Opinion | The Big Decisions Facing Trump and Biden This Week (2024)

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Pamela Paul

Opinion Columnist

The Second-Worst Decision Democrats Could Make Right Now

I was an early and enthusiastic fan of Kamala Harris when she first ran for president. She had an inspiring personal story and an impressive résumé. Here was someone who had been a senator, an attorney general and a prosecutor. She had been an advocate for recidivism reduction and other measures of criminal justice reform, and had proved she could be tough in the Senate, where her questioning was described as “prosecutorial.” She seemed gutsy and capable and a fine candidate for national office.

Wow, was I wrong. Look, it’s hard to shine as vice president — as John Adams put it, “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” But Harris has also proved how easy it is to sink.

Between her high staff turnover, her ineffectiveness on migration and the border, her chronically low approval ratings and her often embarrassing public experiences — remember, Harris chose to subject herself to the cringe on “The Drew Barrymore Show” — she has not exuded competence or inspired confidence.

Yet despite Joe Biden insisting he can still drive, dagnabbit, talk of anointing Harris as his replacement has started to take hold. Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina said he would support Harris if Biden drops out, also proposing a mini-primary. “The Democratic Nominee in 2024 should be Kamala Harris,” the former congressman Tim Ryan wrote in Newsweek last week. “She is brilliant, compassionate, engaging, funny and totally down to earth,” he wrote, and “more importantly, she deserves a chance to go to the American people and show us her mettle.”

Choosing a presidential candidate should not be about someone proving herself or “deserving a chance.” It should be about who has the best chance. This should not be about advancing women, Black people or people of South Asian descent. It should be about beating back Donald Trump with the most electable and capable candidate possible.

That Harris leads Biden slightly in polls as a possible replacement candidate only shows how low that bar is. Those same polls suggest she would still lose against Trump.

If some racist or sexist Americans wouldn’t vote for Harris based on her ethnicity, race or sex, shame on them. But to argue against Harris is not inherently racist or sexist.

If Democrats are serious about not wanting to lose this election — and most important, preventing Trump from resuming power — they need to stop trying to make Harris happen and allow an open primary. Americans need a candidate who will win.

July 8, 2024, 11:59 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 11:59 a.m. ET

Michelle Cottle

Opinion Writer

What Primary Voters Didn’t Know About President Biden

Buckle up for another bumpy political week. As Washington lawmakers slouch back from their holiday break, they have been greeted by a defiant letter from President Biden, effectively daring them to try derailing his re-election bid.

Thank you for sharing your concerns, he wrote. “I am not blind to them.” That said, he continued, “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.”

No matter how many times he repeats it, this assurance remains worthless. What high-ranking politician doesn’t believe in his own exceptionalism? I mean, Ron DeSantis was 100 percent convinced he was the best person to beat Trump this year, and we see where that got him.

But where Biden seems intent on making toxic mischief is with grand pronouncements about preserving democracy.

“We had a Democratic nomination process and the voters have spoken clearly and decisively,” he asserted, ticking through the number of votes, the percentage of the primary vote and the number of delegates he amassed — as if a re-election primary coronation is anything like an open race.

“Do we now just say this process didn’t matter?” he wrote. “That the voters don’t have a say? I decline to do that.” Only the voters decide the nominee, he said, not the press, pundits, donors or other “selected” groups of individuals. “How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party?”

So much to unpack. Let’s just go with this piece: While there is an abundance of Democratic pundits, donors and members of “selected” groups, I’m confident it’s not enough to account for the 59 percent of Democrats who, post-debate, fear Biden is too old for the job, according to the latest Times/Siena poll.

What about these voters? Or the 79 percent of independents who expressed similar anxiety? Do they not matter? Are we not concerned about their faith and trust as they grapple with apparently having been misled about the president’s fitness? How do they feel about Biden’s people stage-managing and shielding him to the point that it was almost impossible for voters to assess his fitness until absurdly late in the race? Are the voters who feel betrayed going to punish the entire Democratic Party come November?

Biden aggressively pitching the situation as him and the grass roots versus a bunch of snooty elites may make him feel tough. But it accomplishes little more than fueling discord and division within his own party. He needs to show people he is up to the job, and not just assert as much while pretending this is a crisis manufactured by bed-wetting establishment types.

The president and his team have proved they know how to write a strong and salty letter. If only that were all there was to the job.

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July 8, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

July 8, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

Katherine Miller

Opinion Writer and Editor

The Big Decisions Facing Trump and Biden This Week

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Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • This will be a very full, unpredictable week of politics. In terms of where everyone is: Donald Trump will hold rallies in Miami on Tuesday and near Pittsburgh on Saturday. President Biden will host a NATO summit in Washington beginning Tuesday, and is expected to hold a news conference on Thursday. He will also campaign in Detroit on Friday. Kamala Harris will hold a campaign event in Las Vegas on Tuesday, and Jill Biden will hold a slate of campaign events in the Southeast on Monday.

  • How strong is Biden’s support with congressional Democrats? This week might answer that. One thing I’ve seen in the last decade that will most likely shape the politics of it, though, is really about what elected officials say publicly; the public pays attention to what politicians say on the record, so if they back him or tell him to leave, voters will take that more seriously than the private commentary.

  • On Sunday, a number of Pennsylvania Democrats, including both senators, welcomed Biden at the airport, and there have been shows of support from people like Bernie Sanders and Joyce Beatty. A small number of House members, like Minnesota’s Angie Craig, have said publicly that he should step aside; there’s also been reporting on private meetings where additional Democrats have said he should withdraw.

    There are elected officials like Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who said Sunday there were still voter concerns about Biden’s 2024 viability that the president needs to address this week. Congress is coming back to Washington on Monday, which might make things more chaotic in the short term, when a few hundred lawmakers, aides and reporters begin interacting. How congressional leaders like Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries approach his candidacy seems likely to shape a lot.

  • Trump is widely expected to announce his vice-presidential pick this week — maybe J.D. Vance, Doug Burgum or Marco Rubio, though it could be someone else. That pick might not change people’s perceptions of Trump personally, but it might give a real lens to the rest of the campaign.

    In 2012, for instance, whether Mitt Romney intended this or not, his selection of Paul Ryan affirmed the idea of their campaign as an ideological, austerity-minded one; in retrospect, that was probably the apex of entitlement-reform politics in America. Vance is now very much a post-Trump figure, and there’s a universe in which his selection makes the rest of Trump’s campaign and potential presidency look different and more ideologically aggressive and populist, compared with, say, Burgum, who is perceived as being more from the corporate, business world.

