Gregor Peter Schmitz on Joe Biden's condition and the new star

Editor-in-chief Gregor Peter Schmitz asks himself in view of the new one star, how Joe Biden wants to hold this fragile world together. The US President's health raises doubts. But there are hardly any alternatives.

When US presidents feel they have to make a decisive statement about their presidential suitability, it is usually a sign that there are serious doubts about their suitability for the toughest, most stressful office in the world. When Richard Nixon, deeply involved in the Watergate scandal, shouted to reporters: “I'm not a crook,” everyone knew: Yes, you are. Bill Clinton once emphasized: “I still play a role,” but he didn't really do so because of his affairs. And Joe Biden? He said in a hastily called press conference last week: “My memory is fine.” Shortly afterwards he confused the president of Egypt with that of Mexico; Before that, he swapped Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel.

Biden was upset because a report about his handling of secret documents had cleared him legally but shot him politically. He is described as a “well-meaning older gentleman with poor memory” who has “decreasing abilities as he gets older.” These words are now likely to appear in almost every Trump commercial. And they could be the most accurate, because Biden can counter Trump criticism of his economic or foreign policy every day.

But he can't do anything about his age – this burden becomes heavier every day. Biden would be 86 years old at the end of his second term. Every voter understands how much you slack off at this age. Biden has always played his biggest trump card as being able to prevent Trump. If Biden's own weaknesses are so much in focus, the election could become more of a referendum on him. 86 percent of Americans say Biden should not run for a second term, according to an ABC poll.

The US President's health is difficult to conceal

Officially, the US Democrats are rallying behind him. It's actually unbelievable that there are hardly any personnel alternatives. Vice President Kamala Harris is just as unpopular as her boss. And Michelle Obama, the Democrats' eternal favorite candidate? When I was allowed to interview her in 2022, Obama almost wanted to break off the interview because of too pressing questions about politics or a possible presidential candidacy. She doesn't want to go into politics.

So Biden will probably do it. It's a bet, a daring one. Now, unlike in the 2020 Corona election campaign, he has to mix with the people. A lot can go wrong. His advisors try to shield him, they let him board the presidential plane via a shorter staircase, and they hardly allow interviews. Hiding the president's health status worked well in the 20th century, when Franklin D. Roosevelt could barely walk because of polio or when John F. Kennedy was constantly ill. But today? And how would governing work under such circumstances?

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My colleague Jan Christoph Wiechmann, who has been following US politics for decades, writes in our cover story: “Especially in these times of international wars and crises, a bright, omnipresent US president is needed. It makes a difference whether Biden is at the Munich Security Conference appears as the master in the ring, as in previous years – or just as a distant observer. Whether he sits through marathon meetings like Angela Merkel once did – or nods away like at the 2021 climate summit in Glasgow. Whether he goes to crisis areas – or prefers to forego arduous journeys, like recommended by his wife Jill. The doubts are legitimate: How is Biden supposed to hold this fragile world together for four more years in this state? How is he supposed to defend Ukraine against a cunning Putin who exploits every little weakness? And how is his greatest mission supposed to succeed, the repetition of what he only managed with a bang in 2020: preventing the would-be autocrat Donald Trump?”