It’s clear that Joe Biden is showing signs of mental aging: his speech is garbled, his sentences diverge into asides without coherence, and his numbers and names are scrambled in laughable ways (“We have 120 million dead from COVID!” he informed Americans last month).
Biden, who was first elected to the Senate 48 years ago, has been known for decades for his verbal gaffes. Democrats usually exploit this flaw to explain away their presidential candidate’s confused speech, claiming his lackluster abilities are evidence of a life-long quirk rather than a sign of cognitive decline.
“It’s not a product of age; it’s just who he is,” wrote Paul Waldman in the Washington Post last April.
But the real story is that Biden has not always spoken with such jumbled sentences. He was once a talented orator who spoke smoothly and emanated confidence. Yes, he made gaffes and shot himself in the foot with concerning statements, but that was far outweighed by his expressiveness and ability to connect with audiences.
In fact, Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory said in 1986 that Biden “is much in demand as a star speaker, one guaranteed to rouse Democrats.”
Biden, she wrote, has a “capacity for stirring sparks in the burned-out and broken-hearted.”
A state congressman even proclaimed that Biden’s campaign speech for the 1988 presidential primary was “the finest political speech I ever heard.” Of course, Biden was accused of plagiarizing a speech in 1987, so some of that smooth talk may have come from other sources.
If you watch videos of Biden giving speeches and interviews from the beginning of his career until today, you can see that Biden has arrived at a point where the quality of his speeches in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s totally transcends that of his speeches today. Biden’s once-polished speeches have morphed into painful-to-get-through, verbally confusing, and slurred diatribes.
The total reversal strongly suggests that Biden’s poor speaking abilities today are a product of aging rather than a lifetime of ineptitude.
In 1987, Biden presided over the confirmation hearings of Judge Robert H. Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Videos of the hearing show a very different Biden — a Biden who commands the room with quick and lucid speech.
“I believe,” said Biden at the hearing, “the American people have a genuine and justifiable fear of government intrusion in what they instinctively know is going to be an ever more intrusive world.”
If you listen to the tape, it’s hard to place that Biden, the one who speaks with confidence, as the same Biden who is running for president by posting uninspiring teleprompted speeches to his YouTube channel.
Wednesday, for instance, Biden spoke to voters this incoherent sentence: “Lonnie knows I believe this every fiber of my being: we’re posed — what, what I propose is, is it can be done. I think we’re in a position to really make it happen … look — I guess I’m, I’m getting, I’m, I’m taking too much time, but you know … ”
Another example of the younger Biden’s speaking skills can be seen in a speech he delivered in 1992 in opposition to the naming of a Supreme Court justice during an election year. Biden’s speech is effortless. He’s forceful, and he speaks without hesitation.
“It would be our pragmatic conclusion,” he said, “that once the political season is underway, and it is, action on a Supreme Court nomination must be put off until after the election campaign is over.”
But by the mid-2000s, Biden’s speaking abilities had already started to decline, largely driven by worse gaffes, but also characterized by clumsy speech.
In 2008, the New York Times wrote, “Senator Joseph Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, is an experienced, serious and smart man. But he does say some curious things.”
Biden, at age 66, had recently said he was running for president, mixed up army brigades with battalions, and referred to Sarah Palin as the lieutenant governor of Alaska, according to the New York Times.
Worse, in 2007, Biden said of Barack Obama: “I mean you’ve got the first sort of mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
Biden’s speaking abilities continued to decline over his tenure as vice president, leading former Speaker Paul Ryan to note at the 2012 vice presidential debate, “I think the Vice President very much knows that sometimes, the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
Biden spoke with vigor at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, but by the 2016 Democratic National Convention, much of his speech seemed to be slurred. Slurred speech is not necessarily attributable to cognitive decline, as it could simply be a consequence of dental work.
At the 2016 convention, however, Biden was also noticeably less impressive in his sentences and phrasing than at the 2008 convention. At times during the convention in 2016, the 74-year-old’s voice seemed to be giving out, and his command of the speech less sure.
Biden’s eloquence has deteriorated in particular over the past year. When he began his campaign with a speech in Philadelphia in May 2019, he spoke assuredly for over half an hour, albeit strangely at times and with simpler sentences. Now, Biden gives short and teleprompted speeches from his basement where he often has jumbled speech, is confused on basic questions, and gives inappropriate remarks.
The jumbled speech often leaves voters wondering what Biden means to convey.
