Last Dance

Dear Mr. President:

Tough week, huh? I feel ya. You’ve been a helluva President, and now folks are telling you to just… let it go.

There is no one more experienced with our government machinations than you. Your staff is impeccable, and they’re keeping you on track. What is it with all these lily-livered Democrats, tearing their hair out over your electability instead of throwing rocks at your venal, corrupt, gobbledy-gookifier of an opponent?

They’re me, man. Sorry, but it’s true. You are serving your last term, no matter how many times Dem-bots spam my phone with urgent polls demanding to know whether I’m committed to you no matter what. I’m a pretty damn solid Democrat, but even I need to see a viable candidate — and you ain’t him.

We know our indy friends aren’t gonna vote for you, whether or not we do. You don’t present like a man in control, and while you may be a priceless elder statesman, that doesn’t mean you’re up to the day-to-day. Your role needs to be President Emeritus.

Jimmy Carter made a priceless elder statesman. He served one term as President. Respect for him runs much higher, this week, than it does for you. Your rep is salvageable, though. More on that in a moment.

We all know you waited your turn, and that you’re a proven winner, a total blue-chip political stock … except, not really.

Your turn in big-time politics started with a successful Senate run, all the way back when my middle-aged spouse was a tiny tot. At the time, you were the youngest senator in our history. “You didn’t wait that.”

As for the presidency, while Pres. Carter ran twice and lost once, you’ve run three times already. You won just one of those races, against perhaps the most flawed candidate a major party has ever sent to the polls.

You won’t win another. You will lose to the despicable Trump in a heads-up race by any credible poll, and your numbers are worsening. Anyone telling you different is a person whose career depends on your good favor. The good news is that both you and Trump are virtually unelectable against “Unnamed Democrat.”

Maybe think about that. Maybe think about all the good you’ve done in office, and how much good you’d do for the party, and the nation, by lifting the wings of a Democratic successor. That, Mr. President, would be an epic legacy: not about the man, but about the service. The career.

The heroic arc across history.

Or you could keep scratching after bygone relevancy, imagining that your personality is the only talent Democrats can offer against the dumpster-fueled hellscape that is MAGA. Excuse me, but that’s just ridiculous hubris. Younger Democrats aren’t on your lawn. You’re sitting on their porch while they try to get the housework done.

Joe, if you don’t bow out (and make no mistake, you should), this will be your fourth presidential candidacy. Sounds exhausting for a 50 year-old marathoner, let alone a visibly failing man sixty percent older than that.

I get that you work out, watch your health, and have access to Walter Reed specialists 24/7/365, but we all saw you lose your way mid-mumble, over and over again. That’s not your stutter, with which we’re all familiar. It’s cognitive decline, a physical inevitability at your age.

You querulously challenge people to “do my schedule!,” yet little mice from White House hallways whisper of your day stretching from about 10:00 to 16:00, with a nap or two to keep the engine bay from overheating.

We all saw you fall onto the stage, fall off your bicycle, and (much more significantly) duck real interviews. As you read this (no, I don’t actually delude myself that you’ll read this; it’s a conceit), DJs are losing their jobs for hosting interviews restricted to questions supplied by your staff.

Because that’s corrupt. It’s misleading. Ethical news agencies demand more honesty than that, and it’s disturbing that we’re not getting it from the Biden administration. If your own people don’t believe you can handle a friendly interview, how should voters imagine you’ll handle a sit-down with Recep Erdoğan?

While I never served this nation in your capacity, sir (indeed, few have), I do have something in common with the worthier of your two sons: I was a service member. Now 60, I like to think I could still do that. Sure, I’m a lot slower now, but I’ve got leadership experience, perhaps a little dollop of hard-won wisdom, and I know how the system works…

That would be a terrible idea, Mr. President. I absolutely would slow down the works. Other soldiers would have to make allowances for me, work around me, cushion me from the hard reality of war. Sure, I could fool myself that I was adding more than I was costing, but that would just be my ego talking. I’m not fit for combat service.

You, Mr. President, are not fit to lecture college classes, let alone negotiate treaties or administer the federal budget. In fact, I think you’d struggle to put in a full day teaching high school U.S. History, and we’ve all seen that now. Insisting that we un-see it, or “contextualize” it by looking at your track record, is a Republican trick: “you can’t believe yer lyin’ eyes!”

We are Democrats. We do believe what we see, hear, read, and discuss in good faith. We see that the emperor’s clothes aren’t new. You’re dressed in the same suits as ever: sensibly cut, well-made, and durable. The emperor’s clothes are eminently respectable, but not timeless. Sadly, they’re wearing very thin.

That’s what happens. We all wear out, sir, and we don’t just get to do things for as long as we want because we gained those skills and earned the right at some point in the past. Sure, Hunter Biden thinks you should run again, but then Don Jr. thinks his dad should run again, too. Not too many U.S. adults trust the judgment of either one of those spoiled twits. You shouldn’t, either.

I don’t fly aircraft or ride motorcycles anymore, and one day I’ll join you in not driving cars on the public roadways. Neither you at the geopolitical level, nor I at the local grocery shopping level, enjoy an inborn right to put our fellow citizens at risk.

I’m just not that important — and you’re not, either. You and I are members of a party of policies, attempting to influence a nation of laws. Faith and grit aren’t enough on their own. You’re simply a public servant, for as long as your service is of value.

And then you bear replacement. It’s often been observed that the graveyards are filled with indispensable men, and you’ll go under the grassy hills at Arlington soon enough. As a white male in the U.S.A., your life expectancy currently stands at approximately negative five years. While it may be rude to point that out, it seems equally discourteous to loudly assert that it shouldn’t matter to the nation you propose to administer for another four years. Of course it matters. Don’t make us perform logical backflips to rationalize your entitlement.

Track records are about the past. Elections are about the future. Call me ageist, but at 60 with a grandchild, I don’t exactly feel like I’m the future of writing — and octogenarians aren’t the future of anything.

Your proxies and staffers, loyally performing damage control, accuse voters like me of being panicky “thumb suckers” and “bedwetters.” Apparently, questioning your capacity impinges on our bounden duty to point out Trump’s autocratic, criminal, and seditious impulses.

I think you all have that backwards.

We are YOUR voters, the people who elevated you into the office that you now occupy, in order to serve us. We are the very people who have demanded accountability for Trump’s criminal behavior.

We are also the people who raised an eyebrow when you told George Stephanopoulos that you thought your legacy would be secure if you just did “the goodest” you could do and never gave up (pro tip: it won’t — see under RBG).

We are the people who clearly perceive that a MAGA victory in 2024 will likely do irreparable damage to constitutional democracy.

Instead of demanding to know who could better prosecute the campaign against MAGA lies, you should be helping identify and groom that person. It’s alarming and disappointing that you didn’t start that process a couple of years ago, but we’re here to tell you it’s not too late for us to name the “Unnamed Democrat” and saddle their horse.

Voters have no duty to the government or its head of state; only to the truth. Neither you, nor your staff, have any place questioning us. Sir, you work for us.

And we are telling you that — whether or not the timing is convenient, and whether or not you can perceive it through your blind resolve to “finish the job” — your long, long turn is over.

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  1. Thanks for writing this. I appreciate the nuance and the willingness to speak publicly about politics.

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