The only way Joe Biden gets re-elected president is if his opponent is Donald Trump.
The only way Donald Trump gets elected president is if his opponent is Joe Biden.
The history of aging, increasingly feeble presidents with younger, more vigorous wives is not reassuring. And it is reassuring. In some cases, as with Nancy Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt , the results may be anodyne. In the case of Woodrow Wilson in 1919, the result may have been catastrophic.
Jill Biden is a medical doctor. She seems pretty smart, pretty capable. If Joe Biden becomes enfeebled while president, if he suffers a stroke, if he is barely capable of leaving his bed, it would not shock me to see a situation similar to the Woodrow Wilson situation in 1919 develop. Jill Biden relates Biden’s “directives” to his senior staff and does not permit any of them to directly converse with the ailing president. When questions are raised, the president’s own physician reports to the cabinet and the vice-president that he is perfectly mentally capable of issuing instructions, even if, perhaps, he is not, really. In that situation, Jill Biden speaks with the presumed authority of her husband, and it would difficult for others to bypass her to determine directly if the president is actually capable of executing his office.
The government, of course, is, for all practical purposes, actually run by the hundreds of high-level officials, White House staff, and cabinet appointees. The president sets his agenda by appointing like-minded people to positions of power. They will know what to do.
When it might matter, of course, is in a situation that demands a military response. China might very well consider an ailing president vulnerable to aggressive moves by competing powers. China might make a move on Taiwan. Putin might become more aggressive in Ukraine. Cuba might finally invade Miami.
It could all turn out well. Jill Biden might be a wise and effective leader. But she would not have been elected to be president. Constitutionally, the cabinet and vice-president should meet to determine if Biden continues to be fit for office. They could demand, perhaps, that an independent physician examine the president.
Here’s the thing: it will be in the interests of many in the top echelons of political power to maintain the illusion that Biden continues to execute his office. They were appointed by him. They derive their power and status from that appointment. His replacement may replace them. His replacement may be politically weaker than he is. Even the opposition party may be reluctant to see the presidency handed over to a younger potentially more appealing candidate. (Right now, the thinking is that Kamala Harris is not a strong potential candidate, but given a year or two in office, who knows?)
People love to imagine unlikely scenarios and play them out but this one is strikingly possible. It appears that Trump will be Biden’s opponent in 2024 and it is not unlikely that Biden, despite current polling, prevails in the swing states, Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona. He probably only needs one of them to win, whereas Trump needs all four.
He is obviously already suffering from various age-related challenges, physically and mentally. It is difficult to imagine him surviving a debate with Donald Trump except for the fact that Donald Trump (strikingly, today, in an interview with Kristen Welker of NBC) also appears to be showing age-related challenges.
Here’s a prediction: neither of them agrees to a debate.