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Sunday Mailbag

We're keeping it on the shorter side today.

Politics: Joe Must Go

E.S. in Eugene, OR, writes: We need the Democrats to come together and create a Dream Team: Kamala Harris/Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) to rescue the American Dream, which includes equality for women. Until women get the same right as men to decide what to do with their own bodies, they will have nothing but grief, and Harris and Whitmer need to make a big deal out of this and the Project 2025 plan to strip women of birth control as well as abortion. They need to stop apologizing for being women and use the fact. Some clever marketing could include: You trust us to raise your children, manage your money and organize your lives. Let us clean up this country! We know how to fix health care, child care, abortion, etc., and we have concrete plans (use those of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA!). Maybe Joe Biden should step down early so Harris can show off her leadership chops and get the bully pulpit which this administration has mostly wasted.

K.S. in Harrisburg, PA, writes: I don't quite fall into to "born before 1950" category, but I come close. So I remember watching Lyndon B. Johnson's speech in 1968 saying he was not running for reelection quite clearly. You seem to imply he dropped out primarily due to a bad political outlook.

I disagree. After the speech, my father said, "I'll bet he had a talk with his doctor." Although only 59 and appearing in good health at the time of the speech, LBJ died just 2 days after he would have left office had he won in 1968. How much earlier would his death had been had he not spent his last four years away from the stress of being president? With LBJ's father dying at 60, any issue the doctor saw would certainly have gotten LBJ's attention.

I also don't agree on the comparison of 1968 and 2024. The split in the country then was pro-war vs. anti-war (which was more by age than any split we see in 2024). Because the only viable anti-war presidential candidates were in the Democratic Party, this attracted anti-war voters. That meant that the split in the country went right through the Democratic Party.

The split today is Trump vs. not-Trump. Any other issue is secondary. Each party is almost completely aligned on this issue, which means that getting their voters to the polls should be the number one priority. This takes enthusiasm which, right now, the Democrats are lacking. An exciting convention where a new face is brought before the party could do the trick.

R.M. in Ocala, FL, writes: From the perspective of this humble voter, I think it is a no-brainer that Joe Biden should step aside. There is no rehabilitating his image. Watching the interview with George Stephanopoulos, all I could think is "this is it." This is the best he's got. It's not enough. Not even close. There will be no redeeming moments. It is set in stone now.

If Biden is the candidate in November, Trump will win decisively. The alternative is uninspiring, to say the least. Kamala Harris is unpopular and a poor campaigner. If she were to become the candidate tomorrow, she would start out behind and have to play catch-up. But she would have, at least, several notable advantages over Biden. First, I believe the Democrats would unite behind her. No more civil war within the party over what to do. With five months until election day there is time to rehabilitate her image. She has the advantage of being relatively young, photogenic, and capable of inspiring speech. She will need all the help she can get and likely will get it. Donors would open their pocketbooks. The grim task of preventing another Trump presidency would again take front and center. Given the choices, I think Harris has a chance, albeit a slim one, to prevail, while Biden has none.

This election is, and has always been, a "lesser of two evils choice" for voters. The events of the last week have shifted the equation so that enough voters now perceive Trump as the lesser of two evils to swing the election decisively to him. The only way for Democrats to prevail in November is to reverse that trend and I think Kamala is the better choice to make that happen.

J.V.S. in Los Alamos, NM, writes: I think Joe Biden staying in the race diminishes the very message he and other Democrats shout about. We are being told repeatedly that "Project 2025 is coming! Our very democracy is at risk! You can't let Trump win!" Yet, they then turn around and say "Don't believe your lying eyes on Biden's debate performance. It's not that bad. Joe will pull through in the end. Stop panicking!" Well, which is it? If Trump and Project 2025 are such a threat to our democracy, then can we really risk staying with Biden after that debate performance? Can we risk a repeat of that at the second and only other debate in September? Is that the absolute best Democrats can come up with? It feels like Biden is suffering the same kind of hubris that ultimately doomed Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016.

Undecided voters think Biden is too old and he played right into their fears. You can't tell these people that Trump is an existential threat to America, but the only person who can save us is the feeble, confused, and barely audible old man they saw on that debate stage. Biden should drop out of the race and finish out his term as president. I am much more willing to take my chances with Kamala Harris as the candidate than risk more performances like the one that happened last week.

