In the future, if political analysts pick a photo to symbolize the first year of the Biden administration, then they will be faced with two undisputed favorites. But between them, there is a clear winner: a photo of Joe Biden with his head in his hands, not knowing how to answer questions about Afghanistan. This photo will be the most obvious example of all the chaos and unprofessionalism that dominates the American administration (a number of these representatives are the same ones who made fun of the Trump administration’s unprofessionalism). And it’s an example of the confusion among the American elite, which was brought to its knees not by another superpower or even a regional leader, but simply by the Taliban.
In the category of “best video,” the favorite is of the ceremonial meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in which Biden appears to fall asleep. Bennett, of course, did everything to smooth out the embarrassment by trying not to laugh and talking loudly, but he didn’t really succeed.
The whole world sees that the greatest nuclear power is ruled by an ill, tired old man who’s losing touch with reality. “Sleepy Joe,” as Donald Trump calls him. And older Russian people and political scientists were immediately struck by deja vu, as the Soviet Union was led by a similar old man toward the end. Actually, this was one of the reasons for its downfall. And now Americans are thinking about how to avoid the same fate.
Actually, there are three options (more precisely, four, but we will not count that possibility of “him dying of old age in the next year or two” — not only for ethical reasons, but also because the consequences of this fourth point will be similar to the consequences of the second). The three are: Impeachment, voluntary resignation or refusal to run for a second term.
A number of senators are already calling for Biden’s impeachment. They make statements, collect signatures. This, of course, is really about the Republicans’ dream of kicking out a Democratic president.
And for what it’s worth, Biden failed to withdraw from Afghanistan, fell asleep at a meeting and disgraced the United States in front of the whole world. However, the problem is that there are no legal grounds for removal. “Whatever one may think of what Biden did or failed to do, it does not constitute an impeachable offense under the text of the Constitution,” Alan Dershowitz wrote in The Hill.
The country’s basic law states that the grounds for impeachment are “treason, bribe taking or other grave misconduct.” Biden did not commit an act of treason — more precisely, a proven act, since the Americans’ abandonment of significant amounts of modern weapons in Afghanistan to the Taliban could be considered treason if it were part of some agreement. He did not receive bribes during his term of office; what happened in Kyiv during his vice presidency remained in Kyiv. His other “serious crimes,” such as perjury under oath, have not been acknowledged either.
The American administration’s mistakes in Afghanistan fall under the category of “bad management” at worst, and this category was excluded from the list of grounds for impeachment even back when the Constitution was being written. According to the author of the document, James Madison, the term was too vague and could be used by the Senate to pass an elementary vote of no confidence in the president. As a result, the impeachment did not become a vote of no confidence, which, of course, became one of the mainstays of the American political system; the parties had to learn to work together and compromise with each other. Now, however, these strongholds are collapsing. The parties are fighting among themselves, and the impeachment procedure, once considered an exceptional case, has now turned into a tool for members of Congress to pressure and troll opponents. There’s pressure and trolling — but no presidents have been removed from their posts.
Of course, Biden himself can choose to leave. Probably a strong and worthy person would have done so. He fulfilled his main task — to expel Trump from the White House. At the same time, Biden is physically unable to carry out the duties of a U.S. president. He simply cannot withstand the load.
However, Biden will not leave, largely because he has a colossal political career behind him. The youngest senator in 1972 became the oldest president in 2020 — and after that he is unlikely to leave office over such a minor setback.
There’s another equally important motivation for him to stay: his legacy. In the past, when Democrats wanted to take down Trump, journalists bothered to ask the question, “Who will be Trump’s successor should he die?” And suddenly they discovered that Vice President Mike Pence is even more radical, obscurantist and far-right than Trump. After that, the number of people supporting Trump’s resignation somewhat decreased. Currently, the situation is about the same — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is bursting with health, but she has no serious political experience and at the same time has too radical, left-wing views. Harris is not the president the U.S. needs during this turning point in history. This is also exactly why the Democrats aren’t in a hurry to encourage Biden to resign and/or invoke the 25th Amendment (allowing the removal of the president due to his inability to rule).
The third scenario, compared to the first two, looks like the lesser evil. This would mean suffering for another three years, and then simply convincing Biden not to run for reelection and replacing him with another Democratic candidate. However, it is not, in fact, the lesser evil. At this point, the U.S. doesn’t need a radical politician as president— but even more so, it does not need a person who is not able to make decisions due to his health. The expectation that the retinue would successfully rule under a sick czar was not justified. A number of American media sources write that the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan is primarily due to the incompetence of the current administration.
And this is logical — a period of long-term hegemony and the lack of external competition simply prevented the growth of Henry Kissinger-level politicians.
Besides, even if Biden leaves at the end of his term and Harris doesn’t take his place, who will replace him in 2024? In 2020, the Democrats found themselves in a situation where they did not have a single normal presidential candidate — someone experienced, moderate, cool and young. The vast majority of young Democrats were left-wing radicals (which makes sense, since the Democratic electorate has become radicalized as primaries in Democratic states were won by left-wing radicals). And now the situation is just getting worse. Democrats — and Republicans, since they’re in a similar situation; there are too many extreme right-wingers — need to clean up their party, but they are not ready to do this.
In sum, all three options are bad. And all of them are the consequence of one mistake — electing Biden as president in 2020. A mistake that can no longer be fixed, and for which all of America will pay.
The author is an associate professor of the Department of Political Science at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation.