The Biden-Trump debate was held. Now what?

One of the problems with presidential debates is they never really get at the complexity of the kinds of decisions presidents actually have to make in office.

But Joe Biden’s performance in the first debate now presents him with a presidential-level choice: to stay in the race, or drop out. Like all presidential decisions, there is no clear path, and the decision must be made by one solitary person.

As in many presidential choices, wisdom might lie in ignoring the pundits and the editorial boards, focusing on the long game. Voters don’t care about performance reviews; they care about positions, on issues like abortion and protecting democracy. Plus, Trump’s legal troubles will continue to unfold, returning focus in the race to him.

But also like all presidential decisions, ego can get in the way of the greater good. Polls show Donald Trump’s record – presidential and criminal – has not been enough to make voters reject him. On the other hand, voters tell pollsters Biden’s age does concern them. The debate, where the president meandered and wandered, did not dispel that issue. Leaving the race would, putting more attention on the existential danger Biden says Trump represents. 

Trump’s debate answers give evidence to Biden’s case, lying with abandon on topics big and small. But more dangerous was the former president’s habit of believing entire fantasies around the fictitious stolen 2020 election and the events of January 6th. Not only do those delusions undermine democracy, but they suggest a mind that prefers fictions to inconvenient facts – a disastrous mental response for a job that presents you with one inconvenient fact after another.

When President Biden has been asked about voter concerns over his age, he has said, “Watch me.” They did. Now he must look in the mirror and make a presidential decision: Will he be the agent, or the impediment, to what he says brought him into the race in the first place: keeping Donald Trump from office?

Story produced by Sari Aviv. Editor: Carol Ross. 

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