A.S. in Bedford, MA, writes: I didn't do great in a meeting with a client today, and afterwards, my first thought, unbidden, was "Sh**, I just pulled a Biden."

I'll still vote for him over Trump, but Biden is toast.

Politics: Joe Should Stay

P.P. in Cherokee Village, AR, writes: Too many pundits and politicians are bashing the ability of our President to do the job required and are saying he should step down. They are in Panic Mode. I really don't blame them, BUT...

I am a lifelong "Old school" Republican, NOT A MAGA't, and I am going to vote BLUE from the top down on the entire ballot. I don't care if the top candidate for President is a CHIPMUNK!!! That chipmunk will have enough help to do the job! The GOAL is to get rid of MAGA'ts and Project 2025. The president must be ANYONE other than Trump or another MAGA't, and it will take ALL of us sticking together voting BLUE, no matter WHO is at the top of the Democratic ticket to accomplish the goal. I have been hearing a lot of others with the same opinion as I have, so if there are ENOUGH of us, hope is not lost.

B.R.C. in Columbus, OH, writes: A few things. First, yes, (Z) got through a lecture when ill... and then was down for the count afterwards. Joe Biden got through the debate, too, and as you (and others, including me) noted, he got stronger as he went. (And he was fine later that evening and the next day.) It's admirable (Z) got through that lecture, but if his whole class evaluation (or his teaching career or getting an academic job in the first place) rode on his performance that day, I suspect he would not come out well. And he might resent, just a tad, everyone's harping on just that day's lecture as representative of his whole person and teaching abilities...

Second, I have another suggestion for why Biden might not want to take a full cognitive assessment, and it's hidden in your own commentary! He knows Donald Trump would never submit to one. Case closed. If both of them submitted to such a test, by an impartial doctor, it would be a legitimate request. If not, no way. Donald Trump has exhibited numerous signs of mental decline. And I mean numerous! He cannot stay awake at his own trial. He slurs words, his sentences trail off into nothingness, he makes up nonsense words, he talks about crazy, and I mean crazy, things. Sharks? Electrocution? Hannibal Lecter? He is a pathological liar, he couldn't stand to be "working" more than 3 hours a day while president (and even then, he had to have the TV on), and he made impulsive, bad decisions. Immoral ones.

Which leads me to my third point. Everyone should read John A. Stoehr's "The Editorial Board" for July 5th in which he asks: What mistakes has Joe Biden made that could be attributed to age? Any? We might quarrel with his decisions. Or his policies. Not everything his administration has backed or done has been what I wanted. But can any of those things be attributed to age? Or dereliction of duty? Such as letting a pandemic rage and ignoring the advice of experts? Or letting rioters desecrate the Capitol Building for three hours?

M.V. in Lake Worth Beach, FL, writes: To those who are frustrated with Joe Biden's debate performance: please hold off on joining Michael Moore to call for Biden to step down. That was horrible and spineless of him. Instead, we need to do the opposite. We need to boycott Disney. We need to boycott the New York Times. We need to flood Biden's "Democratic" opposition with e-mails and phone calls telling them to back off. No one who wants Trump to be defeated should be supporting anyone but Biden right now, and if he does step down, the person we should replace him with should be the one who supported him most in his time of need, not the one who worst betrayed him.

It does take some courage to stand up to our enemies with our friends surrounding us—it takes a 100 times more courage to stand up to our associates when they start kicking our friends while they are down. Please do the right thing, and do it quickly. Don't let these spineless "Democrats" continue to kick Biden while he's down without consequence.

P.S. I wish we didn't have an electoral system that makes us choose between the lesser of the two most viable evils, but we do—and those who want Biden to step down seem to be unaware of this reality. Maybe after this is over, we will be ready for ranked choice voting and open primaries, but we don't have them yet. Hopefully when the time comes we still have a democracy to implement them in.

J.B. in Lincoln, NE, writes: So let Joe Biden get out of the race... one fact will not change: the oldest-ever candidate for president will become Donald Trump instead of Biden. If age matters that much, they should both step aside.

M.D.K. in Portland, OR, writes: The George Stephanopoulos post-debate interview with Joe Biden has been promoted as a pass-fail test for the Biden candidacy. As you noted, some megadonors aren't waiting; their minds were made up by the debate. What a high-stakes, eyeball-compelling story! Wow!

