Was this in fact the best possible Presidential Debate?

 In American Club of Lisbon, News, Opinion

By Patrick Siegler-Lathrop

Biden’s team asked for this early Presidential Debate, so Biden could show to the American people that he was energetic and engaged, capable to run the country for 4 more years, putting to rest universally shared concerns that he might be too old for the job.

Biden failed the test, not just a little bit, he failed it disastrously. Rather than proving that he had the energy and stamina for the job, he showed the opposite, he bumbled, he stumbled, it was the performance of a man fully approaching senility.

Trump did not win the debate on substance – his torrent of lies was excessive, even from someone we are used to hearing lie – but on style, he won easily, he presented a picture of an articulate, aggressive, strong performer, and opposite him was a weak, hesitant President who never seemed to be able to seize the multiple opportunities his opponent gave him to counter his aggressive attacks. It was “the Con Man against the Old Man”, and the Con Man won.

What does this mean, for America and the world? Trump took an enormous step forward towards being elected in 2024. Even before the debate, the latest polls showed Trump ahead of Biden in the most important swing states, where the US election will be decided. After the debate performance, the probability that Trump will beat Biden in November becomes overwhelming.

Like many people who strongly favour Biden over Trump, I had hoped that this debate would be the opportunity for Biden to show that he was up to the job.
I didn’t want to admit what my many friends said, that Biden walked like an old man, talked like an old man, lost his meaning like an old man, was clearly too old to run for President again. I wanted Biden to show them they were wrong, that he still had the punch of the younger Biden that we were used to from the past, and that he had shown once again in his State of the Union speech in January of this year.

Like many sharing my opinion, I was shocked and dismayed, from Biden’s opening, incoherent remarks, and continuing through the debate. Not only did his performance not disprove the view that he was too old for the job, it in fact proved beyond doubt that he was too old, already at 81, for a term that would take him to the age of 86.

In my personal view, the conclusion is clear: the Democratic Party has to select another candidate to run in November.

Is it too late? Of course not. The official selection only intervenes during the Democratic Party National Convention, August 19-22 in Chicago.

Do they have other good candidates? Many.

So what has to happen for the Democratic Party candidate to be other than Biden? Biden has to agree not to run, thereby freeing the delegates he won during the primaries to vote for other candidates.

Biden’s principle argument justifying his running again was that he was the person most able to beat Trump. If the polls swing even more in Trump’s favour, which appears likely, will Biden continue to believe this? Will his team merely admit he had a bad night, that he can still beat Trump on the basis of his success as President? I hope not. I hope that Biden will exhibit wisdom and decide not to run, quickly, in order to give time to the Democratic Party to select, and build up, a new candidate for President (and Vice-President).

The US election is on November 5, 2024. A new Democratic candidate chosen by the Convention in late August would have all of September and October to take advantage of the fact that 63% of Americans have an unfavourable view of Trump, to build with Biden’s support on his Administration’s success, continuing the many Democratic Party policies that most Americans approve.

Biden has been an excellent President, passing landmark bi-partisan legislation that his predecessors were unable to accomplish, but regrettably, having been a good President does not make him a good candidate. There is some credence to the commonly shared joke, “the Democratic Party has chosen in Biden the one candidate Trump is able to beat”.

If, as I hope, he realises that it is in the best interest of the country to cede his place to a younger candidate, then this debate, initially viewed as a disaster for Democrats, will prove to have been the best thing that could have happened, for the Democratic Party, for America, and for the world.

Patrick Siegler-Lathrop is a French-American businessman living in Portugal for 15 years, author of “Rendez-Vous with America, an Explanation of the US Political System” and currently president of the American Club of Lisbon. Opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and in no manner attributable to the American Club of Lisbon.