Writing under the handle “Bronxiniowa,” Ira Lacher, who actually hails from the Bronx, New York, is a longtime journalism, marketing, and public relations professional.
Forget that the special counsel’s report confirmed that his investigation found President Joe Biden committed no crimes.
Forget that the investigation was conducted by a Republican—a Trump administration U.S. attorney—and that all Republicans are pledged to march behind Trump like the rats of Hamlin behind the Pied Piper.
Forget that more Americans are getting hired, that gas prices are lower, along with inflation in general, and that Republicans seem as able to govern as a team of college freshmen might beat the Denver Nuggets.
But when the man confuses the president of Mexico with the president of Egypt—during a news conference intended to rebuff assertions that he can’t remember things at his advanced age—it’s time to lovingly do for him what we would for a seriously aging parent we worry about: take away their car keys.
Biden’s aides know it. Thursday’s news conference was an aberration: Biden doesn’t appear at events where he might stumble without the aid of a prompter.
Perception is reality, unfortunately, and has been so even before America became a country of who’s-reality-is-it. Even in those halcyon days, when most everyone who wasn’t committed within padded walls could agree on what was a fact, perception ruled when it came to presidents.
Lyndon Johnson wasn’t the guy who spearheaded equal rights and healthcare for seniors; he was the man who was killing babies in Vietnam. Richard Nixon wasn’t the guy who created the Environmental Protection Agency, established wage and price controls and opened up China; he was the guy who lied about covering up Watergate. Jimmy Carter wasn’t the guy who brought Menachem Begin and Yasir Arafat together at Camp David; he was the guy who couldn’t rescue the hostages from Iran. And so on.
What do those presidents have in common? All lost credibility with the American public. Johnson withdrew from the 1968 race instead of losing in a landslide in November. His vice president, Hubert Humphrey, did bow, to Nixon. Who had to resign before he was impeached and likely removed from office. And Carter did lose, overwhelmingly, to Ronald Reagan in 1980.
And now, Joe Biden.
Joe Biden has done wonderful things for Americans. He launched the American Rescue Plan, which put $1.9 trillion into Americans’ pockets to offset the extreme cost of the COVID-19 pandemic. His bipartisan infrastructure bill is already pumping cash into states to repair dangerously decaying bridges, highways and railroad beds. Among other accomplishments, his Inflation Reduction Act stands to reduce the cost of many prescription drugs. And his administration has committed more than 135 billion dollars to relieve onerous student debt.
But that’s reality, not the world we live in.
We live in Cole Porter’s world of “Anything Goes,” where tens of millions of Americans believe that good is bad, day is night, and black is white, based on the exhortations of Biden’s overwhelmingly likely opponent in the November election. Like moviedom’s Terminator, Donald J. Trump will not stop haranguing on the question of Joe Biden’s mental competency until it becomes the single most critical—hell, maybe the only—election issue.
“The most damaging things in politics,” former Obama image guru David Axelrod told The New York Times, “are the things that confirm people’s pre-existing suspicions, and those are the things that travel very fast.”
In the same article, former Bill Clinton adviser and uber-Democrat James Carville, had to agree. “The public does not view [Biden’s] age as—that’s not a Fox News issue,” Carville told reporters Shane Goldmacher, Reid J. Epstein, and Katie Glueck. “It’s not a Taylor Swift rigging the Super Bowl kind of thing. … The whole day was confirming an existing suspicion.”
Yes, yes, we hear the arguments from Biden defenders: There are months to go before the election. Trump himself is no Mensa member, having recently he confused South Carolina governor and GOP presidential rival Niki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and declared that Obama was the current president. But don’t forget: Trump can do or say no wrong, according to his GOP minions and fellow travelers. He is the quintessential con man, a Lex Luthor-like genius who could sell white elephants to P. T. Barnum.
We also hear from loyal Bidenistas that this late in the campaign—hey, only eight months, baby—no one could step into the role of Democratic standard bearer. Vice President Kamala Harris’ approval ratings, they point out, are lower than Biden’s. Gavin Newsom, despite being a capable leader who has bridged the aisle of his state and is a persuasive debater and speaker, comes from the hyper-progressive state of California and, therefore, is anathema to Heartland independents. And after that, the Democratic possibilities hail from the classroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Anyone? Anyone?”
But make no mistake: Biden had an opportunity to refute the special counsel’s report and screwed up, in front of the White House press corps. It was like the scene in the Star Trek original series episode “The Deadly Years,” when Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Doctor McCoy rapidly age because of an alien disease. During a hearing to determine whether Kirk remains mentally competent, he blows elementary questions such as which planet the U.S.S. Enterprise is orbiting, sealing the decision to relieve him of command. Of course, McCoy comes up with an antidote, enabling Kirk to defeat the Klingons through sheer brain power, and the Enterprise warps off to its next adventure.
There’s no such antidote coming here.
Besides all the things Joe Biden has already done for tens of millions of Americans, he could vaporize Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un, stop the war in Gaza, and cure cancer, all before Sunday’s Super Bowl kicks off. And come election day, the public would still remember only “sleepy Joe.” That’s one memory America doesn’t need. Take away the car keys. Now.