The media doesn’t seem to care, indeed is doing its best to hide it, but we cannot have a President doddering around a stage, shaking hands with the empty air without serious repercussions. Talk of the 25th Amendment was all the rage when President Trump was in office. We need some of that now, fast, before we blunder into war.
Last week, the most powerful man in the known universe turned away from a lectern after giving a speech and attempted to shake hands with the empty air. He then proceeded, visibly confused, to wander off in the wrong direction before getting his bearings, and only then gingerly walked off the stage. For anyone who has experienced the pain of a loved one with dementia, the hallmarks were unmistakable. The almost confident attention paid to a person who simply isn’t there. The moment of confusion when the afflicted person realizes that is the case and they are either talking to or engaging with only themselves. The sad, resigned shuffle towards something else, hopefully in the right direction, though they aren’t quite sure at first. The second realization they are going the wrong way after all. It’s difficult to watch the deterioration of the aging mind when it’s a grandparent or parent, a close aunt or uncle. Seeing them decline, and knowing there is nothing you can do about it except try to keep them as calm and comfortable as possible, hoping they don’t do anything to hurt themselves, or someone less, like leaving the stove on and starting a fire. It’s an entirely new level of danger, one we have never seen before in the modern era, when the person in question is the President of the United States, and the accident that might ensue involves national security and international relations.
Sadly, as evidenced by last week’s incident, and many, many others over the course of the last 14 months, that appears to be precisely what we are watching in real time with President Joe Biden. There is little doubt the man is in decline, a view shared by the majority of the American people. In fact, only 40% of respondents in a recent poll conducted by the left-leaning folks at ABC News and The Washington Post said they believed the President is mentally sharp enough for the job. 54% of Americans disagree with that assessment, saying he doesn’t have the “mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively as president.” To be fair, this is a valid concern for anyone his age, even without President Biden’s recent history of appearing confused and out of his depth. The American Academy of Neurology estimates that at least 15% of people over 75 have some form of cognitive impairment, a full one in seven. President Biden is 79, and his condition is compounded by having undergone the repair of a brain aneurysm and by suffering from atrial fibrillation, both of which can impair a person’s mental capabilities. The White House, of course, denies this. After his most recent physical last November, White House physician Kevin O’Connor released a statement proclaiming the President was “healthy, vigorous” and “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” At the time, they consulted with neurologists and orthopedists about concerns over his halting gait, which could be a sign of degenerative brain disease, but they ran no scans and performed no mental acuity tests, at least none that were released. Instead, they attributed his slow walking and general frailty on feet to “wear and tear” for someone his age.
Still, most of the mainstream media remains completely uncurious as to the extent of his mental decline, adopting a see no evil, hear no evil approach that pretends the President doesn’t regularly display obvious, unmistakable signs of impairment. The New York Post and The Des Moines Register are the rare exceptions. Kevin D. Williamson, an establishment Republican and never Trumper, wrote for the Post last December, “Because of Biden’s long history of habitual dishonesty, it is difficult to tell how much of this is Biden being Biden and how much of it is Biden no longer quite being Biden — how much is his longstanding and familiar moral disability and how much is, as it may be, late-life mental disability. We need an independent medical assessment of the president’s mental health. That is a sobering fact to face, but face it we must. And right now, we need a Democrat who will say so in public.” Greg Gankse covered it similarly last August for the Register. He began with a story about a luncheon with then Senator Biden in 1997. “My wife and I were joined at our table for lunch during the retreat by Sen. Joe Biden and his wife, Jill. We had a delightful time getting to know each other. Biden was witty and charming, with no stuttering or incomplete thoughts. Our wives shared professional experiences. We were impressed with them. It pains me greatly to see a decline in President Biden, and it worries me. He was 54 years old then and is 78 years old now. People age differently. My own mother is 93 and still sharp, but younger friends have mental deterioration that is significant. Why am I concerned about Biden’s mental acuity?”
