Biden II: Hollywood Searches for the Plot

President Biden/Photo by Barbara at Pixabay.


By Karl Rove

President Biden has a problem. In the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, his favorable rating is 42.5%. The specifics look worse: His job approval on foreign affairs is 40.7%, on the economy 38.3%, on crime 37.3%, on immigration 33%, and on inflation 32.6%. To top it off, Donald Trump, who’s been indicted twice, leads Mr. Biden 44.1% to 43.5%.

Don’t worry, Democrats. Hollywood is riding to the rescue! In addition to being DreamWorks Animation’s CEO and a movie-making legend, Jeffrey Katzenberg is one of the Biden campaign’s seven national co-chairmen. Now he and George Clooney have messaging advice for Team Biden—turn the president’s greatest weakness into his strength.

Though a May ABC poll found that 68% of Americans think Mr. Biden, who will turn 82 shortly after the 2024 election, is too old to be president, Mr. Katzenberg suggests that Mr. Biden embrace his age as evidence of wisdom and maturity and respond to questions about it with humor. 

If Harrison Ford at 80 can star in the new Indiana Jones movie (“Dial of Destiny” is out this Friday) and Mick Jagger can celebrate six decades with the Rolling Stones by strutting across concert stages singing “Start Me Up,” why should Mr. Biden’s age hold him back? The president can run in the mold of Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in “Star Wars” or Sean Connery as John Patrick Mason in “The Rock,” a man whose years and evident abilities have made him a wise and reliable badass. Or so the theory runs.

In my political consulting years, I liked finding how an opposing candidate’s supposed strength was really a weakness. It’s an interesting twist to emphasize an obvious weakness in an attempt to flip it to a positive. But what works in showbiz doesn’t always work in politics. 

Some 80-year-olds still have what it takes to film a movie, but Mr. Biden can’t rely on retakes or editing. He has no computer-generated imagery or stunt doubles. Voters can see his increasing difficulty communicating and growing frailty. 

Nor can Mr. Biden rely on the familiarity of performing the same song and concert routine he’s done for a lifetime. As president, every day brings new challenges, different problems, unfamiliar settings and unrelenting pressure.

There are leaders sharp as a tack at 100 (think Henry Kissinger). But Mr. Biden’s age problem isn’t that it’s merely a GOP talking point; it’s reality. It’s simply a fact that the president isn’t at the top of his game, or close to it. His utterances often generate concern, even among supporters. There’s no reason to think things will get better and every reason to believe they’ll get worse.

Messrs. Katzenberg and Clooney’s advice might work if life were a little more like television and movies, in which voters are often depicted as easily misled by convoluted political theatrics. 

Take “The Candidate” (1972), starring Robert Redford as Bill McKay, an idealistic environmental lawyer recruited to challenge a popular California Republican senator. Guided by a Machiavellian consultant, Mr. McKay is told to trim his views and offer voters pablum. Aided by a sleazy union boss and boosted by the endorsement of his estranged father, a respected former governor, Mr. McKay wins. It’s all artifice and fraud. “What do we do now?” is the movie’s final line.

Op-Ed by Mr. Rove, courtesy of, was first published in The Wall Street Journal.

Karl Rove/Photo courtesy of

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Mr. Rove has been described by respected author and columnist Michael Barone in U.S. News & World Report as “…unique…no Presidential appointee has ever had such a strong influence on politics and policy, and none is likely to do so again anytime soon.” Washington Post columnist David Broder has called Mr. Rove a master political strategist whose “game has always been long term…and he plays it with an intensity and attention to detail that few can match.” Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, has called Mr. Rove “the greatest political mind of his generation and probably of any generation. He knows history, understands the moods of the public, and is a visionary on matters of public policy.”

Before Mr. Rove became known as “The Architect” of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, non-partisan causes, and non-profit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional, and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

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