New York Times columnist implores Biden not to run for reelection: 'Alarmingly incoherent'

Columnist Bret Stephens argued that Biden's age and cognitive state needed to be candidly discussed

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New York Times columnist Bret Stephens on Tuesday implored President Biden to not seek reelection in 2024 and announce his intentions as soon as possible so potential Democratic contenders could begin making preparations to replace him.

In a piece headlined, "Biden Should Not Run Again — and He Should Say He Won’t," Stephens, a conservative and strong critic of Donald Trump, argued that Biden's age, as well as his seemingly "uneven" cognitive state, needed to be candidly discussed because it wasn't healthy for him, his office, the Democratic Party, or the country to remain in limbo about what to do if he decides not to run. 

Stephens also argued it would be "liberating" for Biden's presidency if he announced he wouldn't run, and that it would energize a currently "listless" Democratic Party.

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President Biden talks on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 9, 2021.

President Biden talks on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy from the Oval Office of the White House on Dec. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

"Is it a good idea for Joe Biden to run for reelection in 2024? And, if he runs again and wins, would it be good for the United States to have a president who is 86 — the age Biden would be at the end of a second term?" he wrote. "I put these questions bluntly because they need to be discussed candidly, not just whispered constantly."

Stephens noted it was "fair game" for reporters to question former President Ronald Reagan's age in the 1980s after he took office at the age of 69 and won reelection in his 70s, but that it had somehow become "horrible manners" to raise similar concerns about Biden, who turned 79 last month.

"It won’t do. From some of his public appearances, Biden seems … uneven. Often cogent, but sometimes alarmingly incoherent," he wrote. "What’s the reason? I have no idea. Do his appearances (including the good ones) inspire strong confidence that the president can go the distance in his current term, to say nothing of the next? No."

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Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris during the second Democratic primary debate in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019.

Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris during the second Democratic primary debate in Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Stephens mentioned a story published by The Times earlier this week that claimed there was "no shortage of chatter" about potential replacement options for Biden within Democratic circles.

"This is not healthy. Not for the president himself, not for the office he holds, not for the Democratic Party, not for the country," he added. 

Stephens wrote that the expectation Biden was going to be a "transition figure" who would eventually lead to a fresher Democratic face felt betrayed, and that things might be different had Biden gotten off to a better start as president. 

"The man who once gave his party hope now weighs on his party’s fortunes like a pair of cement shoes," he added, referencing Biden's weak poll numbers and the economic and domestic challenges facing the country. 

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about migrants heading to the U.S. at a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 7, 2021.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks about migrants heading to the U.S. at a news conference in Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 7, 2021. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

He also noted Vice President Kamala Harris' poll numbers being worse than any modern vice president, and it would give the party "every reason to panic" if she became the default nominee.

"So what’s the president to do? He should announce, much sooner than later, that he will not run for a second term," Stephens wrote, arguing that although it would turn Biden into a lame-duck president, he was currently facing worse prospects. 

"Right now he’s worse than a lame duck, because potential Democratic successors are prevented from making calls, finding their lanes and appealing for attention," he wrote. 

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Stephens added that making such an announcement would be "liberating" for Biden, and allow him to be more statesmanlike.

"It would put an end to the endless media speculation. It would inject enthusiasm and interest into a listless Democratic Party. It would let him devote himself wholly to addressing the country’s immediate problems without worrying about reelection," he wrote. "Greatness is often easier to achieve when good policies aren’t encumbered by clever politics. Biden should think on it — and act soon."