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May character trump ego

Our country is in a pickle, politically, and, oddly, a vast majority of us seem to agree that our two major political parties are the primary factor. While more Republicans are enamored with their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, the polls show that most voters wish we had two different people to choose from to lead the country.

Neither the Republican Party, as an institution – or its adherents – have any inclination of dealing with the deficits of their candidate, whether it is his age, his character or his criminal record. The Democratic Party, as an organization, might have a little integrity by honestly accounting the weakness of its candidate, President Joe Biden. They are helped by the whole world watching Biden’s disastrous – and sad – June debate performance.

Biden has the future of his party, and his country, in his hands. If he has the courage and the largess to end his quest for re-election, he will trump his opponent in numerous ways. Solving the age issue is the least of it. Our country longs for bold leadership. Statesmanship, a characteristic too few American politicians or high government officials are familiar with, much less understand in practice, requires putting the nation and principle above one’s position or career. While that trait is little exhibited today, two Democratic presidents have made the heart-wrenching decision to withdraw their candidacies. In March 1952, Harry Truman, in the face of opposition within his party, ended his bid for re-election, saying “I have served my country long, and I think effectively and honestly.”

Historian Michael Beschloss recounts that in February 1952 Truman’s popularity rating was at an all-time low of 22 percent.

Within our lifetimes, we saw Lyndon Johnson stun the country with his March 31, 1968, announcement at the end of a 40-minute national TV address on Vietnam. Johnson said, “With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office – the presidency of this country. Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president.”

Presidents love being president. They have huge egos. Their advisors tell them what they want to hear. It is on their own that they must face their limitations.

Johnson, like Biden, had serious health issues. In 1967, Johnson had gallbladder and kidney stone surgeries, a serious respiratory infection and heart issues.

Biden, like Johnson, can completely change the landscape and the political calculus by leaving the race. He then places the age issue squarely on Trump’s back. Finally, in 2024, a person who came of age in the 21st century, will be able to address 21st century issues instead of a too-old man with a 20th century outlook – and baggage.

Biden can leapfrog heavy and well-deserved criticism, turning it into praise for his honest self-assessment. The sane among us will be relieved.

In 1968, LBJ’s polling went from 57 percent disapproval to 57 percent approval virtually overnight. By taking himself out of the running he was able to forcefully and fairly criticize Congress and address critical issues on their merits.

Old Joe Biden’s withdrawal will give him and the nation an accomplishment he cannot otherwise reach: a future of acclaim and a legacy of putting the country on a firmer footing to preserve democracy. That is Biden’s mission and cause today. Let us hope he has the presence of mind to advance that goal in a heartbeat.

He will breathe easier once he withdraws, and so will people and governments around the world.

Some tensions will lift and joy and, yes, the possibility of hope may enter into our lives again.


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