  • Republicans are also meeting, privately, about the party’s platform this week. Longtime anti-abortion activists are deeply unhappy with the reported plan to drop the party’s commitment to a national abortion ban in favor of Trump’s “states should decide” position that doesn’t really satisfy anyone, especially people who want abortion to be legal.

July 6, 2024, 10:00 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 10:00 a.m. ET

Maureen Dowd

Opinion Columnist

On Congenital Liars, Then and Now

In his Friday back-against-the-wall interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, President Biden said of Donald Trump, “The man is a congenital liar.”

That rang some bells with longtime Times readers.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton was running for re-election, William Safire wrote a blistering Times column about Hillary Clinton called “Blizzard of Lies.” Citing Whitewater, Travelgate, exponential commodity trading profits and behavior in the wake of her friend Vince Foster’s death, he wrote: “Americans of all political persuasions are coming to the sad realization that our First Lady — a woman of undoubted talents who was a role model for many in her generation — is a congenital liar. Drip by drip, like Whitewater torture, the case is being made that she is compelled to mislead, and to ensnare her subordinates and friends in a web of deceit.”

Then the kerfuffle began. Bill Clinton said he wanted to punch Safire in the face. His spokesman, Mike McCurry, told reporters: “The president, if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response to that on the bridge of Mr. Safire’s nose.”

Safire was presented with a pair of red boxing gloves on “Meet the Press.”

The famous Times wordsmith, who had a column called “On Language” in addition to his conservative political column, was accused by some of choosing the wrong word. Congenital is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “Existing or dating from one’s birth,” as in a “congenital disease or defect.” It was harsh.

As the author and journalist Garry Wills wrote in The Washington Post, “It seems a gratuitous, if not cruel, description of a woman who is not accused, or suspected, of such innate deceptiveness during the first 45 years of her life.”

My pal Safire took all the criticism with his usual equanimity. But one day during this donnybrook, I wandered into his office down the hall from mine in the Washington bureau. I wanted to see what he thought. He wasn’t there but in plain view, he had left a list of synonyms for “congenital,” starting with “chronic.” So he may have had his doubts about the word he chose, as well.

But in the latest instance, President Biden probably chose the right word. Donald Trump not only gives the impression that he has been lying since the cradle, but seems proud of it. So “congenital” works pretty well.

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July 6, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

July 6, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

Frank Bruni

Contributing Opinion Writer

President Biden and the Lord Almighty

On Friday President Biden named the one scenario by which he’d decide to abandon his re-election campaign:

If “the Lord Almighty came down” and told him to.

Not if Democratic leaders in Congress insisted it was best for the party and country. Not if other prominent Democrats begged. Not if polls showed him losing to Donald Trump in November. (They already do.) Biden essentially said that those leaders would never lose faith and those polls can’t be trusted. Everything will be fine. Everything is fine.

Either Biden genuinely believes that or has decided that a pantomime of unsullied confidence is the best damage control. Neither possibility reassures me, and I suspect that neither will end Democratic worries about his fitness and about voters’ impressions of it.

Biden made his remarks in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that was all of 22 minutes long and was broadcast, unedited, in prime time. The interview continued his effort to explain, improve on and erase his shockingly unsteady performance in a debate against Trump over a week ago.

And Biden indeed improved on it. He ably extolled his first-term record, even if some sentences were rickety, with some details incorrect. He wisely emphasized crucial differences between him and Trump and rightly recognized the stakes of defeating Trump.

But Stephanopoulos wasn’t asking Biden about Trump. He was asking Biden about his own health, and Biden deflected many of those questions or answered them tersely. He conceded no physical decline since 2020. He cast this current passage as 2020 all over again — needless panic and predictable underestimations of his strength. He pretty much rolled his eyes at a reference to his supposedly low approval rating. And he scoffed at the suggestion that he have a thorough neurological work-up.

Stephanopoulos kept asking about the future. Biden kept talking about the past.

But this isn’t 2020. The polls, the country, Biden — they’re all different. Does he fully get that?

“I’m the guy,” he said, over and over, and while that phrase typically teed up mention of one of his many legitimate accomplishments, it was also an assertion of his status, in his view, as the best and only Democrat to take on Trump, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

I hope with every fiber of my being that he’s right, because I doubt the Lord is descending anytime soon. And if he’s wrong? Heaven help us.

July 5, 2024, 5:53 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 5:53 p.m. ET

Kathleen Kingsbury

Opinion Editor, reporting from Madison, Wis.

Biden Can Ad-Lib and Deliver a Speech. It’s Still Not Enough.

In a packed middle-school gym in Madison, Wis., on Friday afternoon, President Biden stood before an adoring crowd of about 500 supporters and read from a teleprompter.

The rally had all the normal markings of such events: chants of “four more years,” surrogates in the form of local elected and party officials lined up to spin the Biden-Harris campaign talking points, a crowded press gaggle of national and local reporters, even a man sporting a “Biden ’88” pin. Outside, demonstrators decried the White House’s policy on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

And yet until the president began wrapping up his speech, it felt in many ways like the room was holding its breath. This was one of several tests on Friday for Biden, who used the moment to assure the American public that his age will not prevent him from staying in the presidential race and defeating Donald Trump in November. Even as the crowd erupted in cheers when Biden walked on the stage, an audience member held up a sign that read “Pass the torch, Joe.”

Biden spoke forcefully, laying out a clear case for his re-election and the dangers of a second Trump presidency. He spoke openly, with humor, about the fact he is no longer 40. He did what he came to Wisconsin to do: avoid any further damage. Was it enough?

When I talked to voters after the speech, they universally expressed more confidence in him, though it could come across more as relief than enthusiasm. Even in cheering on the president, the most common refrains fell back on familiar Democratic talking points from recent days: There’s nobody else who can beat Trump. It’s too late for any other nominee to win. Why haven’t you called for Trump to step aside?

Few people answered my questions about how Biden inspired them. Instead, they wanted to tell me that he showed up, he walked across the stage without stumbling and he remembered the governor’s name. As he exited the school, one Biden supporter noticed my press pass and grabbed my arm. “He came in and ad-libbed and there were no mistakes!” he said. “Report that!”

American voters deserve more than just an alternative to Trumpism, however. They deserve more than someone who can ad-lib just great. They deserve a real response to the significant concerns about the president’s age, which didn’t start with the debate last week but, as polls and interviews showed, have been building for several years. They deserve a better answer than “it was just one bad night.”

They deserve a leader who can show them a better future and a way to build it.

Friday’s event was one test, but it is hardly the only one Biden will need to pass to retake the White House in November.

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July 5, 2024, 5:07 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 5:07 p.m. ET

David Wallace-Wells

Opinion Writer

A Hollow Labor Victory Brings Change to Britain

Inside Parliament, it looks like a generational landslide, the largest since Tony Blair’s triumph in 1997 and the second largest since Stanley Baldwin’s in 1935.

Outside, though, anyone looking at vote totals as a measure of the British political mood sees a more muddied and ambiguous picture, with commentators already calling it a “sandcastle” victory, a “landslide that isn’t a landslide,” and “a thumping majority without a thumping share of the vote.” Only 34 percent of British voters chose Labour — lower than most pre-election forecasts of 40 percent and lower than polling suggested when the election was first announced, when 50 percent seemed in play.

Thanks to low turnout, Labour won this time with the support of only about 20 percent of the British public, with lower vote totals than the party achieved under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019, and Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, collected only half as many votes in his district as he did in either of those two elections. Even so, a first-past-the-post system and a strategic campaign by Labour turned what was a relatively weak plurality at the level of public opinion into a hammering legislative supermajority in government.

But those emphasizing the hollowness of Labour’s victory are also missing something about the winds of change.

Reform voters did split off from the Tories, in numbers sufficient to doom the legacy conservatives, but it’s hard to see Nigel Farage as the face of the British future, given his party’s low support among young voters. And while it may be tempting to look at the combined performance of the two parties on the British right and see a natural and relatively strong conservative coalition, one should do the same on the other side of the ledger. By that math, an all-in left-liberal coalition is simply much stronger, with Labour, Liberal-Democrats and the Green Party accounting for almost 53 percent of the vote, compared with just 38 percent for the all-in conservative bloc. In fact, Reform barely improved on UKIP’s vote share; the Greens tripled theirs from 2021.

The road ahead may well prove difficult for Labour. A commanding supermajority derived from only 20 percent support looks like a recipe for a backlash, especially given how many seats were narrowly won. But I suspect the results are less a sign that a resurgent right wing is just around the corner than a mark of simple political disenchantment across the ideological spectrum. This is what victory looks like in a country where so many have already given up on establishment politics.

A correction was made on

July 5, 2024

:

An earlier version of this article misstated the leader of Britain’s Conservative Party in 1935. He was Stanley Baldwin, not Winston Churchill.

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July 5, 2024, 3:47 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 3:47 p.m. ET

Serge Schmemann

Editorial Board Member

Keep an Eye on Israel’s North

An unusual crush of summer shocks — President Biden’s debate debacle, electoral upheavals in Britain and France — seemed for a spell to push other crises into the background. The Israeli-Gaza war, in any case, seemed at last report to be approaching a cease-fire.

That may still be so. A new cease-fire proposal from Hamas, the militant organization that Israel is fighting to destroy in Gaza, set off a round of urgent contacts among all the parties in the fray — Israel, the United States, Egypt, Qatar — and a meeting of the heads of Hamas and Hezbollah.

That meeting may be of particular interest in what could be the endgame in the brutal nine-month-old war. While America’s and the world’s attention have been largely fixed on the devastation of Gaza, Israel has been turning an increasingly wary eye on its north, specifically the threat posed from Lebanon by Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite Islamist paramilitary-political organization backed, like Hamas, by Iran. Since the Gaza war erupted on Oct. 7 with the murderous Hamas raid in southern Israel, Hezbollah has been sporadically lobbing shells across the northern border and has vowed to continue doing so for the duration of the Gaza war.

Despite efforts by both Israel and Hezbollah to avoid an open war, that possibility is becoming a matter of growing concern. This week, for example, an Israeli attack killed a senior Hezbollah commander, and Hezbollah retaliated with a barrage of rockets and drones. That’s the kind of development that could easily escalate into an all-out conflict.

The threat of getting drawn into a war with Hezbollah, in fact, is one reason Israel’s top generals are pushing for a cease-fire and hostage deal in Gaza even if Hamas has not been eliminated. Hezbollah is a considerably more powerful foe than Hamas, with a huge arsenal of missiles, rockets and drones, including precision-guided missiles that could hit critical Israeli targets. A cease-fire in Gaza would lower the tensions in the north and give Israel time to replenish its munitions for the possibility of a bigger fray. Israel has also had to move 50,000 residents along the northern border who are eager to return home.

Hezbollah is also most likely keen to avoid a full fight. It has had to move 100,000 Lebanese residents back from frontline areas, and Lebanon is an economic mess.

After the latest flare-up on the northern border, the Biden administration contacted France, once the administrative power in Lebanon, to help try to cool tensions. Netanyahu, for his part, has resisted his generals’ call for a Gaza cease-fire until Hamas is eradicated.

And so, as Aluf Benn, the veteran journalist and editor in chief of Haaretz, wrote this week under the headline “The Other, Scarier Front,” people on both sides of the border wonder when and how the war will end or whether it will “explode into the most destructive war in either country’s history.”

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July 5, 2024, 2:19 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 2:19 p.m. ET

Matthew Rose

Opinion Editorial Director

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What Labour’s Sort-of Landslide Means for Biden

The superlatives came thick and fast Friday as Britain reported its election results. The Conservatives won the fewest seats in the party’s nearly 200-year history. Tory cabinet officials and one former prime minister — the one with the life span of a lettuce — lost their seats. At last count, Labour tallied 412 seats, an increase of 214, while the Tories eked out a miserable 121, having shed 252. The Tories’ previous worst result came in 1906, when even poor Arthur Balfour managed to win 35 more seats than Rishi Sunak.

At first glance, this looks like a landslide for Labour and its incoming prime minister, Keir Starmer, who emerges with a dominant parliamentary majority that looks a lot like Tony Blair’s in 1997. Blair’s win kicked off a long period of dominance for the center-left and a grim trudge through the wilderness for the right.

But there is something disquieting in these results that doesn’t bode well for Labour and, by extension, Democrats in the United States. Both electorates seem gripped by a malaise that no political leader has adequately addressed.

Despite the Labour landslide, its percentage of the overall vote was unimpressive. Compared with the most recent election, in 2019, it was up a paltry 1.6 points to 33.8 percent. That’s not exactly a thumping endorsem*nt. What appears to have happened instead was the cratering of the Tory vote and its dispersal to everyone other than Labor — specifically the Greens, the centrist Liberal Democrats and the anti-immigration Trump-adjacent Reform Party.

