Joe Biden should be the next pres­i­dent

Ottawa Citizen - - OPINION - ANDREW CO­HEN Andrew Co­hen is a jour­nal­ist, pro­fes­sor and au­thor of Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made His­tory. Twit­ter: An­drew_Z_Co­hen

A year af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, a year be­fore the midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions, the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of 2020 has be­gun. This is the way in the United States.

Among Democrats, it is still talk. No one has de­clared. Among gov­er­nors, the prospects in­clude Andrew Cuomo and Terry McAuliffe. Among sen­a­tors, El­iz­a­beth War­ren, Kirsten Gil­li­brand and Bernie San­ders. Maybe Mark Cuban, the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man. Or a dark horse.

There is no front-run­ner, as Al Gore was in 2000 and Hil­lary Clin­ton was in 2016. Ex­pect a cat fight. Trump is vul­ner­a­ble — if he is still in of­fice.

The Democrats can­not af­ford an ex­pen­sive, en­er­vat­ing pri­mary. The party can avoid that — and save its re­sources for the fall — by mak­ing an early, ob­vi­ous and in­spired choice. That choice is Joe Biden.

The case for Biden is as much about the man as the mo­ment. Amer­ica is in cri­sis. Its pres­i­dent is an ar­son­ist, the Savonarola of his time. He sets fire to in­sti­tu­tions — at­tack­ing the ju­di­ciary, ap­point­ing un­qual­i­fied judges and cab­i­net sec­re­taries, el­e­vat­ing special in­ter­ests, en­rich­ing him­self, dis­man­tling en­vi­ron­men­tal and com­mer­cial reg­u­la­tion, alien­at­ing al­lies, favour­ing dic­ta­tors.

If you be­lieve, as most Amer­i­cans do, that their coun­try is in trouble, 2020 will be piv­otal. The elec­tion will re­call 1860 and 1940, when the na­tion stood at the abyss and sum­moned lead­ers to face it.

For Democrats, de­feat­ing Trump makes a wast­ing, di­vi­sive pri­mary sea­son a lux­ury. The party should nom­i­nate Biden — with a twist.

Biden is the an­ti­dote to Trump. He brings a gen­er­a­tion of ex­pe­ri­ence as vi­cepres­i­dent and sen­a­tor. He un­der­stands the world and his coun­try’s place in it. He needs no on-the-job train­ing.

Biden has de­cency, hon­esty and that special grace that comes with suf­fer­ing. Like Abra­ham Lin­coln, Theodore Roo­sevelt and John F. Kennedy, he knows the agony of los­ing some­one close; in­deed, he is a le­gion­naire of loss.

In 1972, he lost his wife and daugh­ter in an au­to­mo­bile ac­ci­dent. In 2015, he lost his el­dest son, Beau, to can­cer. This week, he re­leases a mem­oir on his strug­gle (called Prom­ise Me, Dad). It is deeply af­fect­ing.

As Biden em­barks on a na­tional speak­ing tour, he evokes his af­fec­tion for his wife, his chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, and his debt to Barack Obama. There is an aw­ful wis­dom that comes through pain — and Biden wears it with dig­nity.

In 2020, the Democrats will need a nom­i­nee who can speak to white, mid­dle class Amer­ica as well as black and His­panic Amer­ica, in the way Robert Kennedy did. Biden can. A na­tive of hard­scrab­ble Scran­ton, Pa., he moves be­yond iden­tity pol­i­tics to em­brace some­thing big­ger.

His speech to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in 2016 was a con­fec­tion of folksi­ness and moxie. “It’s not the ex­am­ple of our power, but the power of our ex­am­ple,” he said. Biden is one of those nat­u­ral politi­cos who loves the game. At a rally the night be­fore the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, he saw my teenage daugh­ter on the rope line, ex­claimed, “Hi honey!” put his arm around her and posed for a selfie. This is a sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian whom fa­thers do not worry about.

He is im­per­fect. He brags. He talks too much. Once, he pla­gia­rized. But is there is any­one in Amer­ica bet­ter suited in in­tel­lect and tem­per­a­ment to be pres­i­dent?

He will be 78 on Nov. 3, 2020. Trump will be 74. To ac­knowl­edge his age and un­der­score his com­mit­ment to forge a new con­sen­sus, he should prom­ise to serve only one term.

As his vice-pres­i­dent, he should choose Ka­mala Har­ris, the tough, clever sen­a­tor from Cal­i­for­nia. The ticket would unite youth and age, white and mixed-race, men and women, big and small states on both coasts. It would pre­pare and po­si­tion Har­ris to suc­ceed Biden in 2024.

Biden doubts he will run. If he de­clines, the Democrats should draft him, as the Ro­mans asked Cincin­na­tus to leave the farm to save the repub­lic. Their ur­gent ap­peal: Run, Joe, Run.

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