McManus: Is Biden fatally cussed or virtuously tenacious?

At present is Joe Biden’s eightieth birthday. Our first octogenarian president is 2 years older than Ronald Reagan was when his presidency led to 1989.

Biden continues to be match and energetic, however he is additionally displaying his age. His hair is thinner, his step stiffer, his speech somewhat extra slurred than when he arrived on the White Home practically two years in the past.

One factor hasn’t modified: He is famously cussed.

And now that he is 80, it is in all probability honest to explain him as a cussed outdated man.

Ask anybody who’s labored for Biden and you will hear a model of the identical description: He listens to dissenting voices, however as soon as he makes up his thoughts, he is virtually unwavering.

“One factor I discovered rapidly,” one former aide advised me, “do not inform Joe Biden what to say.”

When he is flawed, that stubbornness might be his worst vice. When he is proper, it may be his most helpful advantage.

Biden’s stubbornness has helped steer his presidency by means of a few of its deepest potholes.

There was the debacle of the US withdrawal from Kabul, when Biden dismissed the army’s requests for a delay. (Requested later if he thought he made errors in Afghanistan, he mentioned, “No.”)

He shook public confidence when he prematurely declared victory over the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time as federal specialists warned the illness was nonetheless spreading.

This yr, his reputation fell when he dismissed warnings about rising inflation and caught to an financial message: “issues are higher than you assume” – which appeared out of contact with the lives of voters.

However there’s additionally a type of stubbornness that’s helpful, a trait extra usually referred to as persistence or tenacity. The president has that too.

His persistent assist for Ukraine because it fights a Russian invasion has made him the undisputed chief of a reinvigorated North Atlantic Treaty Group.

This fall, Biden determined that a very powerful difficulty within the midterm elections was democracy: the protection of constitutional norms in opposition to the extremism of “ultra-MAGA Republicans.”

“What we’re doing now’s going to find out whether or not democracy will final for a very long time,” he mentioned in one in every of a number of marketing campaign speeches.

Political specialists and strategists criticized the message, arguing that the election can be determined by financial points, not by abstractions about democracy.

However when the returns got here in, Biden turned out to be extra proper than flawed. An Related Press ballot discovered that democracy ranked an in depth second to inflation amongst voters’ considerations. Nevertheless, a surprisingly excessive proportion of voters sad with the financial system voted for the Democrats, permitting them to retain management of the Senate and lose fewer seats than anticipated within the Home.

In a post-election press convention, the president was requested if he sees the necessity to modify his course primarily based on the teachings of his first two years.

“I am not going to alter,” he mentioned.

Biden’s midterm marketing campaign theme, unsurprisingly, was an up to date model of his 2020 presidential marketing campaign message: an argument for constitutional norms, a rejection of Donald Trump’s extremism.

In that marketing campaign, candidate Biden received the Democratic nomination additionally by means of sheer stubbornness. He completed fourth in Iowa and a disastrous fifth in New Hampshire, however caught with a method that was primarily based on successful over black voters in South Carolina and outlasting his rivals.

Lengthy earlier than 2020, persistence within the face of adversity was on the core of Biden’s story. His nationwide political profession started in tragedy when his spouse and daughter died in a site visitors accident shortly earlier than his inauguration as senator. He endured two mind aneurysms. He misplaced his first two makes an attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination – badly – however got here again for a 3rd try.

Now, initially of one other presidential marketing campaign, Biden’s stubbornness has resurfaced: Will he run for re-election in 2024 at practically 82 years outdated?

The president has repeatedly mentioned he intends to run, and it seems he meant all of it alongside.

“It is our intention to run once more,” he mentioned after the midterm returns passed off. “That was our intention whatever the final result of this election.”

Folks round him say the midterm outcomes plus Trump’s entry into the race solely confirmed a choice Biden had already made.

Nothing makes him extra defiant than critics who say he is misplaced his stuff; nothing makes him extra anxious than one other probability to defeat Trump.

“He looks like he is the one one who’s overwhelmed [Trump] earlier than,” his former press secretary Jen Psaki mentioned on MSNBC.

Requested if polls displaying most voters don’t need him to run will have an effect on his pondering, Biden mentioned: “It does not.”

In a CNN exit ballot on Election Day, 67% of voters mentioned they didn’t need Biden to run once more. However amongst Democratic voters — those that will determine on the occasion’s nominee — 57% mentioned they wished Biden to run; 38% mentioned no. That implies the president begins the race as a transparent favourite.

As for his age, Biden lately mentioned, “It is a reputable factor to be involved about.”

“I feel the easiest way to evaluate is by watching me. Am I slowing down?” he mentioned “It isn’t what I really feel.”

Is that stubbornness, the vice that may result in catastrophe? Or is it tenacity, the advantage that results in hard-earned success?

Do not ask Biden; he isn’t the perfect decide. All he is aware of is that stubbornness — okay, tenacity — has labored for him up to now.

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