To defeat Trump, Dems still need Biden — whether he drops out of the race or not

I love George Clooney. As an actor. As a director. As an activist, tequila producer and Nespresso spokesman. I would consider him a friend, if I knew him, and I believe in him. He has a place on Lake Como and a private island in the Thames, for heaven’s sake. Clearly, he’s doing something right.

That does not, however, extend to his opinion piece published Wednesday in the New York Times that calls on President Biden to drop out of the election campaign and allow the Democrats to select a new nominee. As with Clooney’s decision to play Batman in 1997, he probably should have passed.

No doubt the star is sincere in his concern that Biden is not up to defeating Donald Trump in November (though the fact that this argument comes mere weeks after Clooney held a huge fundraiser for him is a bit weird). Nor is he alone in that concern. In light of the president’s disastrous performance in his June 27 debate with Trump, many columnists, pundits, donors, celebrities and politicians, including some of Biden’s former supporters in the House and Senate, are arguing the same thing.

And perhaps they are all right. I’m just not sure what Clooney thought he was going to add to the howling discourse. Yes, he’s an outspoken Democrat who has campaigned for, and financially supported, Democratic candidates in a big way. But in the public’s eye, he is first and foremost a movie star.

Which is precisely why his guest essay is getting so much attention — “Clooney breaks his silence” ran one rather hilarious headline, as if we had all been waiting in breathless anticipation for his take.

This kind of attention is, no doubt, precisely what Clooney was hoping for. It is difficult to imagine that he could not have made his feelings known to Biden personally; he recently called the White House to complain about Biden’s denunciation of the International Criminal Court, on which Clooney’s wife, Amal, serves, after the court announced that it planned to issue arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders.

No, this was an attempt to cut through all the noise and make it clear how dire, from Clooney’s perspective, the situation is.

Unfortunately, it also adds a new concern to all the pressure Biden faces at the moment. Now, if the president of the United States were to step aside, it might seem to some that it was because George Clooney told him to do it.

Not the best optics for a party that has often been lambasted for being in bed with Hollywood.

Of course, should Biden remain in the race, Clooney will have handed Trump a campaign ad that no money could buy.

This may be another reason he decided to write the piece — he, and many others, appear to be trying to make it impossible for Biden to remain the nominee.

No matter where you stand on Biden’s fitness for another campaign and four more years in office, this does not seem like a good idea at all.

Biden’s age was a matter of concern long before the debate, but even so he became his party’s presumptive nominee, accompanied by loads of Dark Brandon memes. Even Clooney was still supporting Biden as recently as three weeks ago despite, as Clooney wrote, seeing a man who was not the Joe Biden of 2020.

It’s certainly not going to help the Democrats if they are seen as having hounded a successful, and nonfelon, president from seeking a second term because of one bad debate and the media firestorm that followed.

As former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, with her signature political canniness, the only person who can make that decision is Biden, though, she added, “time is running short.” That her words came after the president repeatedly said he was staying in the race seemed to some to be a backhanded way of signaling her desire for him to reconsider and step aside.

Pelosi, who at 84 is three years older than Biden, knows her way around presidents, as well as the issues of age. She also knows that what Biden needs is a little space, perhaps in which he can feel less set upon. If Biden should remove himself from the ticket, he must see it, and sell it, as an offensive — rather than a defensive — move.

His replacement could not be perceived as a usurper, put in place by editorial boards, donors and disgruntled congressional representatives over the will of the voters. She or he would need Biden’s unequivocal and very public support.

Biden would have to campaign on behalf of whomever were to replace him, and he would have to convince voters that he was not pushed off the slate by Trump, the media or poll-obsessed politicians. That he came to the decision himself, for the good of the country, and that he had complete and utter faith in his replacement.

It is, to put it mildly, a big ask.

Many have said that the Democrats can’t win with Biden but that they cannot win without him, even if he is not the nominee. Yes, if he is still considering stepping aside, he needs to do it soon.

If not, then all those people who claim to want to defeat Trump and preserve democracy are going to have to stop calling for Biden’s ouster and rally the hell around him.

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