Written by Steve Schmidt for Substack.com.
President Biden should seize the moment and announce that he will be a one-term President.
In an instant, he would transform the political moment, create a profound opportunity to instigate a long overdue debate about the future of the United States, cripple the energy of the extremist cause and position himself to become a great President. The abandonment of politics, in favor of statecraft, straight talk and a message aimed at separating a growling and extremely diverse majority from a belligerent minority that is corrupt, maliced and politically ascendant is urgently needed.
A single Presidential term has given the United States ample evidence about the power of a President to lead, surprise and transform America. From James Polk and Chester Arthur to George H.W. Bush and Lyndon Johnson, a single term has been the catalyst for significant moments of decision and leadership that have greatly benefitted America.
What America craves is an example of selflessness and character. The vast majority of Americans are like a skeptical survivor of a desert crossing where each oasis turned into a mirage that made the suffering and thirst worse. America wants to see an act of leadership from a President like that wanderer wants a sip of water.
The overwhelming probability is that Biden would lose the nomination in a manner that would strip him of credit for his substantial accomplishments, while burdening him with brutal and exaggerated blame for his mistakes.
Should President Biden survive the nomination fight, he would look at the state of the campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush’s with deep envy after their survival against Kennedy, Reagan and Buchanan. His position would be far weaker than theirs, and his overall strength profoundly more anemic than Lyndon Johnson in 1968.
The consequences of a politically neutered President will be his defeat in a general election rematch against the core of an extremist MAGA insurgency and ongoing conspiracy that has made its disdain for elections crystal clear. There is no hyperbole involved when thinking about 2024 as a “final” election, depending upon the outcome.
The Biden White House is filled with experienced and able people who have long records of success and accomplishment. There are no political naïfs among them.
There is a shoddy and lazy catalyst for the cementing of most conventional wisdom. It speaks to the stripping away of complexity and nuance necessary to get a grasp on what is happening. Almost all political media coverage asserts that outcomes are determined by the last major event that occurred. The Hillary Clinton campaign is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Conventional wisdom proclaims that, but for James Comey, she would have won. Therefore, because of what Comey did, Trump won. Most often, the outcome is determined by the first big thing that happens. It’s how life works. It means the outcome was driven by Chipotle as much as Comey, but this concept is obliterated by the national attention span of six seconds.
For whatever reason, the White House team of talented players couldn’t find its rhythm when it came to politics. Bruce Springsteen has talked about this type of magic alchemy as the key to love and all great rock and roll bands. He has expressed it as “ 1+1 = 3.” The Boss says that’s when the magic happens. The simple fact is that there has been an absence of magic at a time when it is sorely needed.
The option left is to change the rules and play a new game. Retiring from a gruelling business – politics – will help America, by helping Biden become a President the country craves with all indications pointing towards him being both successful and happy at it.
President Biden can save his Presidency and reset the awful 2022 election dynamic with an act of selflessness, decency and patriotism. He can quit politics and announce that he will not seek a second term. Right now.
President Biden has the agency to decide how his Presidency will end.