Speaking on the coronavirus for an interview with the View in March, Biden said, “We have to take care of the cure. That will make the problem worse no matter what — no matter what.”
In an April ABC interview, Biden said, “We have never, never let our democracy sakes second fiddle a way that we can both have a democracy and elections and at the same time, correct the public health.”
At a CNBC interview in May from his basement, Biden said, “I mean we should be invested, we, we should become the net exporter of the new technology by investing the 40 billion dollars in the, the, the 400 billion dollars I’m proposing in research and development for new ways to absorb carbon.”
He has also voiced bizarre and inappropriate remarks, like telling an African American radio host in May, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” However, some considered this statement to be just a continuation of Biden’s condescending attitude towards black voters rather than evidence of impairment.
And of course, there was his reading of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women created by, go, you know, you know, the thing.”
Even before being forced to Biden’s basement, the campaign had transitioned to fewer appearances and shorter speeches in what many saw as an attempt to cut down on the gaffes. This strongly suggests that Biden’s abilities are not what they used to be.
In his final weekend of campaigning on the trail before the shutdowns hit the United States in March, Biden delivered three speeches. One clocked in at seven minutes, another at 12 minutes, and a third at 14 minutes. Biden was reading from a teleprompter, yet he still managed to err by attacking the former governor of Mississippi for not implementing Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all program, which Biden is officially opposed to.
Worse than these verbal mistakes, towards the end of Biden’s in-person campaign he began lashing out at voters aggressively.
“You’re a lying dog-faced pony soldier,” Biden told a college student in February who said she had attended an Iowa caucus.
More bizarrely, Biden had an aggressive verbal altercation with a Michigan factory worker who challenged him on his decision to have former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke lead his gun control efforts.
“You’re full of sh**!” Biden told the factory worker in early March.
A campaign worker attempted to stop the altercation, but Biden put his hand in front of the campaign worker’s face, said “shush” to her, and continued to give an impassioned response.
“I support the Second Amendment, and it’s like right now if you yell fire, that’s not free speech, and from the very beginning I have a shotgun, I have a 20 gauge, a 12 gauge, my sons hunt. Guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapons? I’m not taking your gun away, at all.”
Biden continued, wagging his finger in the worker’s face. “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” he said, “we’ll take your AR-14s away.”
The worker said, “This is not okay, alright?” while gesturing towards Biden’s hand in his face.
“Don’t try me pal,” Biden responded.
Despite all the headaches, Biden has had some impressive moments during the campaign. For instance, his performance at the final Democratic debate and his victory speech in South Carolina were strong showings. At the final debate, Biden referred to the coronavirus as “SARS,” yet he still was insistent and took control. In the South Carolina victory speech, Biden was fired up. He spoke emotionally about what it means to be an American and got the crowd cheering.
But on the whole, Biden’s campaign appearances have shown a man who is past his prime. He doesn’t just look like he’s getting older; he seems like he’s cognitively aging.
A June 29 Rasmussen Reports poll found that 38 percent of likely voters believe Biden is suffering from some form of dementia, including 20 percent of Democratic voters. Additionally, the poll found that 60 percent of young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 believe it is likely that Biden is suffering from dementia. Many voters, it seems, are observing that Biden is in cognitive decline.
The question of whether or not Biden’s cognitive abilities have sunk to the point that they would greatly hinder him in carrying out the duties of the office of the president of the United States is of great consequence. The holder of the office will have the role of leading the fight against the coronavirus, protecting our country from foreign adversaries, bringing us out of our economic depression, and representing the United States on the world stage.
Voters can observe that Biden has mentally aged, but it is difficult to discern the extent of his cognitive decline. Is it especially difficult because Biden’s campaign appearances are beamed out of his basement, where he uses a teleprompter and can often try multiple attempts at a video before publishing it.
The need for addressing Biden’s cognitive decline is not lost on the American public. Sixty-one percent of voters believe it is important for Biden to address the issue of dementia, according to the Rasmussen Reports poll.
Biden claimed in a press conference last week that he is “constantly tested” for cognitive decline, adding that he could “hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I’m running against.” Biden has committed to three presidential debates.
Yet the campaign has refused to publish those results. Biden promised to do as much last September when he said he would publish his full medical history, according to The Hill. To date, Biden has only released some details of a physical conducted in December. No materials have been released on his cognitive condition.
The American public should not be left guessing how low Biden’s mental capabilities have fallen. Americans should hear a medical opinion on the status of Biden’s cognitive condition. Regarding a man who will be 78 years old when he takes office, it’s just common sense.
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