US debate: even Democrats say Biden cannot go on like this

Trump vs Biden, one wins a debate, the other shows he can indeed stand up for 90 minutes (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


As long-time readers of my column know, I have something of a soft spot for Donald Trump, so I think it is only fair to give the first word to those who do not suffer from that affliction: “President Biden is my friend. He must bow out of the race” writes Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, kicking off a veritable panic at the Grey Old Lady that Joe Biden could indeed remain the Democratic candidate: “Biden cannot go on like this” (Frank Bruni), “I am hearing high anxiety from democrats over Biden’s debate performance” (Patrick Healy), and finally “President Biden, it’s time to drop out” (Nicholas Kristof).

If a Democrat president loses the NYT’s columnists mere hours after a presidential debate, it is safe to say that Joe Biden’s performance was abysmal. This does not mean, however, that Donald Trump was truly triumphant. Anyone who had to watch the “most important debate of our lifetimes” will not get those two hours back, which were as much torture for the participants as they were for the moderators and the audience. “We should not even be having this debate,” Trump said at one point – he does not know how right he was.

The people of the United States have to decide between two men this November, neither of which seems to be capable of formulating a complete sentence. English is not the official language of the US, because if it would be neither of those two men would be allowed to run for President. The probably greatest moment of the debate was when the two elderly men sparred over their golf handicap. 

The choice being what it is, however, at this point there can be no doubt that Donald Trump would be the saner choice, despite his tendency to ignore the questions of the moderators and answer questions that weren’t asked. He was the most disciplined version of himself seen in a long time, and he never took Joe Biden’s bait, whether it was about January 6th, or the long debunked claim that he called neo-Nazis “very fine people,” or his legal proceedings.

Trump avoided his biggest weakness – talking about himself – and instead talked about that the country was doing better under his leadership both internationally and domestically. 

Keeping his cool forced Joe Biden to claim that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a success, that America’s allies trust Washington, and that the US are admired in the world like never before.

This might resonate with Biden’s supporters, but from Israel to Saudi Arabia, America’s allies are having doubts about Biden’s claims. Which is why they are hedging their bets with either joining BRICS or starting their own diplomatic initiatives, as Saudi Arabia did vis-à-vis Iran.

The British scholar Bernard Lewis once said that the US are at risk of being perceived as “harmless as an enemy, and treacherous as a friend.” I believe – for different reasons – the Israelis and the Houthis would agree.

That neither Biden nor Trump are Ciceroesque orators was well known before the debate, so the question at this point is not who the genius is, but who is the least mentally unstable.

Yesterday evening did away with any doubts about the cognitive impairment of President Biden, who seemed visibly to age during the debate. In many ways, the visuals were more devastating than what was being said: Trump was Trump, but Biden appeared old and frail, made even worse by his wife’s comments post-debate: “Joe, you did a great job. You answered every question.”  This is something you say to a child at a trivia contest, but not to a man defending the incumbency of the most powerful office in the world.

No one will remember the substance of the debate (because there was none), but many will remember the optics. Crazy but alive person against senile and half-dead person. Not a thrilling choice, to be sure, but one that puts Trump ahead. 

As I said at the beginning of this column, I have a soft spot for Trump because while I do not think that he is a brilliant strategist, he gets certain things on an intuitive level. Contrary to the Left, he understands that there are actual enemies of the West out there in the world, not just potential friends that we have not hugged strongly enough. He understands that America’s energy reserves are the basis of future American power, and that leaving hydrocarbons in the ground will not save the climate but only weaken the US. 

It is too soon to predict the outcome of the upcoming election, but this debate did not do what Biden’s team was hoping for: revealing Donald Trump as an unhinged threat to democracy who has no self-control, compared to elderly yet cool and composed Joe Biden.

Instead, they got a disciplined Trump versus an incoherent Biden, doing massive damage to the latter’s re-election chances. Again, don’t take my word for it. In the CNN post debate polling, 67 per cent said that Donald Trump won this first debate, compared to 28 per cent after the first 2020 debate. 

The true irony, of course, is that the Democratic Party for years was doing everything they could to ensure that Trump would run again, believing that a rematch of 2020 would be the best possible scenario. After last night, I doubt that many still see it that way.