It’s Reform’s performance that should be sparking the warning flares. This is the party of Nigel Farage, the arch-Brexiteer and wannabe Trump acolyte who won a seat in Parliament on his eighth attempt. Reform won only four other seats but accounted for a large chunk of the Conservative collapse with its roster of often unsavory candidates and its hugely expanded vote total (14 percent compared with, uh, 2). Similar parties are romping across Europe, and Reform’s success suggests that even Britain, a place that still sniffs at populism for being a little gauche, hasn’t learned its lesson from the chaos of the Boris Johnson era.

What does this mean for the United States? It’s easy to overdraw the parallels, but some things stand out, and most of them don’t look great for the White House incumbent. Even after years of mismanagement and haphazard governance from the right, voters didn’t favor the center-left in any large numbers. If this was an anti-incumbency moment, it seems it hit both major parties, if unequally. And the hard right made some of the biggest gains of all.

July 5, 2024, 12:04 p.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 12:04 p.m. ET

David French

Opinion Columnist

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Can Democratic Leaders Actually Lead?

One of the most consistent realities of the early Trump era in the Republican Party was the massive gap between elite knowledge of Donald Trump and voter perception of Trump. Party leaders saw him up close, knew of his scandals and deranged behavior and complained about him bitterly behind closed doors.

But then what happened? The same people not only deferred to voters who possessed a small fraction of their information; they actually contributed to public ignorance by defending Trump even from the most legitimate criticism. They made the problem worse and then complained bitterly about the predicament they helped create.

In other words, the leaders weren’t leaders at all.

I understand an elected Democrat’s desire to defend the party’s nominee until he’s not the nominee. I understand that every word uttered against President Biden can be used by Trump if Biden stays in the race. But if you have real knowledge of Biden’s limitations and if you then sally forth into public to defend his competence in the face of known contrary facts, then you’ve become a version of what you hate. You’ve become a blue-hatted version of the red-hatted party loyalist.

Leadership can be a surprisingly tricky concept in a representative democracy. When you win your election, is your mission to do what your voters want? Or do you view the vote for you as essentially a vote of confidence in you, as a person who can actually lead constituents rather than merely express their will?

The first model has essentially taken over the Republican Party. MAGA members of Congress enthusiastically share their voters’ love for Trump, but the remaining normie Republicans often rationalize a similar level of practical devotion to Trump (even while they still grumble behind closed doors) as simply yielding to their constituents’ demands.

The second model, however, demands more from its elected leaders. It demands a level of independent judgment commensurate with your superior access to information. If voters don’t like your judgment, they can certainly remove you in the next election. But still, what are you supposed to do with all those classified briefings, all those closed-door meetings and all that personal access?

The answers are simple to state but difficult for ambitious politicians to accept: You should speak with integrity about what you know to be true. Attempt to persuade constituents to conform their votes to that truth. And if you fail, so be it. Former members of Congress have no problem supporting their families or even exercising influence in the United States.

It’s time for Democratic leaders to lead. To tell the truth in private and in public. Republicans are determined to support a corrupt, aged and unfit man for president. It would be a political and moral failing if Democrats answered that grave challenge with an aged and unfit candidate of their own — all because Democratic leaders failed to heed the harsh lesson taught by the party to their right.

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July 5, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

July 5, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

Michelle Cottle

Opinion Writer

One by One, the Reasons to Stick With Biden Are Failing

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I get all the arguments against President Biden abandoning his re-election run. I really do. I have talked with Bidenworld insiders. I can recite the practical challenges of pushing an incumbent president out the door, and I know that people are determined to ignore the troubling new polls. I am familiar with the grim history of similar efforts. And I have long given these factors heavy consideration when evaluating the electoral mess confronting Democrats.

But now. …

While I still see the logic and anxiety behind the stay-the-course argument, the fundamental equation has changed. I’m betting most Biden die-hards realize this, even if they cannot admit it — even to themselves. So I figured it was worth ticking through some of the more common rationales I’m hearing, and why they ring increasingly hollow.

Let’s get the big one out of the way. Yes, Donald Trump’s debate performance was appalling. He lied. He dodged. He rambled and raved. He was at times incoherent. But it doesn’t matter, because Biden was not in a position to push back on even the most egregious malarkey. And that, my friends, is political malpractice. So let’s move past this weak-tea defense.

Yes, Trump is a terrible person and was a terrible president. I, like many of you, believe he is unfit to hold any office. But around half the country does not feel this way, and even many people who do not much like him are wondering if he is really a worse bet than a president who at any given moment might come across like your shellshocked papaw after a few snorts of schnapps. If people weren’t feeling it before this meltdown, they’re not going to be convinced now. So, again, let’s move along.

Yes, the debate may have been an especially bad night for Biden. No matter: His failure fit the prevailing story line that he is too old. And it started a steady dribble of accounts of similar senior moments. Biden loyalists can lecture voters not to overreact. But that won’t change what people saw. So … move along.

Yes, the debate prep may have been too vigorous or too lax. Or conducted at the wrong hours or after too much travel. And Biden’s makeup may have been subpar — which, let me just say, I warned everyone about beforehand. But people are going to have reservations about a president who seems so fragile, who can function only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Move along.

Yes, Biden has done a good job as president and has surrounded himself with good people. But even voters who cheer his record may not be comfortable with giving him another four years. And it’s not particularly reassuring to say: “Oh, don’t worry about him! His aides will be running things.”

Yes, it would be complicated to replace Biden. His obvious heir, Kamala Harris, has a popularity problem, and pushing her aside and throwing open the doors to other contenders would invite factional feuding and disruption. But that does not mean replacing him is the worst or riskiest option. There are times when the path of least resistance is the one that leads to total disaster. This increasingly looks like one of those times.

Yes, Democrats are famous for being overreacting bed-wetters. And yet: Have you been listening to voters? Because they have been saying for quite a while now that they think Biden is too old. And continuing to lecture them that they are wrong is not a winning strategy, especially for a Democratic Party that frequently comes across as scoldy and condescending.

Which brings us to what may be the most damning attempted defense.

Yes, of course Democrats overwhelmingly picked Biden to be their nominee. He is the incumbent president, and that is generally how re-election campaigns work. But that makes this situation all the worse because many Americans feel misled about his physical and cognitive fitness. They suspect his team has been hiding important things from them. That is a truly destructive message to be sending a nation where trust in government and other institutions is already in the toilet.

So, yeah. I get all the concerns about easing Biden off the stage. I just can’t buy them anymore.

July 4, 2024, 5:05 a.m. ET

July 4, 2024, 5:05 a.m. ET

Taylor Maggiacomo

Opinion Graphics Editor

You Don’t Need Your Own Fireworks to Celebrate July 4

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Americans will predictably celebrate this Independence Day by watching fireworks crackle against the night sky. Like anyone, I appreciate a colorful spectacle. But our country needs to acknowledge that by setting off our own fireworks, we’re harming the very land and people that we are celebrating.

Year after year, there has been an unsettling peak of wildfires during the days surrounding the Fourth of July. The often illegal firework displays people set off at home cause of over one-fourth of those fires — and that’s probably an underestimate based on inconsistent data.

Human-caused fires peak on July 4

Wildfires reported from 1992 to 2020

From 1992 to 2020, there have been well over one million human-caused wildfires, a majority begun by people burning their yard waste. However, the days surrounding the Fourth of July are consistently the most common days for human-started fires, twice as many as on other summer days, all thanks to firework celebrations.

This data doesn’t even include building or household fires. One such fire last week, caused by kids setting off illegal Roman candles, destroyed a 76-person apartment building in Washington, D.C. Luckily, no one was killed or seriously injured.

And fireworks cause not just wildfires. In 2023 eight people died, and an estimated 9,700 people were treated in emergency rooms with firework-related injuries. Kids under the age of 19 — predominantly teenage boys — made up almost half of those injuries.

In many fire-prone states and cities, selling fireworks is already illegal. Municipal or state fireworks displays are still the best solution for a safe and exciting way to celebrate the holiday with your community. Since these professional displays still produce quite a bit of noise, pollution and trash on top of the fire risk, some places such as Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe in California have even opted to replace their fireworks celebrations with spectacular drone displays. Other communities should follow their lead.

Fireworks are fun. But leave them to the professionals — for all our sakes.

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July 3, 2024, 2:20 p.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 2:20 p.m. ET

David Firestone

Deputy Editor, the Editorial Board

A New Poll Brings a Dire Warning for the Biden Campaign

The latest New York Times/Siena College poll is a coldly numerical embodiment of Democrats’ worst fears since President Biden walked haltingly off the debate stage last Thursday night. Campaign staff members have intimated to reporters for days that they have seen their internal polls drop, and there have been signs in public post-debate polls that Biden was hemorrhaging supporters.

But the Times/Siena poll is a significant jolt, showing that Donald Trump now leads Biden by nine points among registered voters, and six points among likely voters. That’s a three-point shift in Trump’s favor since the last survey, just before the debate. In the words of Nate Cohn, the chief political analyst of The Times, “Biden is not a broadly popular candidate anymore.”

His favorability rating fell four points after the debate, and is now nearly 10 points lower than it was in 2022. The share of voters who say Biden is now too old to be an effective president is now 74 percent, up five points since the debate. One prominent forecasting group that rated Michigan as “leans Democratic” in the presidential race now says the state is a tossup.

By every measure, the evidence is now unmistakable. If Biden’s candidacy was shaky before, it is virtually untenable now. Remaining in the race leaves the White House door unlocked for Trump and his destructive crew.

A number of other Democrats have already reached this conclusion, and some are saying it out loud. Representative Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, a centrist Democrat who represents a mostly red, rural district in Washington State — the kind of district her party will need to retain to win back the House — said flatly that Biden will lose to Trump. Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, whose influence helped make Biden a viable candidate four years ago, said he still backed Biden but would support Vice President Kamala Harris if Biden stepped aside. Coming from a man who is officially a co-chair of the Biden/Harris campaign, that sounded almost like a shove.

Biden and his team still sound as if they’re blindly forging ahead with their campaign. But fortunately, there was a sign Wednesday morning that reality has begun to penetrate their bubble. Katie Rogers of The Times reported that Biden told a close ally he knows he now has to persuade the public that he is up to the job if he is to salvage his candidacy. (The White House, predictably, denied the report). Rogers also reported that Biden told at least one person that he’s open to the possibility his post-debate strategy won’t work.

If true, that’s the kind of cleareyed thinking that could still give another candidate the chance to hold off Trump.

July 3, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

July 3, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

David Wallace-Wells

Opinion Writer

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What Voters in France and Britain Really Want

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Political observers crave a narrative — the more global, the better. And as the U.S. election descends into a state of chaos, American liberals looking across the Atlantic for some sense of context will see alarms flashing red. In France, a snap National Assembly election has delivered a distressing first-round victory for Marine Le Pen, long the bête noire of European liberalism, and a humiliating defeat for President Emmanuel Macron, almost a caricature of the continental elite.

But in Britain, another surprise snap election, to be held Thursday, is likely to produce a very different outcome, complicating efforts to divine a single meaning for this “year of democracy,” in which more than half the world’s population will, by December, have gone to the polls.

At present, the British elections appear set to deliver for Labour the most thumping victory any party has achieved in any mature democracy for at least a generation. The latest forecasts say a 3-to-1 parliamentary majority is not just possible, but likely. Some suggest a 4-to-1 margin is plausible, and Conservative efforts to warn voters of a coming left-wing supermajority appear to have backfired, making them instead much more likely to support Labour.

Keir Starmer, the presumptive prime minister, has run a conspicuously anti-populist campaign — those assessing each party’s manifestoes have noted Labour is promising less spending than the Tories — which means that a Labour victory may still be more an indictment of British conservatives than an endorsem*nt of its progressives. (And the party is expected to only win about 40 percent of the national vote in a low-turnout election.) But after 14 years of Tory government, a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 Labour Parliament would still be a truly historic shift.

These look like contradictory outcomes, and a reminder that any country’s elections are complex, idiosyncratic and contingent. But together, the two elections seem also to affirm that the great meme of global politics at the moment is not exactly right or left but something more like crude anti-incumbency.

For now, all worried eyes are on France. But that election, whose second round will be held this weekend, may not be a simple referendum on Le Pen’s 21st-century blood nationalism. It also says a lot about the strategic dysfunction embedded in French party politics and the weakness of old-fashioned establishment power, visible in many places beyond France.

Le Pen’s National Rally is in a stronger position than it has ever enjoyed before, but in previous elections, its candidates have been outflanked in the second round after opponents consolidated into an alliance to defeat them. This time, the frictions between Macron’s third-place party and the progressive New Popular Front (which finished second in the first round) have made forming an alliance more difficult — a troubling sign that the French establishment may now functionally prefer a hard-right victory to an alliance with the left, and another mark of the fringe-ward drift of the continent’s bourgeois center-right.

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July 2, 2024, 7:00 p.m. ET

July 2, 2024, 7:00 p.m. ET

Neel V. Patel

Opinion Staff Editor

Yes, the Starliner Is Stuck in Space

NASA has sent hundreds of people into space since 1961. Doing that is hard, but for an agency like NASA, it is supposed to be as routine as one can expect.

That makes the Starliner saga of the last several weeks all the more troubling. On June 5, Boeing sent two NASA astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, to the International Space Station aboard its new Starliner spacecraft. It was the first time the vehicle had ever ferried humans into space — after years of developmental delays caused by design and testing problems. This mission was supposed to be a moment of redemption for the company’s space program as well as its larger reputation.

But Boeing can’t catch a break. Helium leaks were detected soon after Starliner made it to orbit. Upon approach to the space station, five of its thrusters started to behave aberrantly. While the crew made it to the space station safely, a planned eight-day stay has stretched to 26 days and counting. NASA and Boeing say they are still trying to discern what caused the thruster issues — and, more important, ensure Starliner can safely bring back the astronauts.

That is, of course, the prudent move. The Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters could have been prevented by more thorough checks. But it’s one that leaves Williams and Wilmore stuck in space.

Now, NASA and Boeing object to that kind of characterization; they have emphasized that in an emergency, the astronauts can take the spacecraft home. But if the pair can’t come home yet, because of circ*mstances outside their control, and there’s no timetable for when they could return, that seems to fit the very definition of being stuck.

This isn’t how NASA’s new era of human spaceflight was billed when Starliner was first announced. NASA wanted to elevate the private sector: For its new partners, it picked a newcomer, SpaceX, and a seemingly dependable veteran, Boeing. But the veteran is the reason Williams and Wilmore are having to adapt to new routines hundreds of miles above their homes on Earth.

July 2, 2024, 4:41 p.m. ET

July 2, 2024, 4:41 p.m. ET

Gail Collins

Opinion Columnist

Rudy’s Been Disbarred. Now Bar Him From New York.

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The decline and fall of Rudy Giuliani hit a lower-than-ever level this week when he was disbarred in New York for lying about the 2020 election results. It probably wasn’t much of a life change. He’s selling his New York City apartment and has been puttering around in Florida, where his occupations have included selling autographed 9/11 T-shirts and sending birthday greetings to the dwindling number of people who are happy to receive them.

His identity, such as it is, has been as defender of Donald Trump’s fabrications about 2020. Giuliani was found liable in a defamation case, in which the jury ordered him to pay $148 million to two former Georgia election workers whose lives were upended by the lies he told about their performance.

The only bad thing about the verdict was that those two beleaguered women — who said they lived in fear for their lives from the Trumpian wrath Giuliani worked up — are about as likely to get $148 million out of him as Giuliani is to ever be welcomed back to Manhattan.

OK, his career is over, and his main occupation on many public occasions seems to be alcohol consumption. Is there anything we can learn from the saga of the guy who went from being celebrated as a Sept. 11 hero to the guy who keeps showing up looking half in the bag in the middle of the day?

It’s amazing how fast a guy can go from hero to horrible in the public eye. Looking back on Giuliani’s New York years, we’re reminded of his sudden announcement, as mayor, that he was asking for a separation from his wife Donna Hanover. Much to the surprise of the local press corps and, um, Hanover. Giuliani had decided he was in love with somebody else, the prelude of a personal life that kept getting messier and messier as the years rolled on.

Obviously, Florida can have him. Those of us in his old hometown were hardly expecting him to show up again trying to practice law here; the guy, you know, had so much trouble trying to obey the law here.

But it’s always nice to have a chance to remind the world that while New York is great at churning out celebrities, this is a city that knows what it doesn’t like.

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July 2, 2024, 3:01 p.m. ET

July 2, 2024, 3:01 p.m. ET

Pamela Paul

Opinion Columnist

Do the Right Thing, Joe

The most obvious takeaway from last week’s presidential debate was that Donald Trump is still a lying, rambling, unhinged old man whose authoritarian mobster instincts would once again put our democracy at risk. The second most obvious is that voters must do everything to prevent him from regaining power. And the third is that President Biden is no longer the man to do that.

Monday brought a development that only enhanced those regrettable takeaways: The Supreme Court’s decision to significantly expand presidential latitude for illegal but official acts during his time in office. Trump not only claimed this as a victory but then gave us a sneak preview of how he might use those powers during a second term, amplifying calls to prosecute Biden, Kamala Harris, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Liz Cheney, Chuck Schumer and others in a military tribunal.

Give Trump power, and he will take it. Take power away from Trump, and he will refuse to let go.

In the thrall of MAGA, the Republican Party has embraced denialism, blind loyalty and the cult of Trump. Democrats and Never Trumpers have rightly condemned it for that.

But now Democrats are guilty of the same. Here we have Biden and his circle denying the president’s demonstrable unfitness for office, shutting itself off from anyone who points out the obvious and insisting that no one but Biden can manage the job of beating Trump in November.

None of this is true. It’s time to distinguish between resoluteness and obstinacy, between confidence and hubris, between being the right man to beat Trump in 2020 and the wrong man to beat him in 2024.

Almost everyone agrees that, above all, Biden is a good man. But in refusing to do the right thing and drop out of this race in favor of an open contest, he is not being a good man right now.

President Biden, when you ran for election in 2020, you said you would be the bridge. You have been that bridge, and for that, America should be grateful. But we’re on the other side of that bridge now. If you continue on this path, you could well replace gratitude with resentment and consternation. Give us the opportunity to thank you for your service and bid you goodbye while you still stand on high ground.

July 2, 2024, 1:40 p.m. ET

July 2, 2024, 1:40 p.m. ET

Jesse Wegman

Editorial Board Member

Trump Wastes No Time in Exploiting the Court’s Immunity Ruling

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Update: Trump’s sentencing has been delayed until at least Sept. 18.

It took less than 24 hours for the Supreme Court’s radical, law-free decision on Monday inventing broad presidential immunity to start having real-world effects.

On Tuesday morning, Manhattan prosecutors agreed to delay Donald Trump’s sentencing in the p*rn-star-affair-hush-money-business-records-falsification-election-interference case that resulted in Trump’s conviction on 34 felony counts in May. Justice Juan Merchan, who presided over the case, said the sentencing would be delayed until at least Sept. 18.

The sentence, which could include anything from probation to monetary fines or prison time, was scheduled to be imposed July 11, days before the Republican National Convention, at which Trump will become the first ever convicted felon nominated by a major party for president.

But within hours of the Supreme Court’s 6-to-3 ruling, which held — contrary to the Constitution, two centuries of history and the court’s own precedent — that a president cannot be criminally prosecuted for almost any “official” action he takes, Trump’s lawyers asked for a delay. They also sought to have his conviction overturned in light of his newfound immunity.

Even by the vague, inscrutable terms of the court’s opinion, Trump should have no case. Most of the facts the jury found in convicting him occurred when he was not president. And yet some, like his signing of the checks to reimburse his lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, happened in the Oval Office itself. That gives Trump a lifeline, because the right-wing justices in the majority held that prosecutors may not rely on evidence of a president’s official actions, not even to help prove accusations that involve indisputably unofficial behavior. (Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who voted with the majority, did not join that part of the opinion.)

It is hard to imagine that Trump signing hush-money checks to his personal lawyer would count as an official action, but the court’s immunity decision was so sweeping that it’s anyone’s guess now.

Sentences are, of course, the essence of any criminal conviction; they are where the rubber of the jury’s verdict meets the road of accountability. The public often sees them as validating the conviction. And seeing Trump punished by the legal system will have special symbolic importance: He is asking the American people to return him to the White House, where he would be tasked above all with upholding the law.

But as he has demonstrated time and again, he has no regard for the law, and the imposition of a concrete consequence would have provided a powerful frame for his lawbreaking, mocking the Republican Party’s celebration of it. Now it won’t take place until days or weeks after the nation focuses its attention on his coronation at the convention, if it takes place at all.

This is only a small taste of the chaos and nonsense that the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority has unleashed with its immunity decision. “We’re writing a rule for the ages,” Justice Neil Gorsuch said during oral arguments in the case in April. The ages began Tuesday morning.

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July 1, 2024, 2:59 p.m. ET

July 1, 2024, 2:59 p.m. ET

Ezra Klein

Opinion Columnist

What Post-Debate Polls Reveal About Replacing Biden

It’s wise to be skeptical of the polls that have followed Thursday’s presidential debate. The people who watched the debate tend to be partisans whose minds were already made up. It takes longer for clips and impressions to filter out to voters who pay less attention to politics.

Still, a few things stand out from the early numbers. First is that no matter which snap poll you look at, the race looks stable. That’s not because voters think President Biden performed well or even because they think he’s fit for the job. Poll after poll shows they think he lost the debate, and badly, and he’s too old to serve a second term. But so far it’s not leading to a significant swing toward Donald Trump. For Biden voters, a candidate whose fitness seems uncertain is better than a candidate whose malignancy is known.

A new Data for Progress poll is particularly interesting. It, too, found that voters thought Trump had won the debate. It, too, found that most voters believe Biden is too old to serve another term as president. It found that voters were more concerned by Biden’s age and health than by Trump’s criminal cases and potential threat to democracy. And it found a mostly unchanged race; Trump led Biden by three points.

The poll went further, though. It tested other Democrats against Trump: Vice President Kamala Harris performed identically to Biden. Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Gavin Newsom, J.B. Pritzker, Josh Shapiro and Gretchen Whitmer all performed about the same, trailing Trump by two to three points. But the similar margins obscure how lesser-known Democrats would change the race: 7 percent of voters were undecided about a Biden-Trump or Harris-Trump race, but between 9 percent and 12 percent of voters were undecided in the other matchups. More voters are up for grabs.

Democrats could read these results in two ways. The line from the Biden camp has been that Biden’s bad night won’t lead anyone to vote for Trump. The other way to read these results is that the base support for the Democratic alternative to Trump is pretty sturdy. Perhaps Democrats should be less worried about the possible fractures of an open convention and more interested in its possibilities.

For Democrats, fear of Trump is a powerful motivator. It generates a unity and energy completely separate from the Democratic nominee. But it’s not enough. Biden trails in most polls, as do other Democrats. There’s a crucial group of 7 percent to 12 percent of voters who do not fear Trump enough to vote for the Democratic nominee simply by default. They need to be won over.

The question Democrats need to be asking themselves is: Which candidate stands the best chance of winning those voters over?

Thursday’s debate was the Biden campaign’s high-risk gamble to show he was up to the job. It proved he isn’t. Even so, Democrats have feared that their base is fragile enough that an unpredictable process to replace Biden might fracture their support. But what the polls seem to show is that anti-Trump voters will stick by a Democrat, and a larger share of voters are open to Democrats if the party picks a more compelling candidate.

The polls may change sharply in the coming days, and I’ve heard rumors of internal Democratic polls that show significantly worse post-debate numbers for Biden. It’ll take some time yet to know where the race will settle. And it’s not as if Trump is standing still: He’s near to finalizing his V.P. pick.

July 1, 2024, 12:38 p.m. ET

July 1, 2024, 12:38 p.m. ET

David French

Opinion Columnist

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The Supreme Court Helps Trump — and Future Presidents — Dodge Accountability

I’m still sorting through the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling, and while it’s way too early for a definitive interpretation (scholars will be arguing about it for years), it’s not too early for three broad conclusions.

First, and most important, the Supreme Court granted a dangerous amount of discretion to presidents. The court might say that presidents aren’t above the law, but in reality, it established an extraordinarily broad zone of absolute immunity for presidents (one broad enough, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor notes in a dissent, to potentially protect presidents from prosecution for bribes and assassinations) and a tough test for prosecuting those acts that aren’t immune.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the president must be immune from prosecution for an official act unless the government can show that applying a criminal prohibition to that act would pose no “dangers of intrusion on the authority and functions of the executive branch.” This is a high bar to clear.

To understand the most dangerous potential implications of this action, consider that a president has the extraordinary authority to order troops into American streets under the Insurrection Act. Then, once deployed, those troops would be under the command of a person who would almost certainly enjoy absolute immunity for the orders he gives them.

Second, forget any thought that the special counsel Jack Smith can try Donald Trump before the election. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower courts for additional proceedings to determine whether Trump can be prosecuted for any of his official acts during the scheme to overturn the election. It’s hard to imagine any scenario where the remaining legal questions can be resolved before November.

Third, Trump is still in grave legal jeopardy — but only if he loses the election. Even if Trump is ultimately held to be immune for all his official acts, he still can be prosecuted for private acts. During oral arguments, Trump’s counsel admitted that several of the acts Trump is criminally charged with committing should be considered private and not in furtherance of his official duties.

