Biden’s Running Mate Had Better Be Ready from Day One

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Former vice president Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic presidential debate in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The New York Times writes of Joe Biden’s search for a running mate: “The ramifications of Mr. Biden’s choice will be profound. Even if he loses in November, his decision will all but anoint a woman as the party’s next front-runner, and potentially shape its agenda for the next decade, depending on if she is a centrist or someone more progressive.”

Amongst all the political questions — does this pick increase turnout among women or African-Americans? Can they help carry a key swing state? What does this indicate about the ideology of a Biden administration? — there’s that little thing called governing that is probably worth some consideration at some point.

Sure, Biden may live to be 100, but . . . just look at and listen to the guy. He’s a 77-year-old man who survived two brain aneurysms, had his gallbladder removed, and has been preemptively treated for non-cancerous polyps, who is heading into one of the most stressful jobs in the world, during an ongoing outbreak of a contagious virus that is particularly dangerous to older men. Biden’s running mate needs to be ready to assume the responsibilities of the presidency at a moment’s notice.

And in January 2021, we’re still going to be dealing with this virus and its ramifications, particularly the economic ones. We hope a vaccine is available sometime in 2021, but that’s not a guarantee. We’re hoping that the economy turns around quickly, but that’s not guaranteed, either. A lot of small businesses — particularly restaurants and bars — will not make it through this. A lot of businesses dependent upon gathering large groups of people together — conferences, trade shows, concerts, sporting events that don’t have big TV ratings — will at best go dormant or just close up shop permanently. Travel and tourism will probably be slow to come back — airlines, hotels, tourist attractions, museums, cruise lines.

Colleges and universities are announcing their intention to reopen in the fall, but they have only the vaguest idea of how they’re going to do that, minimizing the spread in classrooms and residence halls. Elementary, middle, and high schools are supposed to reopen in the fall as well, but educators and health officials are quick to warn that 14-to-28-day closures are possible if additional outbreaks occur. Families across the country are plodding along with distance learning and homeschooling, but this is a barely acceptable substitute for the education that parents want their kids to get in a classroom.

Maybe we have all agreed to just not think about the national debt; our total debt was more than our annual gross domestic product before the virus hit. We have only the vaguest sense of how the virus will disrupt the existing order in Iran, North Korea, Russia, and other trouble spots around the world. (Apparently doctors in Russia keep jumping out of windows, which looks like a bad sign.) The Chinese government will still be trying to rewrite history through worldwide propaganda, casting itself as the hero and the United States as the villain.

There are some good reasons to think that a second wave of the virus in fall and winter won’t be quite as bad as the first one. But the country in January 2021 is not going to be back to “normal,” and “normal” probably isn’t really coming back until 2022.

Whoever takes the oath of office in Washington on January 20 is going to be leading a country that is still in rough shape. Very few, if any, potential options of Biden are likely to impress National Review readers. But there ought to be a widespread recognition that this is not a good time for a relative neophyte who has to learn the difficult art of leadership on the job.





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