In our modern political arena, gaffes have become somewhat normalized for many of our aging leaders, perhaps none more so than for President Joe Biden. From amusing slips of the tongue to more serious errors, his verbal flubs have often been dismissed, attributed to his well-known struggle with a stutter. But there comes a point where that explanation begins to fail, and his cognitive lapses become simply too obvious to ignore. Despite discussion of this since the 2020 Democratic Primary, here we are: a historically unpopular candidate with a failing memory, against a historically unpopular candidate four years younger with four felony indictments.
Here, I’ll break down recent revelations from the Special Counsel Report released last Thursday, as well as the problem with the Democratic Party deciding to run this candidate full-steam ahead in lieu of a competitive primary. Last Thursday, February 8th, Biden’s Special Counsel released a report clearing him of criminal wrongdoing in the retention of classified documents, and clearly differentiated between the President and former President Trump’s documents cases. However, that’s not what made headlines. Instead, observers of the report made note of several instances wherein the Special Counsel, Robert Hur, made statements that called Biden’s mental competency into question, even as far back as 2017.
You can read the 345-page report for yourself here, but for those seeking the cliff notes, I’ll be providing key excerpts to prevent any misrepresentation of the report’s most damning comments. As early as page 6, Hur explains one rationale behind not pursuing charges against the President. Apart from the absence of evidence indicating willful retention of documents beyond a reasonable doubt, Hur highlights the significant challenge any jury would face in concluding that Biden had the intention or mental capacity to retain the documents. Here’s the direct quote from the Special Counsel:
“We have also considered that, at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory. Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him– by then a former president well into his eighties– of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.” 
In short, the jury’s sympathy would likely stem from Biden’s age and documented struggles with poor memory. The report outlines multiple instances where Biden’s recollection faltered, notably concerning one of the defining issues of his Presidency and Vice Presidency: Afghanistan. There are many moments like the following excerpts of the report: simultaneously legally exonerating and deeply concerning. Hur reveals that while classified documents were discovered in Biden’s Delaware garage, neglected in a dusty box, his ability to recall details about these documents was notably limited in both 2017 and 2023.
“Notably, classified Afghanistan documents did not come up again in Mr. Biden’s dozens of hours of recorded conversations with the ghostwriter, or in his book. And the place where the Afghanistan documents were eventually found in Mr. Biden’s Delaware garage– in a badly damaged box surrounded by household detritus– suggests the documents might have been forgotten. In addition, Mr. Biden’s memory was significantly limited, both during his recorded interviews with the ghostwriter in 2017, and in his interview with our office in 2023.” 
Hur addresses Biden’s memory lapses in the recordings of his final meeting with his ghostwriter in 2017, describing these recorded conversations as “painfully slow” and indicating that Biden was clearly grappling with memory issues at the time.
“Mr. Biden’s memory also appeared to have significant limitations– both at the time he spoke to Zwonitzer in 2017, as evidenced by their recorded conversations, and today, as evidenced by his recorded interview with our office. Mr. Biden’s recorded conversations with Zwonitzer from 2017 are often painfully slow, with Mr. Biden struggling to remember events and straining at times to read and relay his own notebook entries.” 
In the following section, Hur highlights several instances where President Biden failed to recall significant personal and political events, underscoring the profound concerns about his cognitive abilities. The revelation that Biden could not remember when he served as Vice President on two separate occasions, coupled with his inability to recall the timing of his son Beau’s death, are particularly concerning as a prospective Democratic voter. Furthermore, his failure to recall key facts about Afghanistan and Obama-era policy during his Vice Presidency raises troubling questions about his ability to effectively engage with critical issues right now, let alone for another five years. The findings outlined in the report and details above are likely to fuel ongoing debates about Biden’s fitness for office and will likely continue to batter his already-dropping approval rates.
“In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden’s memory was worse. He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (“if it was 2013– when did I stop being Vice President?”) and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (“in 2009, am I still Vice President?”). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him. Among other things, he mistakenly said he “had a real difference” of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama.” 
