In a career that spans more than half a century, President Biden is all too well known for mutilating words, names, and dates in famous, perhaps gently, verbal pratfalls. under the name of blunders.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, then-President Donald Trump publicly accused Biden, then just 77 years old, of suffering from “dementia.” The insult did not stick; Biden campaigned effectively enough to defeat Trump in November.
But controversy over the president’s mental health has only intensified as he seeks a second term.
Biden’s age, as he is the oldest man to ever serve as president, inevitably weighs on voters’ minds.
Thursday’s report from special counsel Robert Hur compounded Biden’s political problem by painting a more damaging official picture of the president than previously seen.
The report said Biden, now 81, appeared to be an “older, well-meaning man with a poor memory.”
That might have been the nicest thing he said.
In his interviews with Hur, Biden had difficulty remembering the years he had been vice president and the year his son Beau died, according to the report. His memory of a White House debate on Afghanistan, a subject he once felt passionately about, was hazy.
In response to a question, the president replied: “If it was 2013, when did I stop being vice president?”
Biden and his aides responded to the report with fury.
“I know what I’m doing,” the president told reporters hours after the report was released.
Vice President Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, on Friday called Hur’s decision to include details of Biden’s memory lapses “gratuitous” and “politically motivated” — a talking point that other Democrats have repeated throughout the day. (The special counsel is a Republican originally appointed by Trump.)
Aides suggested that Biden may not have been at his best when he met with Hur. They said he was focused on the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which occurred just days before the talks.
Yet, as Biden has demonstrated, the question of his physical condition threatens to resurface every time he appears in public. On Thursday, during the press conference he called to defend his mental acuity, he misidentified the Egyptian president as the president of Mexico.
The question arises on both sides of the presidential campaign, since Trump, who turns 78 in June, would be the second-oldest man to win a major party nomination.
And Trump, too, often seems to suffer from memory loss.
He recently confused Nikki Haley, his latest challenger for the GOP nomination, with Nancy Pelosi, the former Democratic Speaker of the House.
He called the president of Hungary the president of Turkey.
He bragged last year about beating 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 suggest that most voters perceive Trump as more vigorous than Biden. An NBC News poll this week showed Trump with a 16-point lead on the question of who is more competent and effective.
In a YouGov poll released Friday, 47% of voters said Biden’s health and age would “significantly limit his ability to serve in office” if he were re-elected in November. Only 32% said the same about Trump.
But neither candidate emerged as a clear winner from this survey.
The YouGov poll found that roughly the same proportion of Americans thought either Biden or Trump would be suitable to serve another term — just over a third in each case. One in five said neither would be fit.
Trump has glaring flaws beyond his memory problems. He is the undisputed king of presidential lies; The Washington Post estimates that he made more than 30,000 false or misleading claims during his four years in the White House.
He frequently expresses admiration (or perhaps envy) for dictators such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump also argued that a president should be immune from federal laws and that provisions of the Constitution that allowed Biden to win the 2020 election should be “repealed.”
And of course, he faces a series of indictments in four separate criminal cases, including one for refusing to turn over classified documents after leaving the White House. Although Hur criticized Biden’s memory, he also made a point of contrasting Biden’s cooperation with Trump’s obstruction.
“After being given several chances to return classified materials and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite,” Hur’s report said. “According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for several months, but he also obstructed justice by having others destroy evidence and then lie about it . »
So yes, both candidates have memory problems. The more important question is: what is the soundest judgment?
Biden’s response to reporters’ questions about his fitness seemed simple: “Look at me. »
Voters have the right to say, “Okay, show us.”
But the president and his aides have carefully rationed his public visibility.
For memory :
5:50 p.m. February 9, 2024A previous version of this column stated that the Super Bowl would take place on Monday. It will be played on Sunday.
He hasn’t done many town halls, an exercise he once enjoyed. He dodged most media requests for interviews. He even passed up the opportunity for a nationally broadcast interview during Sunday’s Super Bowl, an opportunity most presidents take to reach a gigantic audience.
Several years ago, I asked Biden what strategy he relied on to bounce back from a gaffe.
“Own it,” he said.
But in response to Hur’s report, he angrily denied having serious memory problems.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said of prosecutors.
But perhaps it would be better if he followed his own advice – and admitted his failures.
After all, voters have a choice between two old men with poor memories – and only one of them violates the Constitution.
The question is not who has the sharpest aging memory. Its faults are the most dangerous.
Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.latimes.com