Tue, Apr

Yes, Biden’s Age Is A Legitimate Issue. Ditching Kamala Harris Won’t Address It.


2024 POLITICS - President Biden keeps proving the risk of underestimating him. He was written off as irrelevant in the 2020 Democratic primary, only to roar from behind and clinch the nomination. His presidential victory was seen more as Trump losing than Biden winning. 

And yet the inside-the-Beltway savants insist on wondering why Biden has yet to release plans for his own funeral. 

The latest example is a bizarre column by Greg Craig, a former White House counsel in the Obama administration, Craig thinks Biden should be opening up a vice presidential primary because he may very well be dead by 2026 – and Kamala Harris isn’t up to the job. 

Of course, Craig doesn’t exactly couch it that way, although that’s what his argument amounts to. 

“[E]ven as we put our faith in Mr. Biden, the questions about his age and physical condition will not go away, and it’s fair for voters to want reassurances and decisions that show the White House will be in solid hands,” Craig wrote in The New York Times. “He should take steps to make those reassurances, but he, Vice President Kamala Harris and the rest of the party should also consider making some bold decisions to address these actuarial concerns and show they are being taken seriously.”

Craig recommends that Democrats have a primary season for the vice presidential nominee. He sees lots of upside to the approach. It could identify great future candidates. It could galvanize voters. Perhaps most importantly for people who live in a DC bubble, it “would inject electricity and drama into an otherwise predictable if not enervating process.” 

Craig acknowledges there are downsides. It might be messy. “Divisions in the party would be on display and even deepen.”

No kidding. The whole process would be a vote of no confidence in the first black woman to serve as vice president. 

Harris hasn’t proven herself a great asset to the White House. There have been regular reports of dissatisfaction by the president’s staff with how her office is run. Harris’ presidential campaign was marred by dysfunction, which has carried over to the vice presidency. 

On the other hand, the vice president is supposed to be hanging around the sidelines, not making a name for himself or herself independently. The primary role is to be ready – just in case. If the unthinkable happens, the vice president can rise to the occasion or not. There’s no way of predicting future performance. Harry Truman was considered a mediocre Senator nominated as vice president mainly because he was acceptable to party leaders. He’s generally considered one of the best presidents of the 20th century. 

Biden’s age will be a legitimate issue in the 2024 election. So will Donald Trump’s if Trump is the GOP nominee. But instead of thinking about what Biden’s funeral mass might be like, pundits might consider spending a little more time on what he’s been doing to attract voters. 

Right now, Biden has been very effectively trapping Republicans into guaranteeing that they won’t cut Social Security and Medicare, knowing fully that they plan to do so. This is the strategy of an astute politician focused on policy, not an old man throwing Democrats into chaos to satisfy the whims of pundits. 

Let’s face it. In choosing Harris, Biden already did his succession planning. He’s aware of his mortality and the role of the vice president. He decided that Harris was up to the job. Whether voters agree is up to them. They can express their opinion at the ballot box. It makes much more sense there than in an elaborate fantasy in The New York Times.

(John Gallagher (HE/HIM) has been covering LGBTQ issues since 1991. He was formerly a senior news editor and correspondent at The Advocate. He is co-author of Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990s. This article was first featured in LGBTQ NATION.)