Thursday, December 12, 2019

Joe Biden's Ukraine and Age Problems

Like I suspect many, I have real concerns over Joe Biden's age not to mention my fears that he is not up to defeating Donald Trump - the same fears apply to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Add to this Biden's Ukraine/Hunter Biden problem that one article in New York Magazine notes will become the equivalent of Hillary Clinton's email server if Biden wins the Democrat nomination.  Biden has now compounded his age problem by indicating that he would be a one term president should he win the 2020 election. A second piece in New York Magazine looks at this problem and argues that if Biden himself has worries about his age, then so should the rest of us. All of this suggests that the Democrats need to desperately find a candidate who isn't too old, yet who can beat Trump in the critical handful of Mid-West states that will likely decide the 2020 election in the Electoral College (a system that needs to be abolished in my view since it failed it purpose by not refusing to certify Trump in 2016).  First highlights from the piece on Biden's Ukraine/Hunter Biden problem:  
In the waning years of the Obama administration, Hunter Biden, whose life was in a downward spiral, took a job with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which was transparently attempting to gain influence with Hunter’s father. The maneuver was unsuccessful for Burisma (which received no favorable treatment from the vice-president), fairly successful for Hunter (who received a hefty paycheck for minimal work), and has left a residue of low-grade sleaze that Joe Biden’s campaign has proven unable to scrape away. The dilemma this poses for Biden, and his party, is what — if anything — they can do about this problem.
So far, Biden’s responses to questioning on his son’s role, which range from challenging his interlocutor to a push-up contest to trailing off awkwardly, have hardly allayed the concern. But it’s difficult to think of a better response, since a true answer is extremely difficult for a politician to communicate. And the true answer is: Yeah, I screwed up, but it’s actually not that big of a deal.
Biden’s error is that he created what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety,” a phrase that was common back before actual impropriety rendered it into a quaint anachronism. The appearance of impropriety is that Hunter Biden made money from Burisma, a Ukrainian firm, at a time when Joe Biden was directing the administration’s Ukraine policy, creating the appearance that Burisma bought Joe Biden’s favor. Indeed, President Trump has relentlessly charged that Burisma did in fact buy Biden’s favor. This is false.
His [Biden’s] error was allowing his son to cash in on the false perception that he could sell access to his father. And by all accounts, Biden was too distracted by his job and distraught by the death of his other son to intervene in Hunter’s actions. It’s not nothing, but it is a small thing.
Democrats have bitter experience with this sort of flaw. Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of State is an eerily similar precursor. It was a small error borne of neglect . . . . And Trump turned the small error into a gigantic scandal, accusing her of heinous crimes and ludicrously insisting she ought to be imprisoned over them.
The email scandal was not just a Fox News narrative. It dominated mainstream news coverage of Clinton’s campaign, because it was a real issue, albeit a small one. Mainstream reporters made a historic blunder by devoting far more attention to the email issue than it deserved, but this is an inevitable result of the incentive system in the mainstream press, which prioritizes critical coverage over passive transmission of a candidate’s chosen message.
[O]ne of the retrospective ironies of the email scandal is that even by the narrow standards of handling government information security, ignoring every other avenue of potential misconduct, Clinton was the superior candidate. Trump’s administration has committed numerous security mishaps. As Philip Bump noted in March, the ranks of Trump officials who used private email to conduct official business include Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, K.T. McFarland, and Reince Priebus. Since then, Nikki Haley has been found to have done the same.
Reporters aren’t going to stop asking Biden tough questions about a legitimate ethical shortcoming just because his opponent’s sins dwarf Biden’s a thousandfold. Clinton’s example suggests that an apology wouldn’t do Biden much good. Maybe the solution is not to nominate Biden at all — though that strategy assumes Democrats can find somebody so pure nothing in their past can be turned into a Clinton email or Burisma level story.
We are hurtling toward a recurrence of the 2016 nightmare.
The second piece looks at Biden's age problem.  Here are highlights:
Joe Biden’s top political priority is to make Joe Biden a one-term president.
The 77-year-old Democratic front-runner has reportedly informed his closest advisers that if he is elected in 2020, he will not seek reelection in 2024. As Politico reports: According to four people who regularly talk to Biden, all of whom asked for anonymity to discuss internal campaign matters, it is virtually inconceivable that he will run for re-election in 2024, when he would be the first octogenarian president.
Some in the Democratic front-runner’s camp believe his limited ambitions are an asset worth advertising. After all, younger voters have evinced little enthusiasm for Biden, with only 11 percent of Democrats under 35 backing him in a recent Quinnipiac poll. Perhaps Biden would be best able to unite his party by selling himself as a kind of rusty old wedge for prying Donald Trump from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: In this economy, the only thing that can stop a bad old white man with a penchant for incoherent rambling is a mediocre old white man with a penchant for incoherent rambling. But don’t worry — Great Uncle Joe won’t linger too long after solving the White House’s pest problem.
This pitch has its attractions, though its appeal is somewhat contingent upon the identity of Biden’s heir apparent. And the moment he actually names a specific individual, the gambit becomes less broadly appealing. But even if we stipulate that Biden’s plans for an early retirement would mitigate millennial dissatisfaction with his nomination, those plans would still do more to indict his candidacy than enhance it.
In the immediate term, leaking word that you expect to be unable or unwilling to fulfill the duties of the presidency in five years raises the question of how you can be sure you’ll be up to the job in four. Which is to say, by letting his plans slip to Politico, Biden’s campaign has accentuated the candidate’s core weakness: that he is 77, but doesn’t sound a day over 86.
If Biden wins the nomination, he will have to combat the perception that his age has rendered him unfit (or, in our spritely 73-year-old president’s phrasing, too “sleepy”) for the presidency. That’s going to be harder to do when you’ve already signaled that you’re so concerned about your own stamina, you’ve resigned yourself to being a lame-duck president from the day you take office.
Given the Democratic Party’s myriad alternative options, picking a 2020 standard-bearer who won’t run in 2024 would be the opposite of pragmatic. It would needlessly increase the GOP’s chances of reclaiming the White House after a short hiatus.
Biden has built up a lot of goodwill among Democratic voters. And as of this writing, he appears well on his way to winning the party’s nomination. But if he knows he doesn’t have eight years of public service left in him, he should do the right thing for his party and country and stop trying to serve four.

No comments: