former White House counsel under Barack Obama. Gregory Craig admits that if Biden doesn't step aside as a candidate, it's going to be nearly impossible for Democrats to dump him at the party's convention next month. But Craig asserts there's still an orderly path to finding a new candidate so long as Biden falls on his sword. 

If Biden withdraws by say, July 7, interested candidates might be given until July 15 to make their candidacy known. Then each candidate would be free to launch their campaign and run for the nomination in whatever way they saw fit. They would have over a month — between July 15 and the beginning of the convention on Aug. 19 — to make their case to the convention’s delegates.

How candidates chose to campaign for the nomination during this period would be up to them. The campaigns would almost certainly focus efforts on individual delegates to the convention, a total of 4,532 people. Some candidates might spend time in the largest states California and New York and Illinois. Others might organize events and invite delegates to state or regional meetings. Some might organize televised debates with each other. All could be counted on to raise money and hire staffs. One would assume that the Association of State Democratic Party Chairs would cooperate — either regionally or state-by-state — in organizing events that gave candidates access to the convention delegates.


If Biden isn't up to running for president, though, then why would anyone believe he's up to serving as president right now? The New York Times did its best to gloss over those concerns in a report on Tuesday, painting an unconvincing portrait of Biden as someone who regularly has mental lapses that have troubled staff, but who rises to the occasion when necessary. 

Aides present in the Situation Room the night that Iran hurled a barrage of missiles and drones at Israel portrayed a president in commanding form, lecturing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by phone to avoid a retaliatory escalation that would have inflamed the Middle East. “Let me be crystal clear,” Mr. Biden said. “If you launch a big attack on Iran, you’re on your own.” 

Mr. Netanyahu pushed back hard, citing the need to respond in kind to deter future attacks. “You do this,” Mr. Biden said forcefully, “and I’m out.” Ultimately, the aides noted, Mr. Netanyahu scaled back his response.

This account is based on interviews with current and former White House aides, political advisers, administration officials, foreign diplomats, domestic allies and financial donors who saw Mr. Biden in the last few weeks, sometimes just briefly, sometimes for more extended periods. In most cases, they spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.


Democrats may be warming to the idea of replacing Candidate Biden, but unless they're willing to officially make Kamala Harris his replacement they're going to have to keep Biden in the White House... at least until a new candidate has officially been enshrined as the nominee. Harris is probably the most likely candidate to replace Biden anyway (at least according to the betting markets), but it's pretty clear that she has her own electability issues, even within the party. 

The gun control lobby, which was quick to endorse Biden's reelection bid last August, hasn't said anything at all (at least publicly) about the number one topic on the minds of Democrats. The closest we've seen came on Tuesday, when Everytown for Gun Safety said in a social media post that "the choice is clear: Either elect a convicted criminal beholden to the gun lobby, or re-elect the strongest gun safety administration in US history." 

Despite their claim, that's not the choice that Democrats are confronting right now. Oh sure, gun control activists would much prefer to have Joe Biden in office for another term, even if he's only awake and on the job a few hours of the day. Heck, that's probably better for the gun control lobby, because a hands-off and out-to-lunch president gives them license to make a lot of mischief through the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, the ATF, and other federal agencies.


Which gets back to the real issue the Democrats have to contend with: if Joe Biden isn't fit to be their candidate, why is he fit to be the commander-in-chief? I don't know if Biden will step aside as the party's nominee, but if he does then the next logical step is for him to step down as president as well.  

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