Biden: Lost in Translation

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The presidency has aged Biden, the oldest man to ever hold this office, and doing so at a time when the world keeps throwing crisis after flaming crisis his way. Photo: Henry Nicholls/Pool/Getty Image
Julia Ioffe
July 3, 2024

It’s been six days since Joe Biden stood like a deer in headlights on the debate stage in Atlanta, and the Democratic freak-out fever has yet to break. Sources inside the campaign tell me that people are still in the grips of panic, people on the Hill tell me the halls are quaking, and everyone is hoping a decision will come by the end of the week because time is rapidly running out. “I think doing nothing is untenable,” one senior Biden campaign source told me. Then again, said a source close to Democratic leadership, “I’m betting he stays. Everybody thinks Kamala sucks.”

From where I sit in the foreign policy realm, the issue of Biden’s age and physical fitness is not new. For the last couple of years, I’ve heard worried chatter from foreign diplomats and functionaries who wondered whether Biden running for reelection was the best course of action, given the threat that Donald Trump posed to both the U.S. and the international world order. They and their governments have already gotten used to dealing not with Biden but with his advisors—more than is normal, anyway. Foreign governments have realized, for example, that the seat of power in international affairs is National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, more so than the president. How will that dynamic have evolved in one year, they wonder, or in another four?