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Joe Biden has been an effective president, passing substantive legislation in a deeply divided Congress and demonstrating leadership abroad. Yet there was palpable apprehension among Democrats before the debate, and a collective gasp afterward, when Biden's inability to collect and prioritize his thoughts and to parry Donald Trump's most egregious lies was so evident. There are substantive questions Democratic rank-and-file voters need to ask party leadership about why this was allowed to happen. Valid concerns were raised from the outset, about both Biden's ability to successfully campaign and his ability to govern through the demands of a second term. Despite this, party leadership failed to promote and support a robust slate of Democratic talent to compare and contrast and to allow a determination of Biden's fitness.

This paternalistic way of doing the business of the party, in a cohort of voters who are highly engaged and informed, has left us with few well-known alternatives, either for this election, should we need one, or for those that follow. It is a failure of leadership that brings us to this pass in the final months of a historically pivotal campaign. It is also a situation where Biden, if removed, will be thanked for more than 50 years of public service with humiliation. I fear the outcome for both us and him if the party cannot right this ship and do it well.

Patricia Arneson, Wayzata


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While this is not the election we might have wished for, this is the election we are facing. Bullying Biden into stepping down will not have a positive result for those of us fearing the impact of a second far-right reign on our economy, our democracy, our civil and personal rights and our broiling environment. On his very worst day, Biden still has a core of decency and dedication to public service, two qualities his opponent has never possessed. Character counts, and in my mind, there is no comparison. Biden is aging, but so are we all. Rather than being a liability, we can treat his advanced years with respect and learn from cultures that revere the wisdom of their elders. At this point, we don't have time to search for a perfectly articulate savior. We need to recognize and appreciate the flawed, feisty, human candidate we have before us.

Carol M. Grams, Minnetonka


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On very rare occasions the universe will present you with an opportunity to do the right thing in front of millions of people. Paul Hamm had the opportunity during the 2004 Olympics when he had the chance at the "ultimate show of sportsmanship" and give the gold medal to South Korean gymnast Yang Tae-young. Far more recently, if Will Smith would have given back his Oscar for best actor due to "the slap," that too would have been an ultimate show of sportsmanship.

Biden is now in a similar historic yet far more consequential circumstance. And unfortunately, like Hamm and Smith, Biden appears to be guided more by hubris than considering whether he is doing right or wrong. CNN reports that the president says he will now "stop scheduling events after 8 p.m. so that he can get more sleep." Excuse me? Now I am supposed to consider voting for the most powerful man in the world, but he is only going to stay up until 8 p.m.? As if nothing important is going to happen in the world after that time? Joe, stop. Do the right thing. This is more than just beating your opponent. It's also about being able to do the job.

Paul Simone, St. Paul


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Lately Democrats seem more concerned with whose "turn" it is than they are with beating Trump, promoting Kamala Harris as the obvious choice should Biden step down. Until recently other names were regularly floated. What has happened to change that?

In 2020 Harris sunk in the polls as voters got to know her better. Biden chose her despite her cheap shot at the debate, with that shameless sound bite ("That little girl was me") even though her busing position seemingly matched his. Let's not forget how she handled the southern border policy. Republicans won't. Maya Rudolph's unflattering SNL impressions were spot on, and "The Daily Show" recently skewered her word salads. If she runs, she'll lose by a landslide.

My pick: California Rep. Ro Khanna. He's been stealthily running for president for a few years, touring the U.S., pitching "Made in America" policies (with a tech bent). A free speech advocate, in 2020 Khanna called out Twitter for blocking the Hunter Biden laptop story, the only Democrat to do so, which should appeal to those angered by left-wing censorship. He's been a strong supporter of Israel, but recently voted against the Israel military package and doesn't plan to attend Netanyahu's speech. So, he occupies a middle ground on that issue.

I urge everyone who fears another Trump presidency to learn more about Khanna. Delegates: If/when Biden steps aside, please don't feel pressured to choose Harris. Khanna — or any number of others — are far more capable of defeating Trump.

Kate Schneider, Minneapolis


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Biden had one bad debate. Mainly due to fatigue from overseas travels, campaign stops, jet lag and a cold.

The Democrats start panicking and stop supporting Biden. It's disgusting! No loyalty or steadfast support of the president. Biden stands for the good of all people and our democracy. He's accomplished much during his presidency.

Why the heck will many Democratic constituents and legislators, state and federal, not stand behind our president through this recent blip? Nobody is perfect. Age has benefits and gives experience. Biden surrounds himself with good cabinet and staff.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to stand in complete lockstep support of Trump with all his lies, felonies, bigotry, hate and Adolf Hitler-like dictatorship doctrine to upend our constitutional laws and democracy and be a king when elected.

Democrats, get your priorities straight!

Richard Siegel, West St. Paul


HUNTER BIDEN

Appalling rhetoric on addiction

As a person who's been in recovery for many years, I'm amazed — but not surprised — at how Hunter Biden is being treated. Our culture's attitude about drugs and alcohol — and the people that become addicted to them — is pure hypocrisy. Is addiction a disease or not? The medical profession tells us, "Yes, it is." In the abstract, many people would say they agree and that we need to help these people get back on their feet. But open the door just a crack, and the real contempt and disapproval for these sick, weak-willed people pops to the surface. On a government form, or anywhere else, every active addict is going to deny being addicted. Make it a felony? OK, technically, I guess that's the way it is. How does that fit in with any compassion for Biden as a recovering addict? Give him any credit for pulling his life back together and returning to a productive life? Or support him in his recovery? (Or use taxpayer dollars on something that isn't just a political smear job?)

Why is that contempt so close to the surface? Is it threatening to be reminded that people get addicted to substances many of us use every day, like alcohol? The most troubling part of this whole thing is when the paper reported that there was negative talk concerning seeing Hunter Biden in the West Wing lately, supporting his father following his poor debate performance. A recently convicted felon hanging around the West Wing. Really? So, I guess the family of any person in recovery should publicly distance themselves from that family member because they used some bad judgment when they were using drugs or alcohol and "what will the neighbors think." Instead, it would be great to highlight how family members can hold that person tight, with gratitude that they're back with the people that love them, doing the supportive things family members do for one another.

Jane Tyler, Forest Lake