After a report from a special counsel had devastatingly referred to him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” Vice President Biden made a last-minute appearance at a news conference on Thursday night in the hopes of assuring the nation of his mental acuity. According to the report, he was described as having a weak memory.
Instead, a clearly irritated Mr. Biden made the very kind of verbal gaffe that has kept Democrats so anxious for months. He made the mistake of referring to the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as the “president of Mexico” when he was attempting to address the most recent developments in the conflict in Gaza.
Mr. Biden’s late age, the singularly uncomfortable matter that loomed over his re-election bid, was brought back to the center of the political debate in the United States of America as a result of the report presented by the special counsel and the performance given by the president in the evening.
The president, who is 81 years old and already holds the record for being the oldest in the history of the nation, has been fighting for years against the idea that he is a reduced figure. While speaking from the White House on Thursday, he asserted that his memory was in good shape.
The report from Robert K. Hur, the special counsel who had investigated Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents, captured the fears of Democrats who hold their breath whenever Mr. Biden appears in public, as well as the hopes of Republicans, particularly former President Donald J. Trump and his allies. This was accomplished in a single phrase that was particularly cutting. Using Mr. Biden’s stiffer pace and occasionally muddled words to portray him as weak has been made abundantly clear by the Trump organization, which has made its intention clear.
The Biden campaign has constructed its strategy on the idea that the election in November is a choice between the president, regardless of the public’s concerns over his age, and an opponent in Mr. Trump, who is 77 years old and whom they portray as a threat to democracy and personal freedoms.
The Democratic Party has been loyal to Mr. Biden for a very long time. Because there is no other candidate who is seen to be a significant contender in the primary contest, many members of the party believe that the future of the nation is dependent on the president’s ability to convince voters that he is still qualified to serve as president for another four years.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Trump is vulnerable, the Republican Party has been on a losing trend for an extended period of time ever since he came to power. However, the upward of $2 billion that the Biden campaign and its allies plan to raise and spend will not make the current president any younger.
In addition, the news conference that took place on Thursday evening served as an illustration of the political risks that Mr. Biden faces. Furthermore, the White House team’s tight control over his media exposure contributes to the exacerbation of his mistakes. Due to the fact that his assistants are so risk afraid, they did not even attempt to conduct an interview before to the Super Bowl this past weekend in front of one of the largest annual television audiences in the country.
David Axelrod, a senior strategist for Barack Obama who has emerged as one of the top figures in the Democratic Party, issued a caution about how voters see Mr. Biden’s age. “Fair or not, you can’t unring the bell,” Axelrod said. According to Mr. Axelrod, the report from the special counsel is extremely worrying for Democrats because it “goes to the core of what is plaguing Biden politically now, which is a widespread fear that he’s not up to it.”
He continued by saying, “The things that confirm people’s pre-existing suspicions are the things that travel very quickly, and those are the things that are the most damaging in politics.” A issue has arisen.”
A statement from the Biden campaign was not forthcoming.
As a matter of law, Mr. Hur’s report exonerated Mr. Biden of any criminal wrongdoing, stating that there was not enough evidence to charge him with any crime. However, Democrats took advantage of his loaded words to accuse the special counsel, who was once appointed by Trump, of having partisan motivations. Mr. Hur also referred to Mr. Biden’s “diminished faculties in advancing age” as something that would have been sympathetic to a jury.
Following three days in which their own dysfunction in Congress was the primary focus of the news, the article and the president’s angry response came as a gift to Republicans who are working toward the goal of removing Mr. Biden from his position. In a short amount of time, the Republican National Committee developed a graphic that used the eight most scathing phrases from the study, which included the phrase “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” superimposed on the emblem of the Biden campaign.
Regardless of the fact that the special counsel did not decide to press charges against Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump’s own, more severe issue of whether or not he mishandled secret documents is still included in the myriad of 91 felony allegations that he is facing across four different counties.
In spite of this, Chris LaCivita, a prominent adviser for Mr. Trump, referred to the portrayal of Mr. Biden provided by the special counsel as “damning and fundamental.”
“The report confirms what Americans have been witnessing across their TV screens for the last few years — that an elderly man with a poor memory is leading America into a morass of wars, inflationary disaster, and lack of opportunity for taxpaying Americans,” Mr. LaCivita said. “The report is supporting what Americans have been seeing on their television screens.”
Democrat Senator Chris Coons, who is close to Vice President Joe Biden and hails from Delaware, predicted that he would receive an increased number of phone calls from “people expressing concern.” On the other hand, he stated that he would answer by relating his personal encounters with Vice President Biden, which he claimed indicated that the president was “clever, engaged, and purposeful.”
In spite of this, Mr. Biden’s confusion between Egypt and Mexico occurred not long after he made a couple of mistakes in the previous week over the deaths of European leaders. Initially, while he was on a campaign tour in Nevada, he made the mistake of confusing Emmanuel Macron, the current president of France, with Francois Mitterrand, a previous president of France who passed away in June of 1996. After that, on Wednesday, he made two references to the fact that he had met in 2021 with Helmut Kohl, a former German chancellor who passed away in 2017, rather than with Angela Merkel, who had been the leader of the country for the past three years.
“The calls I get from freaked-out Democrats saying, ‘Oh my God, the president said X!'” Mr. Coons made light of the situation. “And the former president said Y!” is what comes to mind. If you were to inquire about the identity of Francois Mitterrand, Donald Trump would glance at you with a gaze that suggested, “What are you talking about?”
Polls demonstrate that Americans do not dispute Mr. Trump’s sharpness in the same way that they do Mr. Biden’s sharpness. Mr. Trump has made his own series of verbal missteps, such as recently confusing Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi and previously mixing up the leaders of Hungary and Turkey. On the topic of who was more competent and effective, people awarded Mr. Trump an advantage of 16 percentage points, according to a poll that was released by NBC News this week. This represents a 25-point swing from the year 2020, when Mr. Biden enjoyed a nine-point advantage on that subject.
In her argument, Ms. Haley has stated that a new generation would be more beneficial to the nation as well as both parties. In a fundraising email that she sent out on Thursday, she said, “The first party to retire its 80-year-old candidate is going to win this election!”
In a private conversation, Mr. Biden’s aides emphasized that the allegations that his memory is deteriorating would not be detrimental to him since voters have already taken into account his age when deciding whether or not to support him in his campaign against Mr. Trump. On Thursday, a few of the president’s allies resorted to a strategy that had been utilized by previous presidents who were up against investigations: they attacked the investigators by claiming that they were driven by partisan politics.
According to Representative Robert Garcia, a Democrat from California, Mr. Hur did not possess the necessary competence to evaluate Mr. Biden’s recall.
Mr. Garcia stated that the individuals who were responsible for creating this report were lawyers and not medical professionals. The individual in question is a Republican who was unable to locate any evidence. It seems likely that he is attempting to cause political harm to the president.
A great number of Democrats felt that the episode was an unwelcome reminder of the way things were handled during the election in 2016. During the summer of that year, James B. Comey, who was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the time, had a press conference in which he said that he would not be filing charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server. However, he continued to criticize her judgment, and then, many months later, he reopened his investigation in the days leading up to the election.
A Democratic consultant named Bakari Sellers stated that “this, for many of us, brings back the 11 days prior to Clinton-Trump.” Sellers anticipated that Mr. Biden’s problems will be resolved because the election is still a long way off. For Biden, the good news is that he was already an old man before this report, and he will continue to be an old man after this report. We were all aware that he is getting on in years.
Surprisingly, the report from the special counsel was very straightforward. Mr. Biden’s memory was described as having “significant limitations,” an interview that he recorded in 2017 was described as “painfully slow,” and it was stated that Mr. Biden did not recall some important dates during his time as vice president or “when his son Beau passed away.”
The attorneys for Mr. Biden wrote a letter to the special counsel in which they referred to the repeated allusions to Mr. Biden’s memory as “gratuitous,” further stating that they were “prejudicial and inflammatory.” And Mr. Biden himself, with obvious signs of exasperation, expressed his astonishment at the notion that he was unaware of the time that his son had passed away, saying, “How in the hell shall he bring that up?”
Representative Daniel S. Goldman, a Democrat from New York who had previously worked as a federal prosecutor, stated that the attention that Mr. Biden’s Mexico-Egypt mistake instantaneously received was a “perfect example of where the age issues get completely exaggerated and blown out of proportion.”
It is still very likely that Mr. Biden will be the Democratic nominee for president. He has easily won the initial nominating contests for his party, and the deadlines to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot have passed in around 80 percent of the states and territories.
The lone remaining contender for the Democratic nomination for vice president, Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, has had a relatively small amount of support up to this point. According to Mr. Phillips, the account of Mr. Biden’s memory provided by the special counsel demonstrated that “the president is not in a position to continue to serve as our commander in chief beyond January 2025.”
The seasoned Democratic strategist James Carville stated that the negative opinions about Mr. Biden’s age should not be disregarded as a diversion. He stressed that these perceptions could not be ignored.
During an interview that took place following the news conference, he stated that “the public does not view his age as — that is not a Fox News issue.” “It’s not the kind of thing where Taylor Swift is trying to manipulate the Super Bowl. How are you going to get out of this situation? I don’t know.