Mr. Gankse proceeded to cite a litany of more recent appearances by Biden, from forgetting the words to the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created, by the, you know, you know the thing,” to forgetting what office he was running for. He also referenced this example from an interview with CNN, “Um, you know there’s a, uh, during World War II, uh you know, where Roosevelt came up with a thing, that uh, you know, was totally different, than a, than the, he called it, you know, the WWII, he had the War Production Board.” Regardless of these and other examples, the topic remains studiously ignored, or outright misdirected, for the most part. Rolling Stone provides an excellent example, bemoaning that the “Party of Trump Unironically Wants to Test Biden’s Mental Fitness” as if there were nothing to see here. Peter Wade opines, Republicans, the party that elected President Donald Trump, have recently renewed their call for President Joe Biden to submit to a cognitive exam. It’s a rich demand coming from people who supported Trump, whose already loose grip on reality seemed to slip even further into delusion as he shitposted his way into and out of the White House.” The article doesn’t make a single mention of President Biden’s obvious missteps, preferring instead to target Republicans simply for bringing it up.
Of course, the real irony is how the mainstream media couldn’t stop bringing up mental fitness the entire time President Trump was in office. Back then, it seemed barely a week could go by without some claim that Trump was mentally unfit for various reasons, often with calls to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office. These calls began almost immediately after his inauguration and reached an apex after the January 6 riots when House Democrats passed a resolution demanding Vice President Mike Pence remove Trump from office due to mental incapacitation. An earlier incident is even more illustrative, however. In June 2020, President Trump delivered a commencement speech at West Point and appeared to walk slowly down a ramp from the stage. The media promptly went into overdrive with The New York Times declaring that “Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp at West Point Raises New Health Questions.” Reporter Maggie Haberman noted that “President Trump faced new questions about his health on Sunday, after videos emerged of him gingerly walking down a ramp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and having trouble bringing a glass of water to his mouth during a speech there.” In addition to the crime of walking slowly, she referenced another video circulating of “Mr. Trump taking a sip of water from a glass tucked inside his lectern on the dais at West Point. Mr. Trump held the glass with his right hand and brought it to his mouth, but appeared to momentarily have trouble lifting his arm farther. He used his left hand to push the bottom of the glass so that it reached his lips.” The President himself noted that the ramp was slippery, long, steep, and had no handrail. Ms. Haberman disagreed, claiming “There was no evidence that the ramp was slippery, and the skies were clear during the ceremony” as though the Times had conducted a thorough investigation into the matter, analyzing the relative slipperiness in a lab. Further, President Trump was not to be believed because his “difficulty traversing stairs and ramps has come up before, most notably in January 2017, when he clutched the hand of Theresa May, then the British prime minister, as they walked at the White House.”
It almost goes without saying that Ms. Haberman hasn’t written a similar article about President Joe Biden. We’re supposed to believe that none of this matters anymore, and there is no cause for concern, but that is certainly not the case for a President embroiled in a wide range of challenges and crises. For example, we cannot say for sure whether his recent “off the cuff” remarks about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were prompted by his mental decline, but having the White House repeatedly walk back inflammatory, escalatory language like accusations of “genocide” and calls for regime change in Russia creates a potentially dangerous international situation when neither is actually United States policy. As a result, some are starting to wonder if we’re actually going to war with Russia. Neil Steinberg, writing for The Chicago Sun-Times believes “It’s good we’re ignoring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands to stop aiding Ukraine. But we should grasp what that might lead to.” He asks an important question, one whose answer remains frighteningly unclear even two months into it.. “Is the United States heading toward war? It seems a very real possibility. Some arms convoy in Poland will be hit, and the gears of general conflagration will start to turn. It’ll all seem inevitable, afterward.” After all, “There are not many rules in warfare, but a fairly certain one is: Things always go wrong. A good beginning does not mandate a happy end.” Under these conditions, can the United States afford a President that continually misspeaks, often in the most inflammatory manner?
The media doesn’t seem to care, but we certainly should. For over half the country, the only questions about Biden’s mental decline are how far he has fallen from his normal cognitive state, how fast he continues down this path, and what damage he might do before he’s done. Clearly, we cannot have a President doddering around a stage, shaking hands with the empty air without serious repercussions. Personally, I have been hesitant to post on this topic, believing it better to focus on what I perceive as policy failures rather than mental fitness. The current situation, however, has become untenable. Questions need to be asked, and answers demanded by the media. It’s long past time for basic reporting and curiosity about an issue that might affect us all.