Special counsel Robert Hur jolted the presidential campaign Thursday with a withering assessment of Joe Biden’s mental acuity, drawing the president’s biggest political liability firmly into the public conversation.
While Biden’s age is a major concern for voters in polling, top Democrats have danced around the issue, keeping their concerns mostly private. But Hur’s description of Biden, 81, in an official report as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” may force a new reckoning for the president.
Investigators found insufficient evidence to charge Biden for mishandling classified documents during his time as vice president but wrote his memory “appeared to have significant limitations” and that “he did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died” in 2015. Biden could not remember when he was vice president or the details of a debate about sending additional troops to Afghanistan, they said.
That scathing description came just as Biden’s aides were trying to explain away the president’s most recent verbal gaffes — in which he mixed up the heads of state and recalled recent conversations with world leaders who died long ago. [Continue reading…]
When President Biden appeared at a last-minute news conference on Thursday night, he hoped to assure the country of his mental acuity hours after a special counsel’s report had devastatingly referred to him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
Instead, a visibly angry Mr. Biden made the exact type of verbal flub that has kept Democrats so nervous for months, mistakenly referring to the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as the “president of Mexico” as he tried to address the latest developments in the war in Gaza.
The special counsel’s report and the president’s evening performance placed Mr. Biden’s advanced age, the singularly uncomfortable subject looming over his re-election bid, back at the center of America’s political conversation.
The 81-year-old president — already the oldest in the nation’s history — has for years fought the perception that he is a diminished figure. “My memory is fine,” he insisted on Thursday from the White House.
Yet in a single cutting phrase, 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 when Mr. Biden appears in public and the hopes of Republicans, especially former President Donald J. Trump and his allies. The Trump operation has made plain its intent to use Mr. Biden’s stiffer gait and sometimes garbled speech to cast him as weak. [Continue reading…]