A statement from the White House Counsel was included as an addendum to the report, including their response to what they considered to be inappropriate and inaccurate statements relating to the President’s memory. In it, they offer the same defense the President himself did at the emergency press conference he held following the report’s release: that he was in the midst of responding to the October 7th attack against Israel and, in fact, “did well in answering [Hur’s] questions about years-old events over the course of five hours.” The response, both in print and at the conference, seems unconvincing and inadequate to explain the sheer breadth of Biden’s errors in recent years.
“We do not believe that the report’s treatment of President Biden’s memory is accurate or appropriate. The report uses highly prejudicial language to describe a commonplace occurrence among witnesses: a lack of recall of years-old events. Such comments have no place in a Department of Justice report, particularly one that in the first paragraph announces that no criminal charges are ‘warranted’ and that ‘the evidence does not establish Biden’s guilt.’ If the evidence does not establish guilt, then discussing the jury impact of President Biden’s hypothetical testimony at a trial that will never occur is entirely superfluous. In fact there is ample evidence from your interview that the President did well in answering your questions about years-old events over the course of five hours. This is especially true under the circumstances, which you do not mention in your report, that his interview began the day after the October 7th attacks on Israel. In the lead up to the interview, the President was conducting calls with heads of state, Cabinet members, members of Congress, and meeting repeatedly with his national security team.” [statement released by WH attorneys and added as an addendum to the report on February 5th, before its release]
At the very press conference where he fired back angrily at assertions regarding his cognitive ability, President Biden proceeded to mistakenly refer to President Sisi of Egypt as the ‘president of Mexico’, marking the third time in two weeks that he mixed up the names of other heads of state. At a New York fundraiser last Wednesday, Biden referred to a conversation he had with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 2021. There are just a couple issues with that statement: the conversation was, in fact, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Helmut Kohl passed away in 2017. The day before that, at a campaign rally in Las Vegas, he told a story about a conversation between himself and François Mitterand at the June 2021 G7 Summit, shortly after he was elected. Specifically he said, “… and I sat down and said, ‘America is back!’ and Mitterand from Germany–I mean France– looked at me and said, ‘How long you back for?’” Again, this conversation did not happen, at least not the way Biden told it. It appears he confused current French President Emmanuel Macron with Mitterand, the man who led France from 1981-1995, and died in 1996.
This is not a mere stutter. These are not classic, endearing gaffes that warm us to the sweet, elderly president. This is the leader of the free world, asking you to reelect him for another four years, and he deserves to be held to a higher standard. Democrats have made a serious strategic blunder in stamping out any potential competitive primary competition in favor of inaugurating this incumbent, and his memory lapses are only one example of that. His approval rating has been in the tank throughout his Presidency, most recently achieving Jimmy Carter numbers less than a year out from the election. And though his approval has been dropping since the expiration of the pandemic-era social safety net and leaving Afghanistan, the President’s most recent policy in response to Israel’s massacre of civilians in Gaza has put him in greater jeopardy. The campaign is losing key voting blocs, including young people, Arab Americans and more, as a result of their unconditional support of what the ICJ has deemed could plausibly be genocide in Gaza. In fact, recent polling from The Economist and YouGov revealed that 50% of Biden 2020 voters believe he is supporting a genocide, with a wide contingent withholding their vote. Another 30% said they were “unsure,” which is also not a place you want to be with your constituency.
In summation, Biden’s issues are unavoidable and seemingly insurmountable, until you consider the fact that the other leading candidate, Donald Trump, is also deeply unpopular and could potentially be in prison come November for attempting to orchestrate a coup, among other things. Only four years younger than Biden, Trump has had his share of confusing ‘senior’ moments, most memorably claiming that Nikki Haley was in charge of Capitol security during the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol. Trying to predict how this upcoming election will go would induce stress ulcers in the most formidable political analyst, but one thing is true: most people don’t want to see a Trump v. Biden rematch.
The opinions expressed within this piece represent the views of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jefferson Independent.