Funny we haven't heard as much, if at all, about the other interviews Biden has done since the debate, in which he was quite compos mentis. No orator, by a long shot—his speech ain't pretty, neither is he—but composed, present, and responsive.

Here's one, a radio interview on a Black radio station in Philly.

Another, a radio interview with a Black interviewer in Milwaukee.

There may be others. They detract from the DRAMA of the pass-fail Stephanopoulos interview. Can you imagine the breathless headlines? "Biden gives a normal interview!" No, you can't.

Funny how events that don't fit the narrative the MSM is peddling don't show up in the news.

Politics: The Interview

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: One key takeaway from the George Stephanopoulos interview is that Joe Biden is being overly sheltered and ill-served by his advisors. At about the 1:50 mark, Stephanopoulos asks Biden if he ever watched the debate afterwards, and Biden answers, "I don't think I did, no." If this is accurate and Biden has not watched his own performance, then he lacks the necessary understanding of the perception of him that he has to overcome. How can Biden's campaign have him sit for an interview to reassure the public without having him see exactly why voters need reassurance? And how can Biden respond effectively to calls for him to step aside without witnessing the event that prompted those calls?

This is negligence and malpractice on the part of Biden's closest advisors. Campaigning and running the country require different skill sets, though I doubt the average voter makes that distinction. In the interview, Biden focused on how he has run the country, what he has done as president and what he will do if re-elected. He did not quell fears about whether he can get re-elected. Without watching the debate, he can't fully understand those fears, and he will rightly be seen as in denial and not in control of his campaign.

A.S. in Black Mountain NC, writes: The third question was: "Did you ever watch the debate afterwards?" The answer: "I don't think I did, no." As I watched it "live" that struck me immediately as Game Over. The "I don't think I did" part is what threw me. I would know if I watched it or not. The answer is "Yes" or "No" or "Some."

George Stephanopoulos just moved on. I would have followed up with why he wasn't so sure.

D.M. in Cleveland, OH, writes: Maybe it's just me being a Democrat—a party whose members tend to think not only that the glass is half empty but that the glass is broken on the floor (and it was our fault)—but... I think Biden's George Stephanopoulos interview might've been almost a worst-case scenario, in that:

If he'd repeated his mumbly, slack-jawed, staring-off-into-space debate vibe, it would have removed any lingering doubt in anybody's mind that it was time to change horses. A disastrous performance under these more ideal circumstances (taped vs. live, no Trump distraction, conducted during the apparent "sweet spot" in his day when he's sufficiently alert/lucid/focused) would have given the Democrats full cover to more forcefully insist, "It's time."

And if he'd been sharp as a tack, supremely on top of his game, Democrats would've heaved a sigh of relief, permanently exorcised the debate from their minds, and dutifully circled the wagons around their unquestioned guy. (In fact, many Democrats tried to do exactly that after Biden's more solid appearance in North Carolina the next day, despite that being a relative layup, complete with teleprompter.)

What actually happened on ABC, though, was this middling, inconclusive, "draw with himself" in which he neither definitively showed the debate was an anomalous one-off outlier nor that it was the "real" Joe Biden and what you saw is what you get. In other words... it just perversely extends this weird half-in, half-out limbo state in which the Left remains wringing its hands, divided against itself at a time it can ill afford to be.

That, to me, represents a worst-case scenario in that both factions of Democrats now have ample evidence confirming what they needed to see in order to evaluate Joe Biden for the home stretch—resulting in him being simultaneously "past his sell-by date; needs replaced" and "our nominee; the only guy who can beat Trump."

This fractious identity crisis would be an unwelcome obstacle at any point of any campaign, but especially worrisome this close to the Democratic convention. There simply isn't a lot of time to get this right, and the stakes couldn't be higher.

G.R. in Carol Stream, IL, writes: The problem with browsers cacheing old videos sometimes provides a form of entertainment. For example, this morning's entry seemed to suggest Biden is pivoting to Apocalyptic prophecy!

A screen cap of our page from
yesterday, but with the Biden interview video replaced with a Biblical apocalypse video

(V) & (Z) respond: In fairness, depending on how things turn out, this election COULD lead to the end of days.

Politics: Cognitive Tests

M.N. in Lake Ann, MI, writes: I present another reason Joe Biden may not want to do a full neurological workup: It won't actually change anything even if it is a good one. Given the relatively recent trend of Republicans to do a lot of projecting regarding dirty tricks, I would suspect that a good (or even so-so) result of any such workup will be decried as "fake" and from a paid-off doctor who is toting the Democratic party's water. And given the level of engagement of many Americans, this may be just as effective as the constant harping on Joe Biden's age has been, which was unfortunately hammered home by Uncle Joe himself in shocking fashion in the debate. And unless TFG also does a workup, I can't see this helping at all.

Essentially, I believe the entire Democratic party is now in a "damned if they do and damned if they don't" position that will ultimately lead to a second TFG term regardless of whether Biden stays or goes. I am now actively preparing to lose my job and my pension by this time next year, even though I sincerely hope I am wrong.

S.P. in Wheaton, IL, writes: Former president Trump claims to have aced a cognitive test, and yet virtually no one believes it. Would Joe Biden's results be any different? His critics will claim it's a lie, or something was missed. So there's zero upside for him to submit to such a thing; that he refuses is at least some argument for his sanity and/or intelligence.

J.S. in Columbia, MO, writes: Several observations:

M.S. in Hamden, CT, writes: Biden's doctors are also aware of the possibility of Parkinson's and stated in Biden's 2024 health summary related to his stiffened gait: "An extremely detailed neurologic exam was again reassuring in that there were no findings which would be consistent with any cerebellar or other central neurological disorder, such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's or ascending lateral sclerosis, nor are there any signs of cervical myelopathy."

I think Biden significantly mishandled the question about whether he'd undergo a full neurological exam. Instead of saying that he has one every day (by the nature of his job), he should've said he had one just a few months ago, and everything was fine, and that if his doctors had any new concerns, he would be fully evaluated by the best doctors in the country.

F.M. in Hatfield, PA, writes: I read your discussion of the President taking a cognitive test. There are two other reasons to avoid taking the test. First, critics will claim the test was rigged and/or the results fraudulent. Second, the convicted felon Donald Trump will run around bragging how he was able to bully a sitting president into taking a cognitive test. Additionally, the President did say in the interview he has a cognitive test "everyday," which should put the issue to bed and clearly does not. The downsides of taking such a test, even if everything comes out perfectly, outweigh the upsides, in my opinion.

On top of all of this, the President's medical write up is routinely made public and has never shown anything suggesting cognitive decline.

Lastly, the people I speak with, especially the elderly who have stutters like the President, seem to not place this issue in their top concerns. (I have a similar stutter, making me quite familiar with this condition.) The aforementioned elderly are especially incensed that being over 65 with a stutter somehow means that a person has cognitive decline or senility or dementia. They also understand the fact presidents are mortal, which is why we have a vice president.

To me this issue has long since been overblown.

Politics: A Binary System

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: J.K in Phoenix, in last week's mailbag, wrote: "Give me a candidate I can vote for." I'm approximately your age (a couple of years older) and I have voted in every presidential election since 1972. I have never voted FOR a candidate. I have always cast a vote AGAINST the (perceived) lesser candidate.

If you're a high information voter, then you know enough about the candidates to see each one's weaknesses and dangers. You know that no president actually fulfills all his campaign promises (save James K. Polk). You know that even your preferred candidate is going to let you down and make you mad at some point and in some way. Unless you're a true believer, you make what you think is your best choice. At the presidential level, it's a binary choice and it would be a rare thing if the person you really wanted for president actually got to run and you could vote for that candidate. (At a time in my life, I wanted Sen. Bill Bradley. Alas.)

When I was young, people would say (whether it was true or not), "I don't vote for the party, I vote for the man!" The simple fact is, for years now people have been voting for the party, and the True Believers recast the candidate in their minds as a great and wise leader.

J.C. in Chicago, IL, writes: In response to J.K. in Phoenix:

So, you're throwing in the towel because Joe Biden didn't deliver a perfect performance in a single debate? Let me lay this out for you in no uncertain terms: Your refusal to support Biden is a dangerous and reckless decision that threatens the very fabric of our democracy. Your nostalgia for Reagan's "shining city on a hill" has clearly clouded your judgment.

You claim to have been a Democrat your whole life, but now, when the stakes are higher than ever, you're ready to abandon ship because of one bad night? Get a grip. This isn't a reality TV show where you can just switch the channel if you don't like the episode. This is a battle for the soul of our nation, and your self-indulgent "quandary" is a slap in the face to every American fighting to keep democracy alive.

Let's talk about Trump. The man is a fascist wannabe, a pathological liar who has consistently undermined every democratic norm this country stands for. He's surrounded by a cabal of sycophants who enable his every whim and a base of rabid supporters who are ready to dismantle democracy at his command. By even entertaining the idea of not voting, you're playing right into their hands. A non-vote is a vote for Trump. Period.

Your suggestion to invoke the Twenty-Fifth Amendment is a laughable, desperate grasp at straws. Biden isn't perfect, but he's a damn sight better than the alternative. The "full bench of talent" you mention? They're supporting Biden because they understand the existential threat posed by another Trump term. But here you are, demanding a different candidate as if this is some fantasy football league. It's not. This is real life, and the consequences of your inaction will be catastrophic.

Your eyes and ears weren't lying to you during the debate, but your perspective certainly is. Biden might not be a silver-tongued orator, but he's a competent, experienced leader who has spent his life in public service. His administration has made significant strides in repairing the damage wrought by Trump's chaotic tenure. Yet, you're ready to throw all that progress away because you want a perfect candidate. News flash: Perfect candidates don't exist.

So, stop wallowing in your "quandary" and recognize the bigger picture. Your vote isn't just about Joe Biden; it's about preserving the integrity of our democracy, protecting civil rights, and ensuring a future free from the tyranny of a man who would rather see the country burn than admit defeat. This election isn't about purity tests or ideal candidates; it's about survival.

Get off your high horse, recognize the gravity of the situation, and do the right thing. Vote for Biden. Not because he's flawless, but because he and the Democratic Party are the firewall standing between us and the abyss. Your refusal to vote is nothing short of a betrayal to every principle you claim to hold dear. This isn't the time for petty grievances and philosophical purity; it's a time for action. Make your vote count or be complicit in the destruction of everything we hold dear.

A.B. in Chesapeake, VA, writes: I went to the rally against gun violence in D.C. in 2018 and stood next to a guy from Florida who expressed being aghast that Trump was president. He then went on to say how he voted for Jill Stein because Hillary Clinton was so corrupt. I just finished the Mailbag and find myself forced to write to J.K. in Phoenix and all like J.K. Let's be clear: If you vote for anyone other than the Democrat, whoever it is, you will be voting for tRump, as you call him in your letter, J.K. Ralph Nader voters helped elect George W. Bush in 2000 and gave us Samuel Alito, Iraq, trillions to the wealthy and a doubling of the national debt instead of Al Gore, who would have given us a sane Supreme Court, and would have started us on the road to climate stability and a balanced budget. Stein voters helped elect tRump. And YOU, J.K. in Phoenix, will help to reelect the pathological liar, accused violator of the espionage act, accused insurrectionist, adjudicated rapist and felon, and wannabe dictator; you will be aghast in 2025 if you don't vote for the Democrat because the choice is binary and the threat is existential.

B.S. in Charleston, SC, writes: It occurred to me today that one thing hasn't really been discussed much, at least not in the news cycles I consume...

"Anyone but Trump" is a sentiment driving most people to vote for Biden. He doesn't have the kind of broad base excited by his candidacy that Bernie Sanders or even Hillary Clinton had. But honestly, that cuts both ways. People who vote for Biden simply because they absolutely cannot support Trump will vote for any viable alternative, including a replacement from the Democrats.

E.C.R. in Helsinki, Finland, writes: I was last weekend on a hike in Helsinki with a diverse international crowd, including an Iranian from Meshed. After impressing him when I asked if he was from Tehran, Isfahan or Meshed, he asked about the debate and U.S. election. I responded that I was planning to vote for "none of the above" because although I detest Trump and most of what he stands for, I feel that Benjamin Netanyahu has been playing Lucy to Biden's Charlie Brown trying to kick the football.

Biden's debate performance only reinforced the impression of incompetence and naive faith in the goodwill of foreign leaders, both allied and enemy, who are and should be acting in the naked self interest of their respective populations. I added that how I felt about the choice between two 80-year-olds with their minds mired in the last millennium was not unlike how I imagined Iranians felt about their choice in their recent election. After I explained about the annual Peanuts cartoon where Lucy year after year has yet another reason to yank away the football at the last second so that Charlie Brown always winds up falling to the ground, my new Iranian friend laughed and agreed, pointing out that turnout in Iran last week was 40%.

Final Words

R.F. in Palm Springs, CA, writes: Courtesy of Karl Marx: "Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

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