C: RNC Research / Clay Travis Screengrab (Twitter)

All is not as it should be with Joe Biden

Let’s preface this by stating the obvious: It is a matter of precisely zero consequence what the editor of a small Irish website thinks about the mental well-being of the President of the United States. And if, as many increasingly suspect, the President is suffering from what might gently be termed the inevitable effects of old age, then that is not a matter for rejoicing or sneering. Chances are we will all, at some stage, start to get a little forgetful. Before she died in 2006, my own beloved Grandmother had a habit of forgetting what she had told you five minutes earlier, and telling you again, sometimes several times. As we age, the body slows, and the mind sometimes slows with it.

But my Grandmother, while she’d have made a fine President or Monarch in her pomp, did not in the winter of her life have at her command the world’s most important economy, and the world’s most powerful military. Nor, to her credit, did she ever forget that someone who was dead was, in fact, dead. Joe Biden cannot say the same:

The tweet above does not provide the full context. When Republican Representative Jackie Walorski died, much too young, in a car accident this summer, Biden issued a statement of commiseration to her family. At the very event at which he was speaking, above, a tribute video to the late representative was played. It is hard to imagine that Biden was not briefed – as politicians are these days before every event – about the program, including the fact that some of representative Walorski’s family were in the audience.

You can make excuses, but this seems to me to be exactly what it looks like: A slowing mind, forgetting something very important, with very embarrassing consequences. On a human level, you’d have to feel very sorry for Biden. On a political level, you’d have to wonder whether this is sustainable.

But by the way: You’d also have to say this – if your case against Biden is, in part, that he is old and forgetful and that his age is an impediment to doing his job, the case for replacing him in two years with a man who will be, by the time he leaves office, 83 years old, gets weaker. If Biden’s decline into his 80s has been noticeable, then there is no reason to suspect – other than purely partisan “my guy is better than yours” nonsense – that Donald Trump is somehow immune to the laws of aging.

In truth, the more interesting thing about Biden’s increasingly obvious impediments is the veil of respectable silence around them. Part of that is the culture we live in, where many straightforward normal people feel that to say or notice that the President is not himself is to issue a full throated endorsement of Donald Trump. That interests me because it’s one of the biggest problems that the culture war has created in general, and none of us are immune to it. I was speaking recently to a friend in the UK – a full throated Brexiteer – who confessed privately that he has doubts about the UK’s approach to the Northern Ireland protocol, but felt that to say so openly would have activists on his own side consider that he had become a second-referendum-supporting Remainer. That’s how politics and culture works now – you’re either 100% on side, or you’re a potential traitor to the cause. And both “sides”, I fear, are making dumber and dumber decisions because of the growing fear of defying one’s own tribe in even the smallest matters.

And what’s more concerning, really, is the calibre of the defence of Biden that you often hear from those who are more afraid of a healthy Republican President than they are of an impaired Democratic one:

They’ll say things like “oh he has good people around him” and suggest that Biden’s staff would mitigate the worst possible outcomes of a President who is slightly “off his game”. Indeed, it’s notable how often that is happening: Several times this year alone, Biden has said something strident, only to have his staff insist he didn’t really mean it. Most recently, when he appeared to threaten all out war with China over Taiwan.

The problem here is this: Biden is elected, but his staff are not. They are duty bound to either enact his orders, or resign. This scenario where an elected leader is being thwarted and confounded by staff who consider that he might not be acting appropriately is undemocratic, and was often (correctly) cited by progressives as a symptom of the dysfunction of the Trump Presidency.

At the very minimum, it should be clear to everyone that it is not in the interest of Biden, or his party, or the world, that he run again for public office. There are over 300million Americans, at least half of them Democrats. Surely to goodness they can find, before the next election, someone else to carry the flag.

And that, by the way, goes for Republicans too. It’s not good for anyone to have two men in their early 80s Grandpa-Simpsoning their way through Presidential debates.

 

 

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