One of the most difficult conversations you can have in life is with a parent or peer who is becoming too old and infirm to work. Whether the infirmity is physical or mental, often your loved one is the last person to realize his own deficiencies, so he may interpret respectful, genuine concern as a personal attack.
This conversation is difficult enough when it’s conducted entirely in private with friends and family. It’s infinitely more difficult when it plays out in public and involves the president of the United States.
The top-line conclusion of the special counsel Robert Hur’s report regarding the discovery of classified information at Joe Biden’s home is good for the president. It found, in no uncertain terms, that “no criminal charges are warranted in this matter.” It said prosecution would be inappropriate “even if Department of Justice policy did not foreclose criminal charges against a sitting president.” The report even did the president the favor of clearly and unequivocally distinguishing his treatment of classified materials from Donald Trump’s vastly worse misconduct in his own retention-of-documents case.
But the report presented what may be a worse assessment for Biden than the matter of guilt, which is its description of one reason he won’t be prosecuted: The special counsel found that Biden lacked the requisite degree of criminal willfulness in part because of his fading memory. The report characterized him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and said he had “diminished faculties in advancing age.” To bolster this assertion, the report provided some damaging details, including claims that Biden couldn’t remember the dates when he was vice president and couldn’t remember “even within several years” when his son Beau died.
The report understandably angered Biden, but in a fiery news conference after the report was released, he confused the president of Egypt with the president of Mexico. In isolation, the gaffe was minor — less serious, for instance, than Donald Trump recently confusing Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi — but the timing was terrible. The mistake, coming on the heels of two incidents in recent days in which Biden confused French and German leaders with their deceased predecessors, only served to bolster the special counsel’s conclusions.
Democratic partisans may be furious that the special counsel was so blunt about Biden’s memory. But willfulness and intent are necessary elements of the underlying crimes, so Hur had to explore Biden’s mental state, and include illustrative details.
Witnesses are frequently instructed to say “I don’t remember” when they don’t recall all relevant facts completely and accurately. I’ve taken countless depositions in my career, and “I don’t remember” is one of the most common answers I’ve heard. In such cases, I do not presume this person is incapable of remembering. By including the details of Biden’s memory lapses, however, Hur demonstrated that the president’s responses were well outside the norm. That does not mean that every embarrassing detail in the report was appropriate to include. But including some details was necessary to support its legal conclusions.
Of course, none of this means that Trump is a better candidate for the presidency than Biden. But “better than Trump” is the lowest bar imaginable. Trump is a corrupt and confused 77-year-old who’s facing trial on dozens of felony counts in four separate criminal cases and has recently been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation.
But I can know that Biden would be far better than Trump and still be concerned that he’s not up to the challenge of governing for four more years. “Better than Trump” doesn’t mean that he’d continue to respond to profound foreign and domestic challenges with clarity and energy. “Better than Trump” doesn’t mean we can count on him finishing a second term. “Better than Trump” doesn’t even necessarily mean that he can beat Trump in November.
Compounding the problem for Biden, age is not a challenge that improves with time. It’s likely that Biden’s memory and energy are better now than they’ll be next year, not to mention four years from now. Moreover, millions upon millions of Americans have direct experience with the challenge of advanced age — either as their own minds and bodies ultimately slow down or as they watch it happen to friends and relatives. That same experience makes Americans immune to political spin on the issue. No matter how powerful your rhetoric, you can’t browbeat Americans out of a concern as obvious and relatable as the fact that age matters.
Biden does have a response. He can point to the scoreboard. He has a solid case for re-election given the successes of his first term. I am a conservative, so Biden, while absolutely preferable to Trump, was hardly my first choice for the presidency. But I’ve been mostly impressed by his handling of the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. We’ve also seen enough legislative compromises during his administration to raise glimmers of hope that Congress can still function on occasion. And the American economy, while hardly perfect, is the envy of the world.
Biden’s record includes its share of missteps, most notably at the border. But he can tell concerned Americans that the best predictor of the next four years is the last four years, and that his verbal slips and stumbles are of little consequence compared with his accomplishments. That’s certainly a fair argument. But Biden has to make it himself, repeatedly and eloquently. The only real answer to the charge that he is in decline is for him to publicly demonstrate that he is not.
If the prospect of Biden making this case fills you with alarm — if you’re concerned that he can’t do so consistently and repeatedly on the campaign trail without triggering a cascade of mistakes and gaffes that compound the problem — then it’s time to ponder a different course of action. Should Biden step aside?
Not only is this suggestion tremendously delicate — as we saw in the news conference on Thursday, Biden is now quite angry and defiant — it would also trigger a cascading set of chaotic consequences for the Democratic Party. The party would have to jump-start a primary season, fight through a series of divisive state contests and then coalesce again, all while Trump and the G.O.P. prepare for the general election, raising money and lobbing rhetorical grenades at the divided Democrats.
The Democrats obviously want to avoid such an outcome. But Biden’s polling numbers are grim. Yes, there are good reasons to think that his support might be at a low ebb, and that continued good economic news, combined with continued Republican dysfunction, could be enough to lift him past Trump. But it should be deeply concerning that Biden’s single greatest weakness is the one that he cannot alter: his age.
The impression the president gives in public is not senility so much as extreme frailty, like a lightbulb that still burns so long as you keep it on a dimmer. But to strain the simile a bit, the entire issue in a re-election campaign is not whether your filaments shed light; it’s whether voters should take this one opportunity to change out the bulb. Every flicker is evidence that a change is necessary, and if you force Biden into a normal campaign-season role, frequent flickering (if not a burning-out) is what you’re going to get.
Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that Biden senses this, that he isn’t just entombed in egomania, but he feels trapped by his own terrible vice-presidential choice. If he drops out and anoints Kamala Harris, she’s even more likely to lose to Donald Trump. But if he drops out and doesn’t endorse his own number two, he’d be opening himself to a narrative of identitarian betrayal — aging white president knifes first woman-of-color veep — and setting his party up for months of bloodletting and betrayal, a constant churn of personal and ideological drama.
There is no easy escape from these dilemmas. But the best approach available to Biden is a distinctively old-fashioned one. He should accept the necessity of drama and bloodletting but also condense it all into the format that was originally designed for handling intraparty competition: the Democratic National Convention.
Quote:Trump threatened to encourage Russia to attack NATO members who do not meet their financial obligations.
Gosh. I hope Putin won't attack ex-Presidents who do not meet their financial obligations.
Angry Staffer 🌻@Angry_Staffer
The San Francisco 49ers can still win the Super Bowl if Mike Pence has the courage to do the right thing.
I'm asking you . . .
I'm asking you, "so the **** what in light of the fact . . .
Did you know who buys our debt? The Chinese. They hold more debt AND more US dollars in hard currency reserves than any other nation . . .
Of those, Japan has the most, followed by China.
Your worry about US debt is misplaced,
Rupert Murdoch met Rishi Sunak five times in 12-month period
Media mogul met government representatives 12 times in 2022-23 when he was chair of News Corp
...Hacked Off’s analysis of the most recent data on ministerial meetings reveals that 72% of all meetings were with the right-of-centre press (defined by the organisation as the Mail, Sun, Times, News UK, Express and Telegraph) while 5% were with the left-of-centre press (defined as the Guardian and Mirror).
Press meetings with Murdoch-owned publications accounted for 40% of the total, while the Telegraph accounted for 19%. Meetings between the government and the Guardian accounted for 3% of the total...
Timothy Mellon, a Republican megadonor who has also backed former President Donald Trump, has donated another $10 million to the pro-Kennedy super PAC, American Values 2024. Mellon, an heir to the Mellon banking fortune, gave a total of $15 million to the group in 2023. He separately donated $10 million to Make America Great Again Inc., a pro-Trump super PAC, in the second half of 2023.
In 2010, Mellon donated $1.5 million to Arizona's defense fund to help cover the costs of legal challenges against Arizona SB 1070, the broadest and strictest anti-illegal immigration measure in the United States at the time of its passage. It has received national and international attention and has spurred considerable controversy.
In the 2018 election cycle, Mellon was a major political donor, especially to the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund. According to OpenSecrets, in 2020 and 2022, he was the 6th and 5th most prolific donor in the US, spending $60 million and $47 million respectively to support Republican candidates and causes.
Mellon's self-published autobiography describes his political views. Mellon called social safety net programs "Slavery Redux," adding: "For delivering their votes in the Federal Elections, they are awarded with yet more and more freebies: food stamps, cell phones, WIC payments, Obamacare, and on, and on, and on. The largess is funded by the hardworking folks, fewer and fewer in number, who are too honest or too proud to allow themselves to sink into this morass." Mellon wrote that as of 1984 (Reagan's re-election campaign), "Something had obviously gone dreadfully wrong with the Great Society and the Liberal onslaught. Poor people had become no less poor. Black people, in spite of heroic efforts by the 'Establishment' to right the wrongs of the past, became even more belligerent and unwilling to pitch in to improve their own situations," and that "Drugs rose to the level of epidemic. Single parent families became more and more prevalent. The likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton pandered endlessly to fan the flames."
In August 2021, Mellon donated $53.1 million in stock to the State of Texas to pay for construction of walls along the US–Mexico border.
I’ve kind of quipped about this but I also worry about it in all seriousness — that Putin’s been down in the archives of the Kremlin during Covid looking through old maps and treaties and all the different borders that Russia has had over the centuries. He’s said, repeatedly, that Russian and European borders have changed many times. And in his speeches, he’s gone after various former Russian and Soviet leaders, he’s gone after Lenin and he’s gone after the communists, because in his view they ruptured the Russian empire, they lost Russian lands in the revolution, and yes, Stalin brought some of them back into the fold again like the Baltic States and some of the lands of Ukraine that had been divided up during World War II, but they were lost again with the dissolution of the USSR. Putin’s view is that borders change, and so the borders of the old Russian imperium are still in play for Moscow to dominate now.