Robert Hur Confirmed What Everybody Knows: Biden Is Old

President Joe Biden gives remarks in February 2024
Chris Kleponis - Pool via CNP/CNP / Polaris/Newscom

President Joe Biden endured one of his worst news cycles in recent memory last week, as special counsel Robert Hur announced he was declining to prosecute the president for mishandling classified documents. This was good news for Biden, in and of itself, but Hur's report on the matter portrayed Biden—perhaps unintentionally—as elderly, forgetful, and enfeebled. From a prosecutor's perspective, these qualities would make him a sympathetic defendant; from a voter's perspective, however, they obviously make him a less-than-ideal candidate for reelection.

The Hur report described the president as an "elderly man with a poor memory." During interviews with Hur, Biden was unable to state when his vice presidency began and ended; he also "did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died."

Biden was furious, and lashed out at Hur during a press conference on Friday to rebut charges that there was anything wrong with his memory. "How in the hell dare he raise that," said the president, who claimed he thought it was none of Hur's business.

There's just one problem with that: Hur did not ask Biden about the date of Beau's death, according to new reporting from NBC News. Per sources "familiar with Biden's view of the interview," it was the president—not Hur—who brought up the matter and used the incorrect date.

The public might be more inclined to give Biden a pass on this—remembering exact dates can be hard, even for nonoctogenarians—if the president hadn't made a strange habit of misstating the circumstances of Beau's death. In fact, Biden has repeatedly claimed that Beau died in Iraq. In reality, Beau succumbed to brain cancer and passed away at Walter Reed hospital in Maryland. Biden has occasionally blamed the cancer on Beau's proximity to hazardous burn pits while serving in Iraq, but that's obviously different from saying Beau died in Iraq. Biden's confusion on these points is sadly consistent.

It's not just Beau, of course. The president has made a number of erroneous statements recently, and it's hard not to wonder about his mental aptitude. He has confused current French President Emmanuel Macron and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel with deceased former heads of state François Mitterand and Helmut Kohl, respectively. It's one thing to say the wrong name and immediately correct yourself—Biden told entire anecdotes about the wrong individuals. Worse, he appeared to completely lose his train of thought while answering about a potential ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel. His attempts to find the right words became so painful that reporters at the press briefing felt compelled to chime in and assist.

The White House is steadfastly refusing to put such questions to rest by having Biden undergo a cognitive test; Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre nixed the idea on Monday.

Indeed, the position of the White House, top Democrats, and their supporters on cable news is that Biden is in tip-top shape both physically and mentally—and there is no need to explore the matter any further. Biden allies raged against Hur, calling him "the wrong choice" for the job and faulting him for "unseemly" conduct and engaging in an "abuse of power," and violating "norms and policies" of special counsels.

These criticisms came from Democratic-leaning pundits and commentators; news reporters, on the other hand, have been perfectly willing to ask tough questions about Biden's age. That's probably because they realize it's a legitimate campaign issue. Outside the bubble of the liberal commentariat, Biden's advanced age is very worrisome for voters. According to recent polling, three-quarters of overall voters, including 54 percent of Democrats, are concerned that he is too old to be president.

It's not just that Biden is already the oldest person to ever serve as president—it's that he is clearly showing his age. He loses his train of thought, he mixes up places and names, and these problems certainly appear like they are getting worse.

When Biden sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, he had to defeat a slew of other candidates. One can make the reasonable case that his victory demonstrated that he had effectively addressed Democratic primary voters' qualms. But this time around, the Democratic Party has made no meaningful effort to host a competitive primary. Biden has not participated in primary debates with Rep. Dean Phillips (D–Minn.) or self-help guru Marianne Williamson (who has dropped out of the race).

Given widespread concerns about Biden among his own party's voter base, it might have made sense to see whether an alternative candidate would fare better. The Democratic Party, however, remains steadfastly opposed to such an experiment—even as swing-state polling generally shows Biden losing the 2024 election to former President Donald Trump (albeit narrowly).

Team Biden may say that Hur's statements about the president's age and memory were uncalled for, but the bottom line is this: Just about everybody was thinking it.

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