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An argument for why Biden and Vice President Harris should step aside in 2024


Our next guest voices the anxieties of many voters, according to polls, and some inside Democrats as well, anxiety about President Biden seeking a second term. David Ignatius knows a great many players in Washington. He's a columnist and influential voice at The Washington Post. And in a column this week, he offers an opinion that the president should step back. He's here to talk about that. David, welcome.

DAVID IGNATIUS: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: I read your column yesterday and noted that you started out for quite a few paragraphs praising the president's performance in office. Given what you say there, why would he stop?

IGNATIUS: I think the simple reason is that it was hard to write a column advocating that he should consider withdrawing from the race, because I think in many ways, his presidency has been successful. He's passed significant domestic legislation beyond what I've seen in recent decades, to be honest. He's, in foreign policy, managed an extraordinary tightrope of supporting Ukraine without getting the U.S. into a war directly with Russia. So I admire all that. That said, I did feel that it was time to surface publicly the thing that I find almost every Democrat is talking about privately, and that is whether President Biden will be too old during the time of a second term to be an effective president. The polls show that 77% of the public as a whole thinks that he'll be too old to serve a full second term and that 69% of Democrats feel that way. But that feeling voiced to the pollsters has not really been a part of the public discussion, at least among Democrats. You can see it on Fox News almost every night. But I thought it was time to raise this. Time is running out to consider alternatives for the Democrats, and this seemed like the right time to discuss it.

INSKEEP: Now, you mentioned that you not only have an opinion here, you've done some reporting. You say that a lot of Democrats are voicing this privately. But I want to push on that a little bit. Aren't Democrats always anxious about something? People in the Obama administration referred to them as bed-wetters. People were anxious about the 2022 midterms, and they turned out far better than expected for the Democrats. Biden himself said everything's going to be fine. Is it - is there a case to be made that Democrats are overanxious here?

IGNATIUS: So it's hard to know when anxiety and over-anxiety - which is which. I've found since the beginning of the summer that any serious conversation I have with Democratic politicians, including some quite close to President Biden, involves this topic. And one thing I know for sure is that when people are talking about things in private and they're not surfaced publicly, we end up potentially having dangers. President Biden may think about this issue. I hope he will deeply, really look into his soul. And he may decide that he is the best person to defeat Donald Trump, which I think is the bottom line here. I think a revenge presidency of Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country. And Biden may decide nobody else can do it. I'm the one. And if he decides that, he'll run, and I - maybe he will be as successful as he hopes.

INSKEEP: I'm interested in the way that you describe that, David. You say that it's if he decides to run. He's already declared he's running. Is there some doubt in your mind?

IGNATIUS: So I think up until the last moment, he's sure to have doubts. I - the purpose of my column was to make - ask him to look in the mirror one more time and think about it.

INSKEEP: Does the absence of an alternative that you like - you're not a big fan of Kamala Harris, for example - the absence of a clear alternative make this a very different argument? There isn't one obvious.

IGNATIUS: So I think it's crucial that we have in a vice president who the public sees as a potential successor to President Biden. The poll numbers indicate that the public does not support Kamala Harris to the extent that you'd like. She's a little bit less popular than an unpopular Biden. That's not a good situation.

INSKEEP: David Ignatius is a columnist for The Washington Post and wrote a column yesterday suggesting that President Biden should step back at the end of this term. Thanks so much.

IGNATIUS: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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