Clarence Page

I never thought I would be writing a column to urge Joe Biden to step aside.

But his painfully poor performance in his debate with Donald Trump last month forced me to face a very uncomfortable truth. His debate showing was a capital-D disaster.

The horrible truth: Biden needs to bow out.

I don’t say that easily because, as someone who’s covered him occasionally for a few decades, I like the guy. Journalists shouldn’t get so close to newsmakers that they lose all sense of their own objectivity. But I like Biden for one particular reason outside of journalism or politics.

We share the burden of growing up with a stutter. Or as the British prefer to call it, a stammer.

Back in 2016 when he was Barack Obama’s vice president, I shared the stage with Biden at the 10th annual gala in New York for the American Institute for Stuttering, which provides specialized therapy to help children and adults deal with the disorder. He spoke from the heart about his personal experiences and encouraged everyone to never laugh at someone struggling through the condition.


How well I knew that pain. I could tell very similar stories, which is why I had been asked to be master of ceremonies for the event. I was proud to help. Encouraging kids with stories of success is a rewarding experience beyond measure.

But unfortunately, that wasn’t the same Joe Biden who I saw debating — or trying to debate — the former and possibly future President Donald Trump in Atlanta.

For his sake, I was hoping to see Biden deliver a repeat performance of his State of the Union address. There he stood strong, confident and even jousted verbally and nimbly with his Republican hecklers. If politics is largely a performance art, Biden showed Congress and the national television audience that he still has the chops.

Unfortunately, on debate night a different Joe Biden showed up. He stuttered, stumbled, sounded annoyingly hoarse and even bungled some of his strongest selling points, including his health care record and his support for abortion rights.

“I support Roe v. Wade,” he said, then seemed to lose his place. “You have three trimesters. First time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. Third time is between the doctor — I mean, between the woman and the state …”

Not good. Of course, Trump also flubbed some lines and exaggerated the country’s economic strength during his presidency. Most outrageous in my view, he once again reiterated his defense of the Jan. 6 insurrectionists whom he tries to recast as “hostages” and heroes.


And, once again, he refused to give a straight answer on the question of whether he would accept the results of the election no matter the winner. Only, he said, “if the election is fair and free.”

Right. In whose opinion? So far, the verdicts of more than 60 judges aren’t good enough for him.

But Trump did manage to do what his handlers and other Republicans had begged him to do: show a modicum of restraint in his attacks. He managed to wait 20 minutes before drawing attention to Biden’s shaky start.

By then I was receiving phone calls and texts from friends and relatives, all in a state of alarm.

“Biden has severe cognitive issues,” said a Florida cousin with 34 years of experience as a registered nurse. Biden had to go, she said. But when I asked who should replace him, she snapped, “Both Biden and Trump need to be replaced.”

I know the feeling. I’m usually the one who advises friends and relatives who sound like “double haters,” people who don’t like either party’s choices, to be careful what they ask for.

Almost every presidential race leads some people to dream of a brokered convention, in which dissatisfied delegates are freed to dicker, bargain and choose a new nominee from the convention floor. But that sort of all-out fight happens more often in movies than at real conventions. That’s partly because it usually leads to more feuding, fussing and fighting on the convention floor than the issue is worth.

In the unlikely event Biden decides on his own to step aside for the good of his party, his country and, for that matter, the world, we will get one of the most dramatic political spectacles this country has seen in most of our lifetimes.

E-mail Clarence Page at

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Sun Journal account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.