You can relax Gavin: Biden showed he’s not a doddering old man

(MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group via Getty Images)

You can relax Gavin: Biden showed he’s not a doddering old man

California politics, elections 2024, homepage news

George Skelton

March 11, 2024

President Biden, in his State of the Union address, reminded me of a grumpy old grandfather emphatically telling his concerned adult offspring: Look, kids, I’m not leaving the house. So forget it.

In this case it was the White House.

I will not run away, Biden insisted. He talked about not giving up on American values. But I also heard something else:

He won’t walk onto the south lawn and climb aboard Marine 1 to go to a retirement home in Delaware. At least not this year.

No one is probably more relieved than the governor of California. Gavin Newsom

Newsom has topped virtually every list of alternative Democratic candidates if the 81-year-old president were to step down voluntarily amid growing concerns about whether he is too inept and weak to serve a second term. His fiery State of the Union address should have allayed the concerns of many viewers.

Newsom never wanted to participate this year anyway. Below zero interest rates, he held on for a long time. And it’s completely believable.

If the job opened up now and Newsom seized the moment, he would certainly have to face his old San Francisco ally, Vice President Kamala Harris. That would make him a party pariah, especially among black women, a key Democratic constituency, Newsom has said privately. So he would defer to Harris.

Newsom, 56 but still youthful with his Hollywood looks, is apparently eyeing 2028 for a presidential bid as he maneuvers to become a national political player and better known. He is an enthusiastic Biden surrogate who continually promotes the president’s re-election.

But if Biden wins re-election, the 59-year-old Harris will be first in line to succeed him in 2028. Would Newsom delay again? No one knows, probably not even Newsom.

Newsom could seek a Cabinet post, perhaps Energy or Interior. There he could continue his favorite fight against global warming.

But Newson won’t be going anywhere politically until he solves California’s big problems, especially homelessness. He needs a track record to sell battleground states where voters are instinctively distrustful of left-wing California.

Newsom certainly got a wake-up call during last week’s primaries, when his pet Proposition 1 fared much worse than expected. By the end of the week it was too close to call.

The measure included a $6.4 billion bond to build more treatment beds for homeless people who are mentally ill or addicted to substance abuse. And it would divert some existing funding away from preventive care and focus on people already experiencing homelessness.

So Newsom has a deficit of voter influence in his home state. And he is in no position to run for president even if Biden were to drop out.

Biden’s bravo performance should reduce the governor’s hounding


inquired about his desire to run for president. Politicians are always happy when they are mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. But answering the same questions repeatedly in the same way becomes eye-watering.

More broadly, presidents should speak

lower the volume of calls for Biden to step aside. reduce the tired speculation about a possible free-for-all among presidential wannabes

Clear, direct and powerful, Newsom said in a social media post.

Biden’s State of the Union address was actually one of the best by any president in a long time. Powerful, full of energy and straightforward. No nuances. Lots of everyday talk. Maybe a bit shrill for some, but it fits the national moment.

He highlighted his track record, looked to the future and even added some humor.

Throughout my career, I was told I was too young, Biden said with a laugh, recalling being elected to the Senate at age 29. And I’ve been told I’m too old, he added to more laughter.

The problem facing our nation is not how old we are. It’s about how old our ideas are. Hate, anger, revenge and retaliation are the oldest ideas. But you can’t lead America with age-old ideas that will only set us back. You need a vision for the future and what can and should happen. Tonight you heard mine.

The Democrats applauded. Republicans looked angry.

That’s pretty much how the speech ended and that was fine, even though I had fantasized about other closing words beforehand.

I’m one of those wishful thinkers that Times columnist Jackie Calmes referred to last week. Before the speech, I would have preferred Biden to steal President Lyndon B. Johnson’s classic line to conclude his 1968 nationally televised address on the Vietnam War:

Accordingly, I will neither seek nor accept my party’s nomination for another term.

Johnson withdrew on March 31 because he believed he could not win against the growing anti-war rebellion within the Democratic Party. New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy had just entered the race. And Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota had been on the run for weeks. Johnson may also have anticipated health problems.

Unlike Johnson, Biden’s biggest problem is age. I’ve never believed that he’s too old to do this job. But millions of Americans think so. And many were able to withhold their votes in November and hand the keys to the White House back to the odious Donald Trump.

Trump, 77, is almost the same age as Biden. And he is a man who shows signs of mental derailment. But that doesn’t seem to bother the MAGA cult.

Polls show Biden trailing Trump somewhat but consistently.

Biden can turn that around by capitalizing on his State of the Union momentum and campaigning personally and aggressively among voters, showing his energy, warning of the threat from Trump and showing humor.

One thing is certain: the old grandpa will not leave the house unless the voters urge him to do so. And Newsom is happy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Hot Topics

Related Articles