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‘Well-Meaning, Elderly Man With A Poor Memory’ Doing Very Well

Phil Garber
8 min readFeb 9, 2024

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Joe Biden, that “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” has done amazingly darn well during his three years in the White House.

Special Counsel Robert Hur offered his characterization of Biden as part of his voluminous report over Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified information that was issued on Thursday. The degrading depiction is particularly ironic, given the current Republican Congress’s historically dismal record and equally historical disfunction and the documented nightmare of Donald trump’s four years as president. Trump is the Republican Party’s likely candidate to face Biden in the 2024 presidential election.

A better description of the 81-year-old Biden would have been the Leroy “Saitchel” Paige of the White House. Paige, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, pitched for five decades in the Negro League and Major League. At the ripe age of 42, Paige made his debut for the Cleveland Indians, the oldest rookie in National League or American League history. He was 59 when he played his last Major League game, a record that still stands.

Biden’s achievements are that more impressive given the overt hostility of the Republican majority in the House and a 50–50 tie in the Senate which can only be broken by a vote of the vice president.

Biden accomplishments were impressive, notwithstanding those of President Franklin D. Roosevelt whose legislation led the nation out of the Great Depression. And they may not be as numerous as the number of laws signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson who secured the Civil rights Act and Voting Rights Act in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Biden has been hamstrung by the outright wrath of Republicans, led by former president trump. In comparison, upon his election, Roosevelt had 313 Democrats in the House and a 59–36 edge in the Senate. Johnson’s support was equally impressive with his 1964 election, with a 295–140 advantage in the House and a 68–32 margin in the Senate.

In his summation of the Biden investigation, Hur said that he concluded “that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter.”

Among the classified materials retained by Biden was a 2009 handwritten memo about his strong opposition to escalating American involvement in Afghanistan. In the memo to President Barak Obama, Biden wrote that he feared the U.S. would repeat the mistakes of the Vietnam War if the war in Afghanistan was increased.

“Despite Mr. Biden’s advice, President Obama ordered a surge of additional U.S. troops, and Mr. Biden’s views endured sharp criticism from others within and outside of the administration,” Hur wrote. “But he (Biden) always believed history would prove him right.”

Hur wrote that his investigation uncovered evidence that Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen.” FBI agents recovered the materials from the garage, offices, and basement den in Biden’s Wilmington, Del., home.

The report says that Biden allowed a ghostwriter working on Biden’s book, “Promise Me, Dad,” to view notebooks with classified information, including the memo to Obama, but “To our knowledge, no one has identified any classified information published in ‘Promise Me, Dad.’”

Biden told Hur that, as vice president and president, he was authorized to keep classified documents at home.

“The best case for charges would rely on Mr. Biden’s possession of the Afghanistan documents in his Virginia home in February 2017 when he was a private citizen and when he told his ghostwriter he had just found classified materials.” Hur wrote.
Hur noted that “for a person who had viewed classified documents nearly every day for eight years as vice president, including regularly in his home, finding classified documents at home less than a month after leaving office could have been an unremarkable and forgettable event.”

During interviews with Hur, Biden emphatically declared that his notebooks are “my property” and that “every president before me has done the exact same thing,” that is, kept handwritten classified materials after leaving office.

Hur wrote that Reagan left the White House in 1989 with eight years’ worth of handwritten diaries, which he appears to have kept at his California home even though they contained Top Secret information. According to Hur’s report, during a criminal litigation involving a former Reagan administration official in 1989 and 1990, the Department of Justice stated in public court filings that the “currently classified” diaries were Reagan’s “personal records.”

“Yet we know of no steps the Department or other agencies took to investigate Mr. Reagan for mishandling classified information or to retrieve or secure his diaries,” Hur wrote. “Historically, after leaving office, many former presidents and vice presidents have knowingly taken home sensitive materials related to national security from their administrations without being charged with crimes.”

Hur wrote that trump is the only former president to be prosecuted for mishandling classified documents. He said the major difference with the Biden situation is that “Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite.”

