Biden dismisses debate performance concerns and refuses independent cognitive test

Biden dismisses debate performance concerns and refuses independent cognitive test

Concerns about President Joe Biden’s age and cognitive abilities have been a topic of discussion for some time, but they intensified recently following the release of a special counsel’s report investigating his possession of classified documents. The report described the 81-year-old president’s memory as “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor,” and having “significant limitations.” It noted that Biden could not recall significant milestones in his life, such as the death of his son Beau or his tenure as vice president.

“My memory is fine,” Biden responded from the White House, visibly angered by the suggestion that he had forgotten when his son died. Beau Biden passed away from brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46. While Biden will not face charges for mishandling classified documents, the report’s assertions about his memory could undermine his message to voters that he is capable of managing the government and safeguarding the country. Voters are already entering this election year with severe misgivings about Biden’s age, scrutinizing his gaffes, coughing, slow walking, and even a tumble off his bicycle.

The report comes after a yearlong investigation into the improper retention of classified documents by Biden from his time as a senator and vice president. Although Biden was absolved of criminal behavior, the report’s findings could benefit former President Donald Trump, who is also under investigation for his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House.

Even as Biden defended himself, he committed another gaffe while discussing the Israel-Hamas War, mistakenly referring to Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah El-Sissi as “the president of Mexico.” The special counsel’s report suggested that prosecuting Biden for retaining highly classified materials would be difficult, as it would be challenging to convince a jury to convict an elderly former president of a serious felony requiring a mental state of willfulness.

Biden dismissed the report’s descriptions of his memory and his son’s death as “extraneous commentary” that had no place in the report. “How in the hell dare he raise that?” Biden said about the mention of his son’s death. He added, “Every Memorial Day we hold a service remembering him, attended by friends and family and the people who loved him. I don’t need anyone to remind me when he passed away.”

In response to reporters’ questions about his memory, Biden disputed the report’s statements and asserted that he is “the most qualified person in this country to be president.” The White House also pushed back on the characterizations of Biden’s memory in a letter from the president’s lawyers, arguing that Biden’s inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual.

The letter stated, “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.”

It is not unusual for subjects of government investigations to say they don’t recall an event or conversation to avoid issues such as perjury. The special counsel did not release the transcript of the interviews with Biden, so some context is unclear. Former President Donald Trump, the current Republican front-runner, has boasted of his own vast memory but has also at times said in legal proceedings that he does not recall certain events.

Biden noted in a statement that he had sat for five hours of interviews with the special counsel’s team over two days, even though he was handling an international crisis at the time. In an August poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs, 77% of U.S. adults said Biden is too old to be effective for four more years. This sentiment was shared by 89% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats.

The release of the report coincided with recent Biden speeches in which he mistakenly claimed to have talked with European leaders who had not held office since the 1990s and had died several years ago. The 77-year-old Trump also faces questions about recent memory lapses. In a January speech, Trump repeatedly confused former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley with Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

Republican critics were quick to react to the special counsel’s report. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., called the report “alarming” and said it was clear that Biden “does not have the cognitive ability to be President.” Alex Pfeiffer, a spokesman for Make America Great Again Inc., stated, “If you’re too senile to stand trial, then you’re too senile to be president. Joe Biden is unfit to lead this nation.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre downplayed Biden’s gaffes, stating that such slip-ups are common for most public figures, including those younger than Biden. “It happens to all of us,” Jean-Pierre said, noting that she herself has misspoken, as has House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. She emphasized that the public should focus more on the substance of what Biden was saying about world leaders’ concerns over Trump’s possible return to the White House.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Steven Horsford, D-Nev., dismissed concerns about Biden’s mental acuity, stating, “The president is very well suited to be our commander-in-chief and we’re going to continue to focus on the issues that the American people are focused on.”

Source: Associated Press, The Atlantic

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