Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Slurs On Biden’s Memory Low Blow By Unprofessional Lawyer

Phil Garber
9 min readFeb 11, 2024

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Eight months after he took office as president in 2017, trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accords, the monumental, international treaty on climate change signed by 195 members of the U.N.

In 2018, trump ordered the U.S. to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, a plan announced in 2015 that was the first major step toward ensuring that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. The plan was between Iran and the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the U.S., United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, Germany and the European Union.

Soon after taking office, trump formally withdrew the U.S. from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a landmark trade agreement between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The U.S. International Trade Commission, the Peterson Institute for International Economic, the World Bank and the chief economist at Global Affairs Canada determined the final agreement would have led to net positive outcomes for all signatories.

Last week, trump said if he is elected again, he will encourage Russia to do “whatever the hell they want” to members of NATO that trump views as not spending enough on their own defense.

The next day, Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., dismissed trump’s remarks on NATO. Rubio said he was confident that trump will not pull the U.S. out of the organization which was created as a bulwark to aggression in the aftermath of World War II, guaranteeing member states would defend each other against attacks by third parties.

At a campaign rally in Pennsylvania last week, trump slurred when he said the word “subsidies,” said “dino-dollars” instead of “dollars,” and said he doesn’t like being frontpage news every time he “said one word a little bit mispronunciation.”

Trump’s actions and comments were idiotic and bordering on deranged. Rubio’s reactions were those of a person in denial who cannot identify reality. Trump and Rubio are among the many Republicans who should be examined for psychological illnesses. But instead, President Joe Biden, who has captained the nation through excruciatingly difficult times, has been labeled as approaching senility by a lawyer who has no training in psychology or aging.

With the 77-year-old trump leading the charge, Republicans have long claimed that Biden at 81 years old is not competent to lead the nation. The drumbeat got an enormous boost last week when the author of a yearlong review cited Biden’s memory lapses and misstatements, inferring approaching senility.

Trump’s mental acuity also has been questioned because of his chronic lying, slurring of words and recent repeatedly confusing former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Republican rival Nikki Haley.

Trump has repeatedly insisted that proof of his mental health came when he passed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) in 2020. The test was created to help doctors detect the warning signs of the cognitive impairments that can lead to dementia. Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN that “If you think a dementia screening test is very difficult, you may have early dementia.” Trump said the test was very difficult and incorrectly claimed that only 2 percent of his MAGA followers could pass it.

Using the memory yardstick, trump and his daughter, Ivanka, have serious aging problems. During trump’s civil fraud trial, Ivanka said “I don’t recall” in response to 30 questions from lawyers. In depositions on the fraudulent trump University case, trump said he couldn’t remember 35 times.

In the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election, Trump responded in writing to special counsel Robert Mueller, saying he couldn’t remember anything.

The New York Times reported, “More than 30 times, he (trump) told the prosecutors that he had no memory of what they were asking about, employing several formulations to make the same point.” The Washington Post calculated trump’s memory faltered at least 37 times.

The latest questions over Biden’s mental status surfaced after results of a yearlong review were issued by Robert Hur, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to oversee the Department of Justice’s investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents during his time as vice president. Hur is a former U.S. Attorney with no formal education on ageing, dementia or related issues.

Hur determined that no criminal charges were warranted, in part, because a jury would not convict a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Hur went on to further impugn Biden by noting that the president could not recall the year his son, Beau, had died. Hur also said that Biden could not remember exactly what year his vice-presidential tenure began or ended, citing that as evidence his memory was “significantly limited.”

Hur’s inferences about Biden’s mental health were lay conjecture that have added to a perception that Biden is too old to lead the nation for another four years.

Experts said there are many reasons for memory lapses other than approaching senility or dementia. In Biden’s case, his apparent memory problems may have more to do with his lifelong battle with stuttering. People who stutter often try to find alternate words that are easier to speak, a process that becomes harder with natural aging.

Memory can be affected by various factors, outside of dementia or senility. One factor is stress, and it has been noted that the special counsel’s five-hour long interview was held shortly after Biden was notified that Israel had been attacked by Hamas in the worst carnage since the Holocaust.

On the morning of Oct. 8, Biden had spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as both leaders discussed how to rescue hostages taken by Hamas in its bloody attack the previous day. Biden pledged U.S. support while he had to balance aid while keeping the crisis from spiraling out of control.

Netanyahu on Sunday attested to Biden’s mental health.

“I’ve had more than a dozen phone conversations, extended phone conversations with President Biden,” Netanyahu said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.” “He also came on a visit to Israel during wartime, which is a historic first, and I found him very clear and very focused. We managed to agree on the war aims and on many things. Sometimes we had disagreements, but they weren’t borne of a lack of understanding on his part or my part. So that’s what I can tell you.”

Outgoing Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, had similar observations about Biden while also highlighting the numerous slip-ups of trump.