Trump’s lawyer agreed it would have been a private act when Trump, as one justice characterized the special counsel’s allegations, “turned to a private attorney who was willing to spread knowingly false claims of election fraud to spearhead his challenges to the election results.” It would also have been a private act when Trump “conspired with another private attorney who caused the filing in court of a verification signed by Petitioner that contained false allegations to support a challenge.”

This means Smith still has a case against Trump — unless Trump wins the election. Then he could use his power over the Department of Justice to end the case against him, and potentially even pardon himself from both the Jan. 6 prosecution and the classified documents prosecution in Florida.

The bottom line is clear: Trump’s fate (and potentially even the rule of law) is entirely in the hands of the American people. They alone will decide if he can be held accountable.

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July 1, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

July 1, 2024, 11:35 a.m. ET

Frank Bruni

Contributing Opinion Writer

This Is Not Jill Biden’s Problem to Solve

Jill Biden should have prevented this. Jill Biden should prevent this.

I’ve been hearing or reading versions of that since President Biden’s alarming performance during Thursday night’s debate, as if it had been the first lady’s job to decide and tell him that he wasn’t up to running for a second term, as if it fell on her to persuade him to step aside. I briefly had the same thought myself.

But it’s a presumptuous, unfair and even meanspirited one. Jill Biden doesn’t hold an actual job whose description includes advising the president on the most sensitive matters and painful choices. She wasn’t elected to do that. She wasn’t elected, period. So how is it her obligation — and not the task of one of his many paid aides or one of the political operatives who have been counseling him for decades — to make everything right? She’s a spouse, not a sorcerer.

I understand the impulse to look to her and to Valerie Biden, his sister, who has also been mentioned frequently in recent days as a rescue worker and possible savior. The president is known to trust them in a special way. They’re family. And people who believe that Biden is unintentionally setting the country up for the disaster of another Trump administration are desperate for some — for any — intervention.

But it’s noteworthy and arguably sexist that the women in his life are supposed to clean house here. And the belief that Jill Biden does and can speak harsh truths to her husband violates the sturdy truism that nobody on the outside of a marriage has any real sense of the dynamics inside it. Maybe that’s not how she understands or plays her role. Maybe she offers him comfort and lends him support once he has chosen his course. That’s indeed something that she, as opposed to one of his political counselors, is in a unique position to do.

Focusing on Jill Biden lets Joe Biden off the hook. It falls on him to summon the self-awareness and the character to make the right decision. I’d love it if she assisted that with tough questions and brutally candid observations. But she’s not accountable for those.

July 1, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

July 1, 2024, 5:03 a.m. ET

Katherine Miller

Opinion Writer and Editor

A Crucial Week Ahead for Trump’s Case and Biden’s Future

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Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • President Biden and Donald Trump have very light schedules so far for the week, probably in part because of the July 4 holiday, and perhaps in part because of the real suspense in the debate’s aftermath.

  • There continues to be widespread friction and noise about what Democrats will do, though Biden is in until something changes, which it may not. On Sunday, our colleagues in the newsroom reported that the Biden family wants the president to remain in the race, and a variety of Democratic politicians came out in support of Biden over the weekend. There is also a lot of reporting about what went wrong with the debate and what other Democrats are thinking about the prospect of a Kamala Harris candidacy or an open convention. Initial polling in the aftermath of the debate didn’t show much movement in the close head-to-head result; there will most likely be a lot more polling as the week continues. A lot of information keeps coming out — that could mean things change in some way, or it could just mean there’s deep conflict.

  • This week, the Supreme Court is extremely likely to rule on the presidential immunity issue in the federal Jan. 6 case against Donald Trump, probably on Monday morning. The case is very unlikely to go to trial this year, regardless of how the court rules. But because of the novel questions raised by Trump’s lawyers and the importance of Jan. 6 itself, how the court rules could have enormous consequences for the presidency and the campaign.

  • Steve Bannon is going to prison Monday for a few months, after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee. David Brooks interviewed him ahead of his incarceration.

  • This isn’t, you know, American politics, but it is relevant to our presidential politics, particularly looking ahead toward the future of European alliances: The U.K. has an election on Thursday (Labour is expected to return to power). The French are now headed toward their July 7 runoff election, which Emmanuel Macron called and which may majorly diminish his power.

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June 30, 2024, 9:17 a.m. ET

June 30, 2024, 9:17 a.m. ET

Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

The ‘Bad Debate’ Nonsense

Wishful thinking, to adapt a phrase, is a helluva drug.

In the aftermath of Joe Biden’s debate with Donald Trump, his well-wishers are claiming that it was just an off night. “Bad debate nights happen,” wrote Barack Obama in a social media post that’s garnered more than 100 million views. Reid Hoffman, the LinkedIn co-founder and a major Democratic donor, wrote that when Biden “does poorly, he tends to bounce back — and then win.” Biden himself told a gathering of East Hampton donors that “I didn’t have a great night, but neither did Trump.”

Pure nonsense.

It’s true that Obama had a bad first debate against Mitt Romney in 2012, just as Ronald Reagan had a bad first debate against Walter Mondale in 1984 — and both men went on to win resounding re-elections. It’s also true that Donald Trump’s performance — by turns bombastic, evasive, mendacious and meandering — would have been seen as embarrassing against nearly any other opponent.

But Biden was his opponent, and the transparent problem with the president’s performance wasn’t that he debated poorly. It’s that he is suffering from serious cognitive decline, something from which there is no coming back. I don’t say this as a medical expert, only as one of many millions of people who have witnessed, in elderly people we love, the same symptoms we saw in Biden on Thursday: the garbled thoughts and slurred words and unfinished sentences; the vacant stare; the confusion.

As a human matter, this is heartbreaking. As a political one, it’s disqualifying. Biden is asking voters for four more years to “finish the job.” Given recent reports in The Wall Street Journal about the speed of his deterioration, that’s a promise he’d be unlikely to keep even if he somehow wins the election.

All this has been increasingly obvious for years — and some of us have repeatedly said so. But this is also a time to ask questions of those who saw the president and insisted there was nothing seriously amiss, or that his verbal stumbles were just a function of his stutter, or that his voice may be soft but his thoughts are clear. Were they clueless? Dishonest? Choosing to not see?

Whichever way, they bear some of the blame for trying to prop up a mentally unwell incumbent in order to stop a morally unfit challenger. To those who love the president, starting with his wife, it’s time to tell him: for God’s sake, and the country’s, and his own — don’t run.

Opinion | The Big Decisions Facing Trump and Biden This Week (2024)
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