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Former Hawaii governors urge Biden to quit race

Three former Hawai‘i Democratic governors — John Waihee, Ben Cayetano and Neil Abercrombie — on Saturday called for President Joe Biden to withdraw his bid for a second term following Biden’s poor debate performance against former President Donald Trump just over a week ago.

The governors wrote in a joint statement, “What is now known as The Debate was a moment of truth — a moment not of revelation but rather confirmation of what has been apparent for months — The President’s obvious physical decline and increasing difficulty in communicating clearly and cogently.”

Cayetano told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Saturday that he and Abercrombie had been discussing Biden’s sometimes muddled debate performance before enlisting Waihee to join them in urging the president to end his campaign, which likely would set off a scramble for a replacement candidate during next month’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The statement must have been difficult for Waihee, 78; Cayetano, 84; and Abercrombie, 86, who are Democratic loyalists of similar age to the 81-year-old Biden, said Colin Moore, who teaches public policy at the University of Hawaii and serves as an associate professor at the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization.

The former governors also share reputations with Biden as political scrappers, Moore said. Waihee served in the state’s top elected post from 1986 to 1994, Cayetano from 1994 to 2002 and Abercrombie from 2010 to 2014.

Moore characterized the trio’s position on Biden as “significant when you have people who’ve played senior leadership roles in the party, even at the state level.”

“Hawai‘i is as blue as it gets and you have three of the most prominent, deeply dedicated Democrats calling for this. These are three people who spent their whole lives in politics and know how to win elections. All three are fighters who have come from behind at times, who have been underestimated.”

The former governors’ position also carries weight because few Democratic elected officials currently in office appear willing to state publicly what Moore suspects they’re discussing privately about Biden’s chances of beating Trump in a rematch.

“It’s difficult for people in politics who have ambitions” to speak out, Moore said.

Political analyst Neal Milner said the former governors’ statement adds pressure to a situation with no clear choice how to proceed and no certain alternative candidate with obvious advantages over Trump, who turned 78 last month.

“Does it (the governors’ position) make any difference in the long run?” Milner asked. “Look, the Democrats are in a bad situation here. Even if you put aside the last debate, Biden has had trouble getting enough leverage. Nothing hurts Trump. We’ve had nine years of people saying, ‘Trump’s done something awful and it’s really going to hurt him this time.’ But there doesn’t seem to be anything that’s likely to happen to Trump that’s going to hurt him.”

If Biden should step aside, Moore said that it’s his understanding that only Vice President Kamala Harris can tap into donations to the Biden-Harris reelection campaign.

Milner also speculated that a decision by Biden to end his candidacy could lead to an unprecedented decision by the Democratic Party to hastily organize some kind of national forum of candidates to raise their political profiles to the country’s voters.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Milner said, “I wouldn’t want to be the national chair of the Democratic Party.”

A couple of generations ago, then-President Lyndon Johnson announced in March 1968 that he would not seek nor accept the Democratic Party nomination for a second term in that year’s presidential election with the disastrous Vietnam War making him wildly unpopular.

His then-vice president, Hubert Humphrey, was then soundly defeated by Richard Nixon, who resigned his second term in disgrace in 1974 following revelations that began with a break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex.

Cayetano said Saturday that Harris represents “the only one who can tap into the money that was pledged to Joe Biden.”

But he also quickly ran down a list of Democratic governors — especially in battleground states — that he believes would make a good ticket, including Govs. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

Cayetano also said he could not envision Biden holding up to the rigors of a second term in the White House.

“I can’t imagine a person that old doing the toughest job in the world,” he said.

In their joint statement, the former governors wrote, “The three of us are the 4th, 5th and 7th Governors of the State of Hawaii. Our respective Native Hawaiian, Filipino and Caucasian ancestries are indicative of the diverse reality of Democratic Part(y) values in electoral action. …

“We are linked directly generationally and politically to President Biden. We are well aware that the question of withdrawal before us is not one of age as such but aging and its implications and consequences for the overriding task of defeating Donald Trump.

“Simply and directly put we believe the President needs to withdraw his candidacy and free his 3,896 delegates to the Democratic Party nominating convention. This will demonstrate without equivocation his lifelong devotion and commitment to the core values of freedom and the Constitution. The nation and its survival as our democracy are at stake.”

Their opinions apparently are not shared by current Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, who joined other Democratic governors in a teleconference meeting Wednesday with Biden, who continues to have Green’s support.

Green, 54, told the Star- Advertiser after the call that Biden was a “different individual” from the one on the debate stage. He said he believes Biden was ill and exhausted from traveling to Europe before the televised event.

“I specifically asked the president how he was after he had a tough day during the debate with the former president,” Green said. “He had been exhausted from two trips overseas, and there are no excuses, but he was in fine form today.”

The governor expressed his fondness for Biden, especially after receiving his support following the devastating Aug. 8 Maui wildfires.

“When the wildfire occurred, the president, within six hours, approved our major disaster declaration. No one’s ever seen action that quick,” Green said. “And to walk through Lahaina together with the president, first lady, and Jamie (Green, Hawaii’s first lady) is something I’ll never forget.”

Despite the intense heat that day, Green said that Biden left the ruins of Front Street and personally greeted over 300 people displaced by the disaster.

“It is not for me to decide for the country or even the state, who people should support, but they should be clear-eyed when they do make that choice,” Green said.

 

“Doing The Right Thing: President Biden and Withdrawal” by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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Source: The Garden Island

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