As a reminder, here are the major bills that the “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” was able to pass and sign.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan, is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

The act provided for direct economic stimulus payments to individual taxpayers with incomes of $75,000 or less. It also allocated $350 billion in assistance to state and local governments, $14 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, and $130 billion to schools to help them safely re-open for in-person instruction. The Act included $300 billion in unemployment benefits that were scheduled to extend through Labor Day 2021, as well as an expanded child tax credit. In addition, the Act called for the distribution of $50 billion to small businesses and another $25 billion for relief for small and mid-sized restaurants. The Act expanded eligibility for Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies and gave states incentives to expand Medicaid.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, most commonly known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law was initially a $547billion to $715 billion infrastructure package that included provisions related to federal highway aid, transit, highway safety, motor carrier, research, hazardous materials and rail programs of the Department of Transportation. After congressional negotiations, it was amended and renamed to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to include funding for broadband access, clean water and electric grid renewal in addition to the transportation and road proposals of the original House bill. The amended version included around $1.2 trillion in spending, with $550 billion in newly authorized spending on top of what Congress was planning to authorize regularly.

The Inflation Reduction Act law allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices, extends Affordable Care Act subsidies, addresses climate change and impose higher taxes on the largest corporations. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), the law will raise $738 billion from tax reform and prescription drug reform to lower prices, as well as authorize $891 billion in total spending — including $783 billion on energy and climate change, and three years of Affordable Care Act subsidies. The law represents the largest investment into addressing climate change in United States history.

The CHIPS (short for “Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors”) and Science Act authorizes roughly $280 billion, including $52.7 billion to boost domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States. The act includes $39 billion in subsidies for chip manufacturing on U.S. soil along with 25 percent investment tax credits for costs of manufacturing equipment, and $13 billion for semiconductor research and workforce training, with the dual aim of strengthening American supply chain resilience and countering China. It also invests $174 billion in public sector research in science and technology, including in NASA, the DOE, and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first federal gun control legislation enacted in 28 years, was passed in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, N.Y., and Uvalde, Texas. It implemented changes to the mental health system, school safety programs, and gun control laws. Gun control laws in the bill extended background checks for firearm purchasers under the age of 21, clarification of Federal Firearms License requirements, funding for state red flag laws and other crisis intervention programs, further criminalization of arms trafficking and straw purchases, and partial closure of the boyfriend loophole which allowed physically abusive ex-romantic partners and stalkers with previous convictions or restraining orders to access guns.

Additionally, Biden has been a world leader in marshalling support for Ukraine’s effort to defeat the Russian invasion. Congress has spent $113 billion to help Ukraine but current added funding is stymied by Republican opposition to the funding and an attached border security law.

Other progress led by Biden includes:

The Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, also known as the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, aims to provide timely benefits and services to more than 5 million veterans across all generations who may have been impacted by toxic substances while serving in the military. The act expands and extends eligibility for VA health care to veterans with toxic exposures and veterans from the Vietnam, Gulf War and post 9–11 eras.

The Violence Against Women Act, which had expired, was reauthorized along with two bills addressing sex abuse. Among other measures, the act reauthorizes all current VAWA grant programs until 2027; expands special criminal jurisdiction of Tribal courts to cover non-Native perpetrators of sexual assault, child abuse, stalking, sex trafficking, and assaults on tribal law enforcement officers on tribal lands; increases services and support for survivors from underserved and marginalized communities, including for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking; funding survivor-centered, community-based restorative practice services; and increasing support for culturally specific services and services in rural communities.

The act also establishes a federal civil cause of action for individuals whose intimate visual images are disclosed without their consent, allowing a victim to recover damages and legal fees; creates a new National Resource Center on Cybercrimes Against Individuals; and supports State, Tribal, and local government efforts to prevent and prosecute cybercrimes, including cyberstalking and the nonconsensual distribution of intimate images.

The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act attacks on Asian Americans partly by increasing access to the reporting of hate crimes and expediting the review of hate crimes related to COVID-19.

The Postal Service Reform Act of 2022 lifts budget requirements imposed on the Service by the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and require it to continue six day a week delivery of mail.

Other bills levied sanctions in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the Ending Importation of Russian Oil Act; the Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act, and a ban on imports from the region of China where the Chinese government is widely believed to be repressing the Uyghur ethnic minority.

The Emmett Till Antilynching Act makes lynching a federal hate crime.

The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act designates a federal holiday for Juneteenth, marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans on June 19 every year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, mandating higher targets for new cars and light trucks for model years 2023 to 2026.

The nation rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent from where they were in 2005 by the year 2030.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer