Is It ‘Undemocratic’ to Replace Biden? Plus. . .

Joe Nocera on Boeing’s cushy plea deal. Eli Lake on Iran’s new president. Michel Houellebecq's prophetic powers. And much more.

Did Boeing get off lightly? Is Iran’s new president really a “reformer”? Are the Biden superfans on social media okay? And did a 2015 novel predict France’s election results? All this and more in today’s Front Page from The Free Press. 

But first, the latest on the presidential race.

Our senescent president had an uncharacteristically busy—and rather Trumpian—start to the week yesterday. First, Joe Biden called into his favorite cable show, Morning Joe, to complain about his party’s “elites” who think “they know so much more.”

Then, he—or whichever anonymous adviser does this kind of thing on his behalf—sent Democrats in Congress a two-page letter underscoring his determination to stay in the race. In it, he reminded lawmakers that he won the Democratic primary. “The voters—and the voters alone—decide the nominee of the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “How can we stand for democracy in our nation if we ignore it in our own party? I cannot do that.” 

This is the president’s latest argument for staying in the race: that any other course of action wouldn’t just be ill-advised, but illegitimate—and undemocratic.

In making this case, the president has some unlikely bedfellows. The venture capitalist, podcaster, and Trump donor David Sacks said on X yesterday that “secret cabals of donors and political operatives” were “conspir[ing] to force [Biden] out. This is an attack on democracy.”  RNC chair Lara Trump has said that parachuting another candidate in as the nominee would be “going against our democratic process here in this country.”

Now, Lara Trump obviously has a dog in this fight—her father-in-law—and you might fairly conclude that she, and donors like Sacks, who argue against replacing Biden are worried that another candidate would have a better chance of beating Trump.

But more independent-minded observers are also calling the Biden replacement plan undemocratic. Writing for Compact, friend of The Free Press Batya Ungar-Sargon—who is as politically independent as they come—put forward her version of this idea: “The same Democratic elites who, in the name of ‘defending democracy,’ have tried to bar Trump from the ballot, from the presidency, from walking the streets as a free man, are now engaged in a coup attempt against Biden, a duly elected president who won 3,896 delegates in a primary contest, albeit an artificially truncated one,” she argues. 

She has a point about the apparent double standard. And yes, Democrats are getting exactly what they deserve for standing by Biden in the face of increasing infirmities. 

But it’s not the anti-Biden “coup” that harms democracy, as Batya argues. It’s the inadequately democratic primary system that has led to the mess we’re in.

As Biden geared up for a second run, it was clear that any young, ambitious Democrat who dared to challenge him would be all but disowned by their party—as happened to Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, the only mainstream candidate brave enough to stand. In poll after poll, Democratic voters told the party they wanted someone other than Biden at the top of the ticket. But the party apparatus ignored them. Now look where we are.

The options here, weeks out from the DNC, are far from ideal. But I fail to see how the more “democratic” option is to stick with a candidate who three-quarters of the country say is unfit for office.

A mini-primary ahead of the convention would be chaotic, sure. But if democracy is the consideration, that path seems, well, highly democratic. Even just opting for Kamala Harris would, in its own way, be democratic. After all, she is our vice president.

The alternative is standing by a man who is refusing to be honest with the public about his health, while his spokespeople tell us he is doing a “big boy press conference,” and experts assure us that his very smart advisers have got this until he inevitably hands the reins to his vice president halfway through his second term. There’s nothing about that scenario that is good for American democracy. 

And now we turn to another shocking free fall: the shame of former corporate gem Boeing. Late Sunday night, faced with the possibility of a trial, Boeing agreed to a settlement offered by the Department of Justice, pleading guilty to a felony for the two 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 that caused the death of 346 passengers and crew. The felony charge comes with a probationary period of three years and a fine of nearly $500 million.

While the Justice Department will no doubt characterize the settlement as just punishment for a recidivist company, don’t believe it, writes Joe Nocera in his latest piece for The Free Press. Here’s Joe:

This is a company that murdered those 346 people as surely as if it had lined them up against a wall and shot them. There was no pilot error involved in those crashes, nor was it the result of some unlucky accident. Those planes crashed because Boeing had cut so many corners in rushing this new 737 model to the marketplace that a disaster was inevitable. As one engineer memorably put it in an email to a colleague: “This airplane was designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys.”

Read Joe’s piece to find out whether Boeing’s punishment gives them a license to kill

  1. A barrage of Russian missiles hit civilian sites across Ukraine on Monday, killing 31 and injuring 150, officials say. A children’s hospital in Kiev was among the buildings struck, with Zelensky vowing to “hold Russia accountable for its acts of terror and Putin for ordering the strikes.” (Fox)

  2. A Biden campaign flack asked Maureen Dowd if she’d consider “tweaking” the language in her column. By “tweak,” TJ Ducklo meant remove a word the president said (goodest) and replace it with one he didn’t. As Dowd says, “It might seem like much ado about goodest. But it’s a harbinger of tense times between a White House in bunker mode and a press corps in ferret mode.” (New York Times)

  3. The GOP election platform was presented and adopted behind closed doors on Monday. I suppose that’s an improvement on 2020 when there was no platform at all. This time the headline is that there’s no proposal for a national limit on abortion. And, of course, it promised to Make America Great Again. (Politico

  4. In a troubling subplot in the UK election, the Labour Party lost four seats to independent candidates campaigning on Gaza: “The Muslim Vote had no rosette and advanced no meaningful manifesto beyond a set of deeply sectarian principles.” (The Telegraph)

  5. Marine Le Pen lost. That doesn’t mean France won. “Jean-Luc Mélenchon is, today, the second most powerful person in France. He is, by any reasonable estimation, a far-left extremist.” (Persuasion)

  6. Yesterday in The Free Press, Emily Yoffe followed up on reporting by Alex Berenson on a Parkinson’s doctor’s visits to the White House. Today, The New York Times did the same, only without crediting Berenson. He complains about it on his Substack today, and understandably so. (Unreported Truths

  7. The Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that Trump should factor the post-debate Democratic freakout into his pick of running mate. The country wants “stability and calm,” and he should project that by picking someone with experience, rather than “young MAGA-in-a-hurry types like Sen. J.D. Vance.” Not that the Journal was especially fond of Vance before the debate. (WSJ

  8. “He immigrated to the U.S. as a child. He was just kicked out—because he came here legally.” Billy Binion reports on our immigration system’s capacity for Kafkaesque cruelty. (Reason

  9. New meaning to the phrase Grandma killer just dropped. New data has found that diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases jumped by 24 percent among seniors. Gramps, please: stay home, alone, to stop the spread. (Axios)

  10. Abercrombie & Fitch was, like, so fifteen years ago. Until the last few years, when it ditched the shirtless models and embraced the floral sundress, pulling off one of the greatest turnarounds in American retail. (The Cut)

If you’ve read about the Iranian presidential election in The New York Times or other legacy outlets, you may have assumed the “reformist” candidate won. Spoiler alert, writes Eli Lake. He is not. As one source put it to him, Masoud Pezeshkian is “a garden-variety regime guy,” and is loyal to the Ayatollah and his Revolutionary Guards. Here’s Eli:

On the campaign trail, Pezeshkian was critical of the morality police who enforce the regime’s policy requiring all women to cover their hair. The 69-year-old heart surgeon, who has served as health minister in Iran’s parliament, also expressed a desire to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran, America, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. 

But these campaign promises mean nothing when you consider Iran’s president has little if any power inside the Islamic Republic. That belongs to the country’s ailing Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his Revolutionary Guard Corps, which directs proxy wars in the Middle East and has acquired banks, real estate, and businesses inside its own nation.

Read on for why the liberal media is wrong about Iran’s new “liberal” president.

→ Black radio journalist scapegoated: The Biden campaign, in damage control mode following the CNN debate, set up interviews with two black radio talk show hosts in swing states. One was with Andrea Lawful-Sanders of WURD in Philadelphia. The other was with Earl Ingram of Civic Media in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The interviews went off passably well for the president except for one thing: These weren’t standard interviews. You know, the kind of interviews where journalists come up with their own questions.

That came to light when CNN anchor Victor Blackwell spoke with Lawful-Sanders and Ingram and pointed out something peculiar. The four questions they each asked were extremely similar. The CNN anchor wondered how this came about.

Turns out Team Biden did the journalists’ homework and provided a list of questions for them to ask the president. Lawful-Sanders acknowledged that the Biden campaign submitted eight questions and she’d selected four. “The questions were sent to me for approval; I approved them.” Ingram, too, confirmed to ABC News that he’d received and approved the questions in advance. 

In the aftermath of these revelations, WURD issued a press release that the station and Lawful-Sanders had parted ways. “This practice of de-legitimizing Black voices continues today. WURD Radio is not a mouthpiece for the Biden or any other Administration,” said WURD CEO Sara Lomax. And the station said “agreeing to a predetermined list of questions jeopardizes” the trust of listeners.

But Lawful-Sanders is the scapegoat here. Why do I say that? Because what happened in her interview is nothing new. 

The Biden White House has a history of scripting questions in advance for the president’s press conferences, including having a “cheat sheet” with the names and photographs of journalists, the question they are meant to asking, and the order in which to take those questions. In 2023, a photo of the cheat sheet showed a summary of a question asked by a Los Angeles Times reporter at a Biden news conference. The paper said the question was not submitted in advance. 

But Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt has acknowledged that it sends out possible interview questions in advance, though she insists that an interview isn’t conditional on those questions being accepted. The administration also contends this is a common practice. 

There’s nothing about this practice that’s common. But apparently journalists, eager to score an interview with the president, have been willing to play along. —Rupa Subramanya 

→ Blue Anon: Joe Biden’s brain is A-OK, despite what you saw with your own two eyes. It just doesn’t look that way because CNN conspired against Joe Biden to give Donald Trump a leg up in the most recent debate. Or so say the Biden superfans who have been having very public meltdowns on social media since the presidential debate. 

Some believe moderator Dana Bash gave Donald Trump hand signals. Others, including a former CBS producer, said that Biden’s audio was corrupted to make him sound bad, and called for an external investigation. Others think the camera angles were positioned unfairly for Biden and Trump’s lighting was made to “de-age” him while Biden’s was meant to add a decade (they were on the same stage, standing under the same lights). 

Apparently, CNN isn’t the only mainstream liberal media outlet who’s out to get Biden. Others alleged that The New York Times closed their Threads account after backlash from readers over their critical coverage of the president’s performance. (The account is still up.) 

Insane cope over a president whose cognitive ability has clearly declined? The return of Trump Derangement Syndrome? Likely a combination of the two. Everyone is scared of their political opponents as much as they’re afraid of the truth. And liberals are no less prone to conspiracy theorizing than conservatives are, as anyone who witnessed the Russiagate scandal should have observed. I say put these people on TV. The left needs its own Alex Jones, their Blue Anon Shaman; Rachel Maddow smirking into a camera for two hours isn’t good TV, and it never was! Or you could just replace Biden with someone who seems like he’s okay to drive a car. That’d probably work too. —River Page 

→ What Houellebecq got right: On Sunday night, French voters defied expectations by giving the New Popular Front (NFP), a far-left coalition of socialists and antisemites, the most seats in the National Assembly.

For many, this win was a shock—especially considering the far-right National Front had won the first round of legislative elections. But for readers of Submission, the 2015 novel by France’s most famous living author Michel Houellebecq, the results felt like déjà vu

Set in 2022, Houellebecq’s book tells the story of François, an atheist professor at the Sorbonne, who watches with suspicion as Islamists win an election, giving them sweeping control over French society. Men who are both Islamic and successful are suddenly allowed to take multiple wives. François’ Jewish quasi-girlfriend—fearing antisemitism—emigrates to Israel with her parents. The Sorbonne, arguably the birthplace of secular atheism, becomes the Islamic University of Paris–Sorbonne, funded by Saudi petrodollars. Female lecturers are dismissed, and female students—allowed at the Islamic University mostly as marriage prospects for polygamous professors—must wear head coverings.

To be sure, the New Popular Front is not the same thing as the French equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood who win the election in Houellebecq’s novel. But the echoes of the novel’s themes are impossible to ignore in the news out of France. 

Released on the day of Charlie Hebdo shooting, when 12 people, including a close friend of Houellebecq’s, were killed at the offices of the satirical magazine for publishing a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad, the novel does not concern itself with Islamic terrorism. Houellebecq, in fact, portrays the new Islamic society in a surprisingly positive light (even though he was brought to court for calling Islam “stupid” in 2002), imagining this new religious revival as a rejuvenating force for the French people who have succumbed to nihilism and apathy. Ultimately so does François, who submits to this change around him. (François isn’t just the protagonist; he’s a symbol of France itself.)

As François muses toward the end of the novel: “Europe had reached a point of such putrid decomposition that it could no longer save itself, any more than fifth-century Rome could have done. This wave of new immigrants, with their traditional culture—of natural hierarchies, the submission of women and respect for elders—offered a historic opportunity for the moral and familial rearmament of Europe. These immigrants held out the hope of a new golden age for the old continent. Some were Christian; but there was no denying that the vast majority were Muslim.” —Julia Steinberg

Regine recommends Nida Manzoor’s Polite Society: The movie follows British Pakistani sisters, one an art-school dropout, the other an aspiring stuntwoman. It’s a very funny mash-up of family drama, posh schoolgirl comedy, and dystopian science fiction. The film is an example of what I used to call “movies for exam week”: it can do all your thinking for you, if that’s what you need. But maybe you just need to laugh.

Bryce recommends The Pursuit of Happiness by Jeffrey Rosen: It provides insight into the Founders’ view on the characteristics of a virtuous citizen. Great food for the soul! 

What do you recommend? Let us know!

Oliver Wiseman is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Follow him on X @ollywiseman

To support The Free Press, become a paid subscriber today: 

Subscribe now

And if you’re enjoying The Front Page, consider forwarding it to someone else you think might like it. 

The Free Press earns a commission from any purchases made through all book links in this article.

our Comments

Use common sense here: disagree, debate, but don't be a .

the fp logo
comment bg

Welcome to The FP Community!

Our comments are an editorial product for our readers to have smart, thoughtful conversations and debates — the sort we need more of in America today. The sort of debate we love.   

We have standards in our comments section just as we do in our journalism. If you’re being a jerk, we might delete that one. And if you’re being a jerk for a long time, we might remove you from the comments section. 

Common Sense was our original name, so please use some when posting. Here are some guidelines:

  • We have a simple rule for all Free Press staff: act online the way you act in real life. We think that’s a good rule for everyone.
  • We drop an occasional F-bomb ourselves, but try to keep your profanities in check. We’re proud to have Free Press readers of every age, and we want to model good behavior for them. (Hello to Intern Julia!)
  • Speaking of obscenities, don’t hurl them at each other. Harassment, threats, and derogatory comments that derail productive conversation are a hard no.
  • Criticizing and wrestling with what you read here is great. Our rule of thumb is that smart people debate ideas, dumb people debate identity. So keep it classy. 
  • Don’t spam, solicit, or advertise here. Submit your recommendations to if you really think our audience needs to hear about it.
Close Guidelines