In a career that has spanned more than half a century, President Biden has long been all too well known for mangling words, names and dates in verbal pratfalls that have been called, perhaps tentatively, gaffes.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-President Donald Trump publicly accused Biden of then
77, suffered from dementia. The insult didn’t stick; Biden campaigned effectively enough in November to defeat Trump.
But the controversy over the president’s mental fitness has only increased as he seeks a second term.
Biden’s age, as the oldest man to ever serve as president, inevitably weighs on voters’ minds.
Thursday’s report from special counsel Robert K. Hur deepened Biden’s political problem by painting a more damaging official picture of the president than had previously been seen.
Biden, now 81,
came across as
a “well-meaning, older man with a bad memory.
That was perhaps the nicest thing said.
In his interviews with Hur, Biden had difficulty remembering the years he had served as vice president and the year his son Beau had died, the report said. His memory of a White House debate on Afghanistan, a topic he was once passionate about, was vague.
In response to one question, the president replied: If it was 2013, when did I quit as vice president?
Biden and his aides reacted angrily to the report.
I know what I’m doing, the president told reporters a few hours after the report’s release.
On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, called Hur’s decision to include details of Biden’s memory gaps unnecessary and politically motivated, a talking point that other Democrats echoed throughout the day. (The special counsel is a Republican originally appointed by Trump.)
Aides suggested Biden might not have been at his best when he met Hur. They said he was focused on the October disaster. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which
took place just a few days before the interviews.
Yet, as Biden showed, the question of his eligibility threatens to surface every time he appears in public. On Thursday, during the press conference he called to defend his mental acuity, he misidentified the president of Egypt as the president of Mexico.
The question is present on both sides of the presidential campaign as Trump,
would be the second-oldest man ever to win a major party nomination.
And Trump also often seems to suffer from memory loss.
He recently confused Nikki Haley, his last remaining challenger for the Republican nomination, with Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He called the president of Hungary the president of Turkey.
He bragged last year that he defeated President Obama in the 2016 election, when his opponent was Hillary Clinton, and claimed he
won all 50 states that year (he won 30).
He warned that Biden could lead the country into World War II.
Polls show that most voters view Trump as more powerful than Biden. An NBC News poll this week showed Trump with a 16-point lead on who is more competent and effective.
YouGov survey released on Friday
47% of voters said Biden’s health and age would “severely limit his ability to fulfill his duties” if he were re-elected in November. Only 32% said the same about Trump.
But neither candidate emerged from that survey as a clear winner.
The YouGov poll found that about the same share of Americans thought Biden or Trump would be fit to serve another term, just over a third in both cases. One in five said neither would be suitable.
Trump has glaring deficits that go beyond his memory problems. He is the undisputed king of presidential mendacity;
he Washington Post
estimates that he made more than 30,000 false or misleading claims during his four years in the White House.
He often expresses his admiration (or perhaps envy) for dictators
search for from
Russian President Vladimir Putin
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
argued that a president should be immune from federal laws, and that the provisions of the Constitution that allowed Biden to win the 2020 election should be terminated.
And of course, he faces a stack of charges in four separate criminal cases, including one for refusing to turn over classified documents after leaving the White House. While Hur criticized Biden’s memory, he also made a point of contrasting Biden’s collaboration with
“After being given multiple opportunities to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump reportedly did the opposite, Hur’s report said. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for
a lot of
But he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then lie about it.
So yes, both candidates have memory problems. The most important question is: Whose judgment is sounder?
Biden’s response to reporters’ questions about his condition
sounded simple: look at me.
Voters have the right to respond:
and his aides have carefully rationed his public exposure.
He hasn’t done many town halls, an exercise he once enjoyed
He dodged most requests for media interviews. He even passed up an opportunity for a nationally broadcast interview during Monday’s Super Bowl, an opportunity most presidents take to reach a gigantic audience.
A few years ago I asked Biden what strategy he used to bounce back from a blunder.
Own it, he said.
But in response to Hur’s report, he angrily denied that he had serious memory problems.
They don’t know what they’re talking about, he said of the accusers.
But he might be better off if he took his own advice and acknowledged his fumbles.
After all, the voters’ choice is between two older men with poor memories
only one of them does not respect the constitution.
The question is not whose aging memory is sharper. Its defects are more dangerous.
Fernando Dowling is an author and political journalist who writes for 24 News Globe. He has a deep understanding of the political landscape and a passion for analyzing the latest political trends and news.