As talk builds about whether Joe Biden is mentally and physically capable of withstanding a re-election campaign or serving another four years, it’s only be a matter of time before the most difficult of conversations with the president will occur.
With an astonishing 73 percent of respondents in a Wall Street Journal poll in agreement that the president – at age 81 – is too old to competently serve as chief executive, the age issue has become a dominant matter of debate.
His physical impairments are increasingly apparent – a shuffling gait, stumbles on stairs, and falls – and his cognitive strength has visibly waned under a series of rambling and barely coherent remarks and embellished, fanciful tales of past personal experiences.
The time is approaching for those around him to summon the courage and compassion to talk frankly and honestly with him about withdrawing as a candidate.
His public approval rating is mired at 40 percent. 60 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, and Biden is seriously underwater on every major issue.
Political life can be exciting, exhilarating and satisfying, providing a sense of accomplishment and public acclaim. It can also be a cold, cruel and unforgiving world of derision and ridicule, much of it angry, vindictive and deeply hurtful.
His campaign team has struggled to deal with the relentless demands of the re-election effort, crafting a light schedule before friendly audiences, avoiding freewheeling exchanges with the media and eliminating any chances for ad hoc or off the cuff comments.
The strategy risks drawing further attention to their protective efforts and raises questions about the president’s general health and acuity, and whether he’s able to cope with the 15 months remaining before election day.
His vacations have come under scrutiny as well, with critics charging he has spent an excessive amount of time away from office, suggesting he requires the additional downtime to restore his stamina.
The president is still paying the price for the epic failure of his visit to fire ravaged Maui in Hawaii, where he compared the devastation and tragic loss of life to a minor fire that damaged a portion of the kitchen of his Delaware home.
He lamented he nearly lost his home, his wife, his cat and his vintage Corvette and thus could understand the plight of Maui residents who escaped with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.
It is impractical for the president to forego campaigning altogether, and much of the burden for carrying the administration message will be shouldered by cabinet officers, members of Congress and surrogates.
The demands of campaigning and the pressures of dealing with the presidency itself are compounded by the growing questions and allegations of wrongdoing surrounding the business dealings of his son, Hunter.
Never far from mind are the political ramifications of a withdrawal. Attention would immediately turn to the logical replacement – Vice President Kamala Harris – but misgivings about her qualifications to assume the presidency are wide and deep.
The Democratic Party establishment and those who genuinely care about Biden owe it to him to engage in the extraordinarily difficult conversation, to be brutally frank if necessary, and reach a conclusion about his future before it is too late.
He has served his country for nearly 50 years, as a U.S. Senator, vice president and president. Agree with him or not, support his candidacy or not, his commitment to public service is clear.
His close friends and political associates owe him support and consideration, even if the circumstances are painful.
He deserves better than to be subjected to physical harm or personal ridicule by continuing his quest for re-election merely to satisfy the demands of anyone who would place their political status and personal well-being above his.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail