An Open Letter to Jill Biden


Dear Mrs. Biden,

Welcome back to our city on a day when even the weather is fair. I expect you’ll find another warm reception for your Cancer Moonshot message, and another shower of contributions toward your husband’s reelection; we love our Democrats and care about cancer here in the land of the Hutch. This time, however, the clouds are looming, even in a blue bastion like Seattle, even if they don’t intrude on the closed-door gatherings you’ll attend.

I’m talking of course about The Question: Should Joe run? Or, Why on Earth is Joe running? In the latter formulation, it’s a question you might be better able to answer than anyone else. And, to put it crudely, you may be the only one who can talk him back from this abyss.

Yes, I know, the arguments against running have been made and remade for a year now. And yes, they’re not entirely fair. I’ll concede that stumbling over words and abruptly stepping offstage are things old folks do and, in the former case, something Joe has always done. They don’t necessarily mean real cognitive impairment. His judgment still seems sound, and he may beat the odds and continue to be sound for the next five-and-a-third years.

And yes, Donald Trump is just three years younger than Joe. He looks worse and lives worse—all those well-done steaks, all that weight, which even noose-length ties can’t disguise. And yes, he has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease; his father clung to control of the family business right up until the disease killed him, and I don’t doubt that Fred Trump’s son would do the same with the presidency he now sees himself equally entitled to. Dirty Donald is following a variation on my father’s absent-minded-professor’s maxim, “If you’re absent-minded, they won’t notice when you go senile”: If you’re deranged, they won’t notice when you become demented.

But deranged or demented, Trump will still be snarling and whining, still full of the bullying bluster and seething resentment that the MAGA millions find so liberating. Never mind reasoned arguments and command of policy; Trump has never played on those fields. Even if Joe can summon them on next year’s debate stages, he won’t get much chance to get them out. Trump will dominate by sheer physical presence, his raging bull making Joe look like a bleating lamb. Bill Clinton, my generation’s ablest politician, said it best: Wrong and strong beats weak and right.

And yes, I know, Dwight Eisenhower won a second term a year after suffering a debilitating heart attack, then survived a stroke in his second term and finished with a higher approval rating than Donald Trump and Joe Biden have ever received. But that was another era; Ike’s approval was always higher than theirs. And his signal accomplishments—the Interstate Highway Act, defending school desegregation, expanding social security—came in his first term. His second planted the bitter seeds of the Bay of Pigs invasion and Vietnam War.

And that points to another good reason to, like the movie says, get out. Second terms are always disappointing, too often disastrous. The big work gets done in the first round; Lincoln, our greatest president, had only one. And what a great first term Joe has had, with your help! The infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act (never mind the misleading name), NATO reinvigorated and democracies reunited, Ukraine supported and Russia blocked, rising employment and, maybe, a soft-landing recovery—a record to boast of, and one that will get more respect in retrospect. (Think Harry Truman.) Why spoil it with a second term?

A second Biden term bids to be especially miserable, with the rightwing nuts in the House twisting McCarthy like a worm on a hook, pressing payback impeachment claims, and hounding Hunter as though he’d scammed as much corrupt foreign cash as, well, Jared Kushner. Step aside and you take the wind out of their sails. Maybe turn the spotlight away from Hunter so he can take his lumps quietly. And, best of all, turn the age issue onto 77-year-old Donald Trump and his mental lapses. The dementia-watch vultures can then recall how, with the disgraced Dr. Oz’s help, Trump faked his checkup in 2020 while Biden was excruciatingly forthcoming with his medical data.

And the age issue is real. History is strewn with sclerocrats who hung on as they became incapacitated and either brought their countries to collapse or opened the door to ghastly successors. Would the Iron Curtain have fallen if the Soviet Union and its satellites hadn’t grown moribund under Brezhnev, Andropov, Ceausescu, Honecker, Mielke, etc.? Lenin’s incapacity gave an opening to Stalin; Von Hindenburg’s ushered in Hitler. Mugabe clung to power past 90 and dragged his country to ruin. Not only dictators are susceptible; remember the ailing Roosevelt, steamrolled by Stalin at Yalta? Reagan, oblivious to the Iran Contra shenanigans going on in the White House basement? John Paul II, letting priestly sexual abuse fester? Woodrow Wilson, failing to persuade Congress to join the League of Nations?

Speaking of Wilson, maybe you imagine following Edith Wilson’s example? Maybe you even dream of becoming another Madam President, running the government in your husband’s name? Just think of all you could do for service families, community colleges, and your other noble causes! Fuggedaboudit. That was another era, pre- Internet, television, even radio, when secrets could be kept.

Who needs it? Get out now and Joe would set a shining example and leave a lesson much needed in this age of advanced lifespan and soaring dementia rates. Let the Republicans be the party of gerontocracy, of Trump and McConnell, of zombies past their pull dates.

Make a clean break as Pelosi did and become an elder statesman like the Obamas, only actually elder. A Democratic free-for-all at this late date sound scary, I know. But it would reactivate the party. The Democrats who win have long been young and often been outsiders: Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, Obama. And there’s ample talent out there in the Whitmer-Klobuchar-Buttigieg-Booker-Cooper-Warnock-Newsom generations. (Notice how no one talks about Kamala Harris.) A retirement announcement calling for fresh blood, new ideas, and young energy could steer attention away from Bernie Sanders, 82, and Elizabeth Warren, who would reach that age midway through her second term.

Yes, it would have been better to step back last winter or spring, but the best time to do so is… now. Yes, it’s unfair that your husband doesn’t get credit for his achievements, that his poll numbers are even worse than Trump’s, but there it is. If Reagan was the Teflon president, Joe is the Velcro president. Even two-thirds of Democrats think he shouldn’t run again, and Joe now loses in face-off polls against Trump. The conventional punditry says Team Biden wanted Trump to get nominated because he would be the easiest R to beat. Now it looks the other way around.

I know you and Joe are both fighters, and I like to think you’re hanging in out of a sense of mission, not pride or vanity. I imagine you’ve both done some gnashing at not running in 2016, when he could have beaten Trump and Hilary Clinton didn’t. But times are different and it’s time to let go and let America get itself on track. The alternative, a Trump Revenge Tour, is too horrible to contemplate.



Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano
Eric Scigliano has written on varied environmental, cultural and political subjects for many local and national publications. His books include Puget Sound: Sea Between the Mountains, Love War and Circuses (Seeing the Elephant), Michelangelo’s Mountain, Flotsametrics and the Floating World (with Curtis Ebbesmeyer), The Wild Edge, and, newly published, The Big Thaw: Ancient Carbon and a Race to Save the Planet.


  1. Scig: Your letter to Jill seems rather avuncular for such a young guy, a mere septuagenarian. Presumptuous pup! Uncle Joe stood in line for decades for his chance to be the guy in the Oval Office. He has good intentions and tries to get good stuff done.

    There’s always somebody who has a complaint that he didn’t do enough or did too much of the wrong stuff. He and fellow Democrats have been targetted by an endless onslaught of Republican attacks dating back to the era of Gingrich, a soulless creep who divorced his wife as she was recovering from cancer surgery.

    The Jim Jordan clown show today before the House Judiciary Committee was a perfect illustration of the Trumpican approach to governing. And Trump has been in the background the whole time, urging his servile minions to shut down the government, just as he urged them to drive America into debt default unless all their wacky demands were met.

    Uncle Joe’s best days may be behind him. Still, he looks to be in better shape than the grease-burger addict who would have driven our economy off a cliff and felt pretty good about it.

    It comes down to this: Joe had no choice but to declare his 2024 candidacy for reelection. Once a president has declared him or herself to be a lame duck and vulnerable, the screeching hyenas move in to strip the carcass before the first term is over.

    I’m sure that we will see more political drama ahead for Biden and the line of potential, but respectfully silent, 2024 candidates is forming.

  2. You honestly think there is “ample talent” out there?

    “And there’s ample talent out there in the Whitmer-Klobuchar-Buttigieg-Booker-Cooper-Warnock-Newsom….”

    How about a McGovern-Mondale ticket?

    No, I think that what we should be arguing is to replace Harris…

        • Not a thing! She has done what most Vice Presidents have done which is what she is allowed to do! She has been speaking to the young people lately and getting a great reception! Those who are urging President Biden to not run are helping Trump gain the presidency! God save our country if we have to deal with this Trump nut for 4 more years!

        • It started with the very first presidential debate. My impression of her was that she is dishonest and phony… the way she tried to beat up Biden on race…& ultimately not really with much to say…

          Other than that, I like her.

          • Why should any first-term president telegraph to the pack of shrieking hyenas circling the Oval Office that he opts to be a first-term president? All of the options are being AI’d to the extreme, I suspect.

  3. Blame the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. If Joe bows out, it’s a frickin’ food fight on the Left for the nomination and Trump skates into power again.

    One thing about the GOP…. they’re ready to rule when they win. The poor Democratic just get stabbed in the back by the Left. Ask Obama….

  4. You forgot President Paul von Hindenburg of Germany who died at the age of 87 on 2 August 1934. His election and death enabled Hitler’s rise to power

    Shortly after von Hindenburg’s death, Hitler announced that offices of the chancellor and the president were to be combined to create one position, the Führer and chancellor. Hitler announced that he would occupy this new role.

    On 19 August 1934, the German people were asked to vote on whether or not they approved of the merging of the two offices and Hitler’s new role as Führer. 95.7% of the population voted. 89.93% voted in favor of Hitler.

    With von Hindenburg gone, there was no longer a limit to Hitler’s power. He was now a dictator, much to Germany’s and the world’s chagrin.

    A similar scenario can not ever be allowed to take place again in any democratic country, especially the United States of America.

  5. The second I read the headline I knew what the “open letter” would say. Well stuff it, Eric. Joe’s fine. He’s going to run, he’s going to win, you’re going to vote for him, and he’s going to be better in his second term. I held my nose when I voted for him, and he hasn’t been perfect, but he has exceeded my expectations. He has grown in office and should continue to do so.

    Never, ever forget what the alternative is.

  6. Wow, WTF! Ivan and I agree on something — and I vehemently disagree with a writer whom I’ve previously admired. But why, Eric, didn’t you literally, or figuratively write this letter a couple of years ago? While it’s articulate, and even movingly written, it just adds more fodder to the anti-Biden rhetoric. Show me what Biden has done that is so mind-boggling inept, despite his age. (Dr. Anthony Fauci, by the way, of similar age, led the U.S. through a terrifying pandemic very expertly, don’t you think?) No, he’s led the country through a tough two years. The time to have this conversation has long past. I’m very afraid that all of this resembles the anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric that helped usher in Donald Trump. Only then, it was all about her: corruption, tiredness, etc.
    And addressing the “Mrs.” instead of Joe Biden, as if he’s too feeble to get the message. Well….

  7. Answer to why Biden’s running again: History and statistics. In the last century, only four times has a running elected president/VP* lost his re-election bid. Those were all due to daunting circumstances/opposition.

    — 1932, Hoover (Great Depression)

    — 1980, Carter (economy, charismatic opponent)

    — 1992, GHW Bush (opponent’s campaigning skills)

    — 2020, Trump (where do we start?)

    That pencils to 12 of 16 re-election races going back to 1924 won by someone on the incumbent ticket. Most politicians would gladly take their chances with a 75% historic chance of re-election. With this tendency of Americans sending their president back to the White House, I can’t blame Biden for running for a second term.

    *Remember, Agnew, not Ford, was Nixon’s 1972 running mate.

  8. Eric, your writing skills are strong, and have improved tremendously over time. I expect you will continue writing until the end of your days, barring some unforeseen illness. Sadly, your reasoning for Biden to step down, just as he begins to pull the US back from the catastrophe of the previous presidency, is just more of the sad, ‘progressive’, selfishness about politics and the freedom of speech. You have the right to promote your opinion. But does it further our country’s need for continuous stable leadership, a president who has surrounded himself with smart, organized, skilled careerists, that believe our democracy is worth saving? Give the “too-old” adage a rest.
    I had a friend pass away at 90 recently. He was one of the most exemplary humans I’ve known. His mind stayed sharp to the end, even as his body, and ultimately his heart, gave out. He was one of the lucky ones.
    Biden is our best hope for the next four years. Young and/or new is not a useful approach in a time of crisis. We can honor our elders, and disparage them when they’re flawed, but blaming them for being old? I’m disappointed in you for this approach. Please rally behind the cause of saving our democracy. There is time for the ‘young’ to take over going forward. Biden is doing all the right things. He has my vote to continue.

  9. Bravo, Mr. Scigliano, for airing this issue of importance.

    Our current President has worked hard to bring able younger people into his cabinet. But Biden’s 4-plus-decades style of politics has always sent an identifiable odor of Boss Tweed and other memorable Mid-Atlantic political manipulators faintly wafting, a fragrance especially distasteful “out west” – if someone accidentally takes a sniff.

    The man who pulled our sitting president from the dustbin of history four years ago, Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina, was back on Meet the Press yesterday singing Biden’s praises, as he did before SC’s 2020 Democratic primary. That’s old news. Clyburn is the only Black and the only Democrat in South Carolina’s U.S. Congressional delegation – a state that has not provided electors for a winning Democratic U.S. Presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

    You were tactful in addressing this message to Mrs. Doctor Biden. But one must now closely watch America’s array of Democratic Party King and Queen-makers and follow the money.

  10. Here’s something to think about, while you people are wringing your hands about Biden’s candidacy: there will be a chance to choose the Democratic Party candidate for US president. Biden’s decision isn’t binding.

    I know, it’s awkward for a serious candidate to challenge the incumbent president, so for practical purposes, if Biden wants it, he’s got it. So here’s the real question … do the reasons for that, to some extent apply to the rest of us, too? Assuming we approach the subject with some sense of responsibility.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments Policy

Please be respectful. No personal attacks. Your comment should add something to the topic discussion or it will not be published. All comments are reviewed before being published. Comments are the opinions of their contributors and not those of Post alley or its editors.