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McManus: Is Biden fatally cussed or virtuously tenacious?

At present is Joe Biden’s eightieth birthday. Our first octogenarian president is 2 years older than Ronald Reagan was when his presidency led to 1989.

Biden remains to be match and energetic, however he’s additionally displaying his age. His hair is thinner, his gait stiffer, his speech slightly extra garbled than when he arrived within the White Home nearly two years in the past.

One factor hasn’t modified: He’s famously cussed.

And now that he’s 80, it’s in all probability truthful to explain him as a cussed outdated man.

Ask anybody who’s labored for Biden, and also you’ll hear a model of the identical description: He listens to dissenting voices, however as soon as he’s made up his thoughts, he’s nearly unshakable.

“One thing I learned quickly,” a former aide advised me, “you don’t tell Joe Biden what to say.”

When he is incorrect, that stubbornness could also be his worst vice. When he’s proper, it could be his most helpful advantage.

Biden’s stubbornness has helped steer his presidency into a few of its deepest potholes.

It produced the debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Kabul, when Biden dismissed pleas from the army for delay. (Requested later if he thought he had made errors in Afghanistan, he stated: “No.”)

It shook public confidence when he prematurely declared victory over the COVID-19 pandemic, whilst federal specialists warned that the illness was nonetheless spreading.

This yr, it drove his reputation down when he disregarded warnings of rising inflation and caught to an financial message — “things are better than you think” — that appeared disconnected from voters’ lives.

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However there’s additionally a type of stubbornness that’s helpful — a trait extra typically known as persistence or tenacity. The president has that, too.

His persistent assist for Ukraine because it battles a Russian invasion has made him the undisputed chief of a reinvigorated North Atlantic Treaty Group.

This fall, Biden determined crucial situation within the midterm elections was democracy — the protection of constitutional norms in opposition to the extremism of “ultra-MAGA Republicans.”

“What we’re doing now is going to determine whether democracy will long endure,” he stated in certainly one of a number of marketing campaign speeches.

Pundits and political strategists criticized the message, arguing that the election could be selected financial points, not abstractions about democracy.

However when the returns got here in, Biden turned out to be extra proper than incorrect. An Related Press ballot discovered that democracy ranked a detailed second to inflation amongst voters’ issues. A surprisingly excessive share of voters sad concerning the financial system voted for Democrats nonetheless, enabling them to retain management of the Senate and lose fewer seats than anticipated within the Home.

At a postelection information convention, the president was requested whether or not he noticed any want to regulate his course based mostly on the teachings of his first two years.

“I’m not going to change,” he stated.

Biden’s midterm marketing campaign theme, unsurprisingly, was an up to date model of the message of his 2020 presidential marketing campaign: a pitch for constitutional norms, a rejection of Donald Trump’s extremism.

In that marketing campaign, candidate Biden received the Democratic nomination by way of sheer stubbornness, too. He completed fourth in Iowa and a disastrous fifth in New Hampshire, however caught with a technique that relied on profitable Black voters in South Carolina and outlasting his rivals.

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Lengthy earlier than 2020, persistence within the face of adversity was the core of Biden’s story. His nationwide political profession started in tragedy when his spouse and daughter had been killed in a visitors accident shortly earlier than his swearing-in as a senator. He endured two mind aneurysms. He misplaced his first two makes an attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination — badly — however got here again for a 3rd strive.

Now, originally of one other presidential marketing campaign, Biden’s stubbornness has surfaced once more: Will he run for reelection in 2024 at almost 82?

The president has stated repeatedly that he intends to run, and it seems he meant all of it alongside.

“Our intention is to run again,” he stated after the midterm returns had been in. “That’s been our intention regardless of what the outcome of this election was.”

Individuals round him say the midterm outcomes plus Trump’s entry into the race merely confirmed a choice Biden had already made.

Nothing makes him extra defiant than critics saying he’s misplaced his stuff; nothing makes him extra keen than one other likelihood to defeat Trump.

“He feels like he’s the only one who’s beaten [Trump] before,” his former Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated on MSNBC.

Requested whether or not polling that exhibits most voters don’t need him to run will have an effect on his considering, Biden stated: “It doesn’t.”

In a CNN exit ballot on election day, 67% of voters stated they didn’t need Biden to run once more. However amongst Democratic voters — those who will determine on the get together’s nominee — 57% stated they needed Biden to run; 38% stated they didn’t. That implies the president begins the race as a transparent favourite.

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As for his age, Biden stated lately, “It’s a legitimate thing to be concerned about.”

“I think the best way to make the judgment is to watch me. Am I slowing up?” he stated. “That’s not how I feel.”

Is that stubbornness, the vice that may result in catastrophe? Or is it tenacity, the advantage that results in hard-earned success?

Don’t ask Biden; he’s not the most effective decide. All he is aware of is that stubbornness — OK, tenacity — has labored for him so far.



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