“I’ve worked with the president [Biden], and I haven’t seen anything that’s abnormal before,” Romney said. “It was like President Trump saying Nikki Haley three times instead of Nancy Pelosi. Sometimes you say the wrong word. The… 80s is kind of a tough time of thinking of running the country. And Donald Trump is not a lot younger.”

Shortly after the conversation with Netanyahu, Biden met with Hur and his staff for the interview over Biden’s handling of classified documents. Biden went on with the interview despite the overarching crisis in the middle east. Most of the interview involved questions about how secure information was stored and why it ended up in Biden’s garage and other areas.

After the report was disclosed, Biden’s lawyers said the comments about Biden’s memory were unfair.

“At the outset of the interview, you recognized that the questions you planned to ask ‘relate to events that happened years ago,’ but nonetheless expressed your hope that the president would ‘put forth [his] best efforts and really try to get [his] best recollection in response to the questions we ask,’” Biden’s attorneys wrote. “It is hardly fair to concede that the president would be asked about events years in the past, press him to give his ‘best’ recollections, and then fault him for his limited memory.”

First Lady Jill Biden responded angrily to Hur’s report that the president forgot the year of their son’s death. She said that the grief of losing a son is not measured “in years.”

“We should give everyone grace, and I can’t imagine someone would try to use our son’s death to score political points,” she wrote in the email. “If you’ve experienced a loss like that, you know that you don’t measure it in years — you measure it in grief. Believe me, like anyone who has lost a child, Beau and his death never leave him.”

Beau Biden died of a brain tumor on May 30, 2015, and his death was a major reason Biden cited for choosing not to run for president in 2016.

“May 30th is a day forever etched on our hearts,” Jill Biden said of Beau’s death. “It shattered me, it shattered our family. … What helped me, and what helped Joe, was to find purpose. That’s what keeps Joe going, serving you and the country we love.”

President Biden expressed outrage with the report in a press conference last week as reporters asked him whether he is still capable of running the White House.

“I am well-meaning. And I’m an elderly man. And I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president — I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden said of Hur.

A Feb. 10 report by the Washington Post found that “memory lapses at any age are surprisingly normal and for most people, aren’t a signal of mental decline.”

The Post interviewed several memory experts who said cognitive abilities cannot be gauged through anecdotes like those cited by Hur.

“Most of us have memory slips all the time,” said Earl K. Miller, professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “We can’t remember where we put our car keys. We can’t remember dates or names. But we don’t really notice the mistakes when we’re young. It’s when people get older that mistakes in memory seem to have more significance. Memory lapse really is normal at every stage of life.”

Sheena Josselyn, a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who studies memory, explained that as new memories are created, the brain prioritizes important memories, making it sometimes hard to recall less important details or events.

Josselyn said normal forgetfulness allows people to identify important knowledge from experiences as they age.

“We tend to lose the non-important things so we can extract the important principles,” Josselyn said. “Rather than remembering the time and details, we remember the concepts and the generalized principles.”

Miller said memories are not like computers and are subject to change each time a memory is accessed. Sometimes, when a person has new conversations about a memory or sees news footage related to it, the mind can recombine the experiences and wrongly store them as memories.

“Memory is never perfect even when it seems perfect,” said Miller. “We remember what we want to remember. That’s true for everyone at every stage of life. If we literally remembered everything, it would be too much for our brains. Our brains would be completely overwhelmed. We always have selective memory.”

Bradford Dickerson, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, who’s studied cognitive super-agers, said declines in the ability to remember are broad and common.

“There’s just not much cognitively that’s better in an 80-year-old than in a 20-year-old,” Dickerson said. “But word retrieval becomes more difficult with age, so people stumble while talking. It’s not that they don’t know what a word means, but retrieving it takes more time.”

Schacter said that remembering dates and names can be particularly difficult unless the memories are rehearsed and strengthened.

Memory for “when an event happened is something that for everyone, regardless of age, is one of the most vulnerable aspects of memory,” Schacter said. Names are also harder to recall because they “have no inherent meaning — they’re kind of arbitrary.”

The National Institute on Aging reported that as people grow older, they don’t remember information as well as they once did and aren’t able to recall it as quickly.

“They may also occasionally misplace things or forget to pay a bill. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not a serious memory problem,” the institute reported. “It’s normal to forget things once in a while at any age, but serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things such as driving, using the phone, and finding the way home.”

Symptoms of more serious issues include asking the same questions over and over again; getting lost in familiar places; having trouble following recipes or directions; becoming more confused about time, people, and places; and not taking personal care such as eating poorly, not bathing, or behaving unsafely.

Some older adults have a condition called mild cognitive impairment — MCI — meaning they have more memory or thinking problems than other people their age. People with MCI can usually take care of themselves and are able to carry out their day-to-day tasks. MCI may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.

Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging but dementia is not. Dementia includes the loss of cognitive functioning such as thinking, remembering, learning, and reasoning.

“Memory loss, though common, is not the only sign of dementia. People with dementia may also have problems with language skills, visual perception, or paying attention. Some people experience personality changes,” the institute reported.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer