| The Rose Report |

Biden His Time

Will a disastrous debate upend the 2024 race? 

Photos: AP Images

What did we learn from the Trump-Biden debate that we didn’t know before?

It’s been painfully obvious for years to everyone, especially the Democratic Party spin doctors, that President Biden is cognitively challenged. Last week’s debate demonstrated how debilitated Biden is when left to fend for himself, deprived of cue cards, a teleprompter, or aides and loved ones leading him by the arm.

We were also served a large helping of Donald Trump’s bluster, as he regaled us on how America was an economic utopia when he was president and how all the evil leaders of rogue countries and terrorist groups behaved like choirboys, charmed by his mere presence in the White House.

Politicians routinely embellish their accomplishments and dismiss their weaknesses, so Trump’s performance was par for the Mar-a-Lago golf course. However, the exposure of Biden’s frailties called his fitness for the job into question, prompting a deluge of urgent pleas from opinion-makers and donors to “suspend” his campaign.

This debate was still raging at press time, as Biden huddled with family members and close advisors to plot his future course.

What options are open to Biden, the Democratic Party, and potential presidential wannabes?

How are Trump and the Republicans gaming this out to take full advantage of the gift that fell into their laps? And what traps lie in wait?


The public has lost confidence in Biden’s ability to function on the job. Post-debate polls show that up to 75% of the voters say Biden lacks the cognitive capacity to be president, compared to 67% before the debate. That’s not a huge jump, but Biden flubbed his best opportunity to flip those numbers in his favor.

Biden has also lost the support of leading left-wing media mouthpieces and the pundit class, who are now hypocritically beating their chests after four years of either apologizing for or covering up Biden’s deficiencies. Until now, Biden has filled the role of a weak-minded and pliable president serving as the centrist frontman of a party that’s turned increasingly radical and progressive.

The campaign may soon face a cash crunch. Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez touts that the campaign raised $33 million in the aftermath of the debate, but that’s pocket money compared to the billion dollars a candidate must spend to get through the general election. Rodriguez has been working the phones to keep Biden’s donor base intact. NBC News reported that some donors are asking for refunds, while Rodriguez has been candid about how unspent money already donated would be allocated in case Biden quits.

If the public has voted no-confidence on Biden, if a once-supportive media echo chamber has lost its voice, and donors zip up their checkbooks, Biden is in deep trouble. Oh, and also, he will turn 82 less than three weeks after Election Day. Unlike fine old wine, Biden isn’t getting better with age.


This one is simpler. Biden is the president. He locked up the nomination for a second term long ago, winning primaries and caucuses in 50 states. Why walk the plank? Theoretically, the Democratic Party rulebook has provisions for booting a candidate from the ticket at the August convention , or even after. The technical details are far beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say it’s a high bar to clear, it would plunge the party into political turmoil just three months before the election, and the odds of that happening are low.

Also, key elected officials began rallying around Biden over the weekend.

Influential Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (Biden’s most important and loyal black supporter), and even California governor Gavin Newsom (who could replace Biden if he quits) have re-endorsed Biden’s candidacy.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) has introduced a House resolution calling to invoke the 25th Amendment’s provision for replacing an incapacitated president, but this is not Congress’s call to make. The 25th empowers the vice president and a majority of the president’s cabinet to take such a step, but as long as Biden is standing on his two feet, invoking the 25th would look like a palace coup. The president is not a one-man gang. He has teams of advisors, cabinet officers, and federal bureaucrats to run the show, even if he is infirm.

Many presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, remained in power despite serious ailments, which they too hid from the public. Biden’s aides contend the president is effective and focused from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and even Ronald Reagan didn’t work too many more hours than that.


This sounds like a prediction, which I admit is professionally hazardous as I write about a volatile situation days before any of you will read this.

For Democrats, the 2024 election is less about Biden winning a second term than denying Trump a second chance. Presidential campaigns aren’t built in a day. If Biden drops out, how many people can instantaneously form a functional political machine, even with party support? Most contenders lack the name recognition that Biden built during 50 years of public service in Washington. More polls will come out later this week showing whether the debate dealt Biden a fatal political blow, but even if his voters desert him, they’re not switching to Trump.

The conventional wisdom is that only the president’s wife, Jill Biden, can convince Joe to drop out. So far, she has his back, firmly. That same conventional wisdom says that as long as polls show that Biden is not a drag on the ticket leading voters to abandon Democratic candidates for House and Senate races, he will stay put.

At this point, I offer a “conspiracy theory” I’ve developed and now put in print for the first time. Biden is looking to cement a legacy, on many fronts. His vice president, Kamala Harris, also suffers from low approval ratings and wouldn’t win the presidency if she had to run on her own merits. Biden has even committed Freudian slips referring to her publicly as “President” Harris.

What better way for Biden to cement a progressive legacy among the woke Democrats than to win a second term, resign around a year or two later, handing the reins to America’s first black, female president of South Asian ancestry?


In recent weeks, speculation has risen that Trump will pick former North Dakota governor Doug Burgum, who would be less likely to upstage him on the campaign trail. Burgum is a quality candidate, if not a bit low-key. He has business smarts, defends Trump well in the media, and has a hairdo that rivals Trump’s. His last name does contain one more letter than Trump, so campaign poster designers would have to set the fonts to make Trump’s name appear larger, like they did when Trump ran with Pence four years ago.

The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee is less than two weeks away. Trump could name his running mate any day, although he’s basking in the Biden turmoil and will probably hold off as long as that’s on a full boil. Trump has told the media that he’s already made his choice but hasn’t told the lucky winner yet, which means he can change his mind. With age being a bigger issue than ever — and Trump is no youngster either — he would be wise to name a young running mate, such as Ohio’s Senator J.D. Vance, reportedly the favorite of Trump’s son Donald Jr.; or perhaps Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio, who is photogenic and fluent in Spanish.

Trump needs to play the age card carefully, no matter who he chooses as his running mate. Republicans too will keep pounding away on this in the months ahead, but they must remember that more than 37 million people above age 65 voted in the last presidential election. They, and their loved ones, will be sensitive to any age mockery that emanates from the Trump camp.


Trump proved during the debate that even though he is only three years junior to Biden, he is far more vigorous. However, Trump also tends to meander when answering questions, although his campaign has been far more disciplined this time, sticking mainly to immigration, border security, the economy, and no more free lunches on foreign aid.

Trump served as president for four years. Voters already have a good idea of what to expect from him. There is no reason for him to rely on fanciful boasts. Trump must level with the American people, and with himself.

During the debate, Trump said that his sanctions bankrupted Iran and they didn’t have money to support terrorism. That’s not true. At the peak of Trump’s sanctions in 2019, Iran funneled an estimated $700 million in aid to Hezbollah. That’s less than they contributed in prior years, but you can buy a lot of rockets and dig a lot of tunnels with $700 million.

Trump keeps repeating that Russia would have never invaded Ukraine and Hamas would have remained in check on its side of the border if he were president. Deal with reality. Now that it’s happened, what are you going to do next? How will you deter China from invading Taiwan, and how will you react if they do? Spare us from the unproven speculation.

Ditto for the economy. Inflation and gas prices were lower when you were president. They’re higher now. Give us some policy prescriptions to improve the economy in 2025. Looking backward at 2016–2020 is irrelevant now.


Whether Biden drops out or not, and no matter who wins the presidency in November, both parties need to build a new generation of leaders. Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley, who may run again in 2028, just challenged her party to prepare now for Biden’s successor, who will probably be from the party’s progressive camp. The Democrats have to watch their backs, too. Look at the European political map to see how the electorate has shifted to the right and even the far right. Democrats must internalize that they will pay a steep political price if they veer too far left with liberal and woke policies that backfire.

Republicans need to groom a new generation of responsible leaders with a more thoughtful and less aggressive tone.

Politics can be a cutthroat and grimy business, but it doesn’t preclude basic human decency. The leadership of House Speaker Mike Johnson, whose gentlemanly and pragmatic approach to politics is even appreciated by Democrats, can serve as a starting point. Even the left-wing media treats him respectfully, because he speaks to them courteously.

President Jimmy Carter used to say that the American people deserve a president as decent as they are. Carter fell short of the standard he set, but it’s still a standard that both parties should aspire to.

Talking Points

Stop Bluffing

CNN fact-checked the Biden-Trump debate, ruling that Trump “lied” 30 times while Biden “lied” on 13 occasions. Other media outlets arrived at similar figures.

Whether they are lies, exaggerations, or just ignorance, the American people deserve straight and accurate information.

Candidates invest enormous amounts of time in debate preparation. Biden cloistered himself in Camp David for a week before the debate.

The first question Biden fielded from CNN’s Jake Tapper was, “What can you say to Americans who complain that inflation has eroded their purchasing power since you took office?”

Biden’s knee-jerk response was to blame Trump, saying he inherited a bad economy from him, which wasn’t true, and then proceeded to give a long-winded incoherent answer, which also took him back to his 1950s childhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where his parents had problems making ends meet.

Numbers are hard to memorize and easier to understand in print than when presented orally, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues detailed reports every month, crunching every statistic related to economic performance. Quote them, and let candidates bring notes with them so they can give educated and informed answers.

Biden should have answered that inflation is a global phenomenon, beyond the control of any one man. He could have cited a few contributing factors, and what the federal government could reasonably do to alleviate the economic stress it causes. It’s not too much to ask.

For his part, Trump claimed that his 2017 tax cut was the largest in US history, when the Congressional Budget Office has figures showing that Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts and the tax reductions of George W. Bush, extended by Barack Obama, were much larger in the percentage of GDP and inflation-adjusted dollars.

Trump didn’t have to exaggerate. He could have said, “We acted to improve the economy as soon as I took office,” and then divulged his plans for 2025 and beyond.

The View from Israel

Relations betweeN the Netanyahu government and the Biden administration are strained, so the normally verbose Israeli political community kept mum, as there was no reason to exacerbate a delicate situation. The Israeli media did cover it, but mostly to pass on what US outlets were already reporting, rather than offering their own opinions.

Israelis have every right to be concerned about a second Biden administration and the pressure it might apply, especially when it comes to the two-state solution. But Trump too declined to answer directly when asked his position on a Palestinian state, merely saying, “I’d have to see.”

Trump’s facetious suggestion that Biden was a Palestinian, and a bad one at that, was viewed as a laugh line and nothing more.

Relations with the US are in flux, and if Trump wins and follows an isolationist bent, or insists that all foreign aid be considered as loans that can be called in, Israelis understand that they will have to reckon with the consequences, either way.

How about an Age Limit?

The Constitution sets a minimum age limit of 35 for a person to become president. There is no maximum age limit or mandatory retirement age. Maybe it’s time to consider one? And perhaps for Supreme Court justices entitled to a lifetime appointment?

Agreed, any upper age limit would be arbitrary, but 35 is also arbitrary. If you don’t want someone too young, without enough life experience, perhaps the nation should consider a ripe old age at which a president should be writing his or her memoirs, rather than risking being an infirm leader of the free world.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1018)

Oops! We could not locate your form.