Chill out, my fellow Americans. Your president has no cognitive impairment

(Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chill out, my fellow Americans. Your president has no cognitive impairment

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Robin Abcarian

March 8, 2024

Did he trip over his feet? Did he commit an indefensible blunder? No, my fellow Americans, he did not.

I’ll admit that the bar was set in a rather bizarre place for President Biden’s State of the Union address on Thursday. After all, he is the oldest American president. And although he is only four years older than his likely November opponent, former President Trump (77), hysteria over Biden’s age has become an enduring feature of the national political debate.

Take a chill pill, people.

Our 81-year-old commander-in-chief was in good shape. His speech, which lasted just over an hour, included a lot: a serious accounting of the status of countries at home and around the world, a blueprint for a second Biden administration and a campaign speech that included repeated verbal jousting with his Republican hecklers.

What it wasn’t: The ramblings of a likable, well-meaning older man with a bad memory who sounded like Special Prosecutor Robert Hur


the president would present himself to a jury if he were prosecuted for mishandling classified documents.

You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from faltering Democrats, who have been far too willing to let doubts about Biden’s age cloud their support for his re-election.

Some even said the not-so-quiet part out loud.

No one is going to talk about cognitive limitations now! shouted New York Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler.

I sometimes wish I could


cognitively impaired, Biden joked.

Their post-speech conversation was picked up by CSPAN microphones, which kept the cameras trained on the president and his band of sympathizers as he walked through the room. When I watched it, I felt like I was eavesdropping on a very high level.

Those interruptions! one member shouted at Biden.

It’s a game they’re playing, the president replied. They did that last time. I said, ‘Anyone who wants to cut Social Security, raise your hands.'” (That moment was a highlight of last year’s State of the Union address and seems to have set something of a template for the tempestuous back-and-forth we’ve had Thursday. “What a contrast to the moment in 2009 when Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson shouted ‘You’re lying!’ at President Obama. I can only imagine the anger and disapproval of then-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, still proposing. How strange that seems now.)

As Biden walked the floor, he was praised by Democrats.

You set us all on fire!

That was one



You kicked and took names!

You brought the Irish fire tonight!

There were also some serious exchanges: I told Bibi, I heard Biden say Colorado Democratic

Sen. Rep.



, who had said something about Israel. I tried my best to hear something

came next, he said afterwards

but to my frustration

what followed

how inaudible.

Regardless, by most reviews the speech itself was a triumph.

Thirteen times Biden took on former President Trump, my predecessor, without deigning to mention him by name


struck down the rude members who shouted and shouted, and shut them up with sharp comebacks.

Biden’s words dripped with contempt for Trump as he vowed to stay on Ukraine’s side in its war with Russia. We will not walk away, we will not bow down, he said, invoking Trump’s bizarre reverence for Vladimir Putin.

He blasted Republicans for blocking the bipartisan border security bill at their dear leader’s insistence, and when they booed him, he deviated from his prepared remarks. Oh, you don’t like that bill, do you? That conservatives got together and said it was a good bill? I’ll be damned. What are you against? (His re-election, of course.)

He adopted the January 6 denial: My pastor and some of you here are trying to bury the truth of January 6. I don’t want to do that. This is a time to speak the truth and bury the lies. And here is the simplest truth: you cannot love your country only when you win.

Biden stole the thunder from Georgia’s fiercely defiant Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wore a T-shirt with the words Say Her Name, a reference to

Leaf Riley,

a nursing student from Georgia who was killed by a suspect authorities say is in the country illegally. “Laken Riley, an innocent young woman murdered by an illegal,” Biden said, using an unfortunate term and mispronouncing her name as “Lincoln” but still taking the wind out of MTG’s sails.

He also addressed Riley’s parents directly, who were invited to attend the speech but declined. “My heart goes out to you that you have lost children of your own,” Biden added. I understand.

Biden looked directly at the Supreme Court justices, six of whom sat in the front row, and declared that he would restore the federal right to abortion if voters gave him a Democratic majority in Congress.

My God, he said, listing the fears of those who believe passionately in reproductive rights: What freedoms would you take away next?

On a grand scale, this is precisely the question Americans face as they choose their next president.

Do we want a hateful man who has vowed to seek revenge and retaliation against his enemies and declared that he would be a dictator on day 1?

Or do we want an empathetic president who promises that he will defend democracy, not diminish it, and that he will always be a president for all Americans?”



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