It was another extraordinary week for President Joe Biden. Beginning with his surprise (even to some of his senior staff) visit to Kyiv, followed by his extraordinary speech in Poland—complete with a light show and a soundtrack that included selections from Beyoncé and Bruce Springsteen—and his personal reaffirmation of support to B-9 NATO leaders, President Biden reasserted American strength and determination in a profound—and logistically flawless—way. At the same time, he struck a competent and courageous figure in advance of a run for President in 2024.

Like many, I was moved and proud to see the President (my President) asserting himself in this way. It was an inspirational example that our nation and the world—not to mention Ukrainians—needed at this moment. And I love that Biden doesn’t gloat. He is forceful, yes. He says what he has to say (and I believe, what is in his heart), and then lets his actions do the rest: Ukraine has not fallen; the Western alliance has not fractured. Vladimir Putin—no matter what he said in his state of the nation speech before Russia’s parliament in the hours before Biden spoke in Warsaw—had to know that he was badly upstaged by his American counterpart. If it weren’t so brutally tragic, his failed predictions of a Ukrainian collapse alongside a splintering Western alliance coupled with Russia’s disastrous showing on the battlefield, would almost be laughable, and is not sustainable on either the world stage or, ultimately, at home.

Joe Biden’s resolute conviction that the line must be drawn at Ukraine—along with the incredible resolve of the Ukrainian people—is primarily responsible for flipping the script that the former guy peddled throughout his years in the Oval Office. His performance in Eastern Europe offers a compelling claim for a White House run in 2024. I do not wish to diminish in any way the events of this week or what this moment means symbolically. So, let’s take a victory lap. Let’s say a prayer of gratitude for this vigorous, seasoned leader who understands what’s at risk on the world stage and who has both the courage and the political acumen to make the right moves at the right time.

But as I argued after Biden’s masterful performance at the State of the Union, we need to beware that the President, no matter how skilled, still has two full years left in his current term and, should he win the presidency, he would still be in office almost six years from now. He will be 86. Biden has demonstrated a remarkable ability throughout his tenure in the White House to endure the rigors of the office and to rise to the occasion—domestically or internationally—when core principles of the founders’ intentions are threatened. But the slow advance of aging is insidious and unpredictable. Its impact is already felt in countless American families (even “tough guy” Bruce Willis is not immune, as we learned this week). Imagine the political angst that would ensue in our polarized society if the President’s cognitive powers became in dispute by more than just the radical fringe.

Biden’s visit to Kyiv is the perfect penultimate act for an incredible lifetime of service. Now, he needs to set aside the trappings of power, and prioritize his time—as his ultimate act—paving the way for a successor who can win in 2024 and then build upon the stewardship of governance that Biden has so ably demonstrated. But this is now and 2029, when a new President would take office, is then. A true test of Biden’s leadership is that he is attentive to both.

If you read last week’s blog in the hours immediately after it was posted, you may have noticed that the link to the video of my conversation with Fred Johnson and Chuk Obasi was broken. The insightful comments by Fred and Chuk about their experience in Memphis a decade before the killing of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police officers were both instructive and inspiring. The video link is now fixed; I encourage you to watch and I apologize for the inconvenience. B

2 thoughts on “Now and Then

  1. “..paving the way for a successor who can win in 2024” a bit confusing? but I think I know what you meant.. Like you, I was surprised and delighted by MY (our) President’s forceful, graceful, reassuring and seemingly effortless performances at both his recent State of the Union address and in Ukraine. Both reminded me of the joke about the “old bull” walking slowly but confidently down to the meadow and “taking ’em all.”

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