Dean Phillips (
by Steve Timmer
Aug 9, 2023, 11:00 AM

Dean Phillips’ excellent adventure

The Star Tribune’s Hot Dish newsletter on August 8th said there was still no word on whether Dean Phillips was going to run for president.

Yes, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

The author of this issue of the newsletter, Hunter Woddall, seemed a little skeptical of the idea. Well, me too.

But J.P. Coolican, the top editor at the Minnesota Reformer, thinks Phillips is some kind of modern day Cassandra: Democrats should listen to Dean Phillips, or catastrophe may await. I’m more inclined to put Phillips in the category of cranky minor prophets from the Old Testament.

Coolican writes that comparisons are being drawn between Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. That comparison is particularly inapt. As a patron of rural Wisconsin (and elsewhere) gas station restrooms since the late eighties, while out fly fishing, you ought to trust me when I say that Hillary is a singularly loathed figure in American life. (She was the muse for a lot of nasty limericks, though.) She had a twenty-five-year head of steam as a loathee when she ran for president. I tried to tell this to anyone who would listen, but almost no one did, including probably the person in the “Phillips orbit” who Coolican quotes.

I’ve never seen a Joe Biden limerick. Send them in if you’ve seen them.

Hillary is not a template for Joe; don’t try to hang her around Biden’s neck. Don’t learn the wrong lesson. It would be darkly, tragically funny if nervous beltway sycophants managed to kill a sitting president because they were so hilariously wrong about Hillary.

Sniping at Joe Biden might even be charming Democratic fainting couch antics if they weren’t being combined with the efforts of the odious Robert Kennedy, Jr. and the even more odious dark money No Labels Republicans. It is interesting to me that the Bulwark and the Lincoln Project are the people with their hair most on fire about Kennedy and No Labels. I’m sure they feel the same way about Dean Phillips.

Phillips said on Face the Nation:

“I want to tell you this about President Biden: an amazing man. I love the man,” Phillips told [Major] Garrett. “He is competent. He is honorable. His integrity, I believe is unvarnished. He has led this country through extraordinarily difficult times. This is not about him. This is about listening to people.”

Biden is like Moses, I guess. Led the people through the wilderness but shouldn’t enter the Promised Land. Again.

In fact, you’d have to go back to LBJ to find a domestic president as good as Biden. If you throw in the adroit handling of international affairs [Update: Up through Gaza, of course.], you’d have to go back to FDR.

Compare the life of public service that Biden has led to the callow Phillips.

But Biden is old! He’s not funny! Does he even drink beer? He won’t appeal to young people!

Trump will be the 2024 Republican nominee. As far as fitness for office is concerned, can Trump ride a bike? If you are an actuary, which one do you pick to be healthy through 2028? (And I am discounting the prospect of Trump taking a shiv in the prison shower.)

Another weak argument in the Coolican piece: If something happened to Biden, we’d have Harris as president, and her poll numbers are bad. But let’s compare apples to apples. Trump’s running mate is likely to be somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene. Harris or Greene? That’s a pretty easy one for me.

Current polling (that Coolican refers to) is utterly useless. If you asked me if I’d like a younger president, I would say yes. But that doesn’t mean I’d vote for the slightly younger Trump over Biden. As voters, we’d all like candidates who looked exactly like us. When we get in the booth, though, we have to make compromises.

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