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Love and dignity for Joe Biden

Does anybody close to the president care enough amid his mental decline to encourage him to step down?


President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on Thursday. Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci

Love and dignity for Joe Biden
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Do the people around President Joe Biden care about him at all? If so, why do they encourage him to remain in the Oval Office, much less to run for yet another term?

Biden’s physical and mental decline is obvious to everyone. Despite a very light public schedule, everyone can see his rapidly expanding list of verbal miscues, physical frailties, and bizarre memory lapses—such as claiming to have recently spoken to long-dead foreign leaders. And now there is special counsel Robert Hur’s conclusion that Biden should not be charged for mishandling classified information because the president is, to use now infamous language, an “elderly man with a poor memory.” According to Hur, Biden could not remember the dates when he was vice president and “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

Biden responded to the report by promptly holding a press conference in which he had even more memory lapses. The president’s decrepitude is only going to become more of a political liability. As The Babylon Bee stingingly put it, “Man Ruled Too Senile To Stand Trial Still Fine To Run Country.” Who still thinks Biden is up to the rigors of the presidency? As Alexander Hamilton put it in Federalist 70, “Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.” And if Biden is unable to manage his administration, then who is making the decisions? Is it his wife, his chief –of staff, whoever happens to get his attention during a lucid spell? Whoever it is, the American people are not impressed with the results.

Yet the Democrats seem stuck with Biden, because his heir-apparent, Vice President Kamala Harris, is somehow even less popular than he is. As risky as running Biden again is, going to Harris (or trying to pass over her for someone else) might be worse. Meanwhile, the GOP, likely fielding an unpopular (and also old) nominee in Donald Trump, is going to get every bit of political mileage it can out of Biden’s physical and mental decline.

Decent people do not encourage friends and family who are suffering from severe mental decline to attempt difficult jobs that are far beyond their capacity.

But setting aside the politics, does anyone around the president care about him enough to spare him all of this? Joe Biden should be enjoying time with his family while he can still remember who they are. He should not be trying to fulfill presidential duties that are clearly beyond him, let alone campaigning for another term. He may or may not have enough self-awareness to see it, but surely his friends, family, and staff can see how difficult and humiliating this is for him. Decent people do not encourage friends and family who are suffering from severe mental decline to attempt difficult jobs that are far beyond their capacity.

Of course, Biden may not want to step aside, now that he has finally achieved his lifelong ambition. Furthermore, anyone who might be able to persuade him to step down would also be sacrificing their own interests. For much of Biden’s family, and especially his wastrel son Hunter, the end of his political career means the end of their own prominence, perks, and privileges. The staffers running the administration are presumably also reluctant to give up the additional power Biden’s decline gives them, especially given that whoever took his place would likely kick them to the curb.

This sort of self-interest can attempt to excuse itself by appealing to politics; anyone in Biden’s orbit can justifying trotting him out day after day by asserting that Biden is still the best option for beating Donald Trump, which for Democrats covers a multitude of sins and justifies any sacrifice. But on the subject of sins, are there any believers left in the orbit of the self-described “devout Catholic” president who worry about the state of his soul? Anyone coming from a genuine Christian perspective must be concerned that his soul has been greatly imperiled by his time in office. Spending his remaining time on earth pushing abortion, homosexuality, and child mutilation is probably not a good choice for a man likely to soon meet his Maker.

It is unlikely that anyone close to Biden thinks in such terms, but even ordinary secular love should be enough for them to want him to step down. Biden is not indispensable, and there is cruelty in encouraging him to remain in office as his mind publicly fails him. Love wills the good of the other, and there is no good for Joe Biden (or the rest of us) in his struggling each day through duties for which he is unfit.


Nathanael Blake

Nathanael Blake is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


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