The closer November and the US presidential election, the tougher the contest for the White House destination. Republican-controlled media outlets frequently report that the Democratic frontrunner and former Vice President Joe Biden, 77, is mentally incapable of acting as President. Against incumbent President Donald Trump seeking reelection such accusations have been made throughout his entire mandate and continue to this day. How much do the two major candidates for the 2020-24 presidency differ from each other?
Senior political analyst at Fox News Brit Hume recently said Biden was losing his memory and "getting senile." And Donald Trump Jr. claimed Biden had signs of Alzheimer's disease, i.e. dementia. What is this: a ruthless knock-out competition or statements of a medical fact, admittedly serving the same purpose?
During the previous election campaign, Trump said that his rival Hillary Clinton had no stamina to become President. So he appeared to be delicately hinting at Clinton's whimsical behavior in front of TV cameras (recall how she barked like a dog, joggled, incongruously made faces, etc.). Now Trump says the same thing about Biden – "he lacks the stamina to be president in 2020" – clearly alluding to his upside-down statements.
How did Biden "distinguish himself" in public? The Washington Post released an article with a list of numerous but by no means all the "bizarre" statements by the former Vice President and soon-to-be Democratic presidential candidate. The newspaper writes "there is plenty of cause for concern." Recently Biden mistook Super Tuesday for Super Thursday. In South Carolina, he misstated what office he was running for, declaring: "My name’s Joe Biden. I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate." In February, Biden claimed three times that he was arrested (!) in South Africa while trying to visit Nelson Mandela in prison – an incident his campaign later admitted never happened. He claimed to "have worked with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on the Paris Climate Accord," though Deng died in 1997 and the Paris Accord was signed in 2015. During a debate, he said that since 2007, "150 million people have been killed" by firearms in the United States, which is absurd, because it's nearly half of that country's population.
Here are more "verbal snafus". Biden said Democrats should "choose truth over facts," and that "poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids." He also said that his late son Joseph Robinette Biden "was the attorney general of the United States," though he served as the attorney general of Delaware during his lifetime. Biden confused former Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May with the late British PM Margaret Thatcher. And much more in the same strain.
Meanwhile, Trump himself, who is now 73, is a target of accusations about his mental health. Many Democrats have repeatedly accused the current President of "mental decline." Numerous media outlets, including the leading newspaper The New York Times, published articles urging Trump's removal from office because of his allegedly being "psychologically unfit". Most comments and arguments appeared on The New York Times pages in Trump's first year of presidency. And last year, 350 mental physicians filed a letter to the Congress claiming that President Trump's mental health is "impaired."
Naturally, most consumers of such information (or propaganda, may it please your honor) are not doctors, much more not mental health specialists. And beyond the immediacy of emotions, we can only say that both key US presidential contenders are well forward in years. And with age, some people are known to show signs of dementia. It is also conceivable that biting publications, like shots from both warring sides, are by no means the result of compassion and love for the person they accuse of mental illness. The author of a recent publication in Britain's Independent generally believes that the time has come for the Americans to stop talking about Biden's dementia. He writes the following: "Experiencing a mental health disorder – like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety – doesn’t mean a person is automatically unfit to hold public office, nor should it disqualify or hinder someone with those issues from running." By the way, according to the newspaper, "one in five American adults experience mental health issues."
It should be noted that the "gerontological issue" amid the struggle of the two most likely future candidates for US presidency is a real concern with the American society. Many newspapers recall President Ronald Reagan and his disastrous debate with Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale in 1984, when the 73-year-old Reagan was running for a second term. Then he floundered in the data and looked deplorable (but he still won the election). Back in those days, the American press overemphasized that Reagan got confused about his numbers and didn't seem mentally prepared when considering Mr. Mondale's arguments. In the meantime, The Wall Street Journal wrote that 10 percent of people aged 75 suffered from significant mental disorders – senile dementia or senility. When the next debate took place, Reagan turned his failure at the first meeting with Mondale into success. He said a phrase that became famous and brought him victory: "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Reagan wriggled out as good as it gets! Meanwhile, ten years later, Reagan announced to the world that he had Alzheimer's disease, which affords the Republicans ground to fling mud at Biden, while the Democrats get a chance to foul the reputation of Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, it seems that senile dementia in a candidate, if present at all, should still be considered an obstacle for incoming presidents in any country, and particularly in those possessing nuclear weapons. This is twice as important for the United States with its claims to dominating the international arena. The vast majority of people in the world are undoubtedly far from wanting to poke fun at the mental health of elderly US presidential candidates. All the countries, including Russia, will have to work with any of them, no matter who wins the upcoming race.
However, is it easy to anticipate the situation and the sequence of events when dealing with an inadequate leader? Is it easy to bet that he does not confuse buttons in his "nuclear briefcase"? As for Biden, who seems to be attracting more attention than Trump with his eccentric statements, it remains to be assumed what the Democrats are plotting for Biden if he becomes president – a reputable team of advisers, aides and speechwriters. When the time is right, they will hopefully pluck him by the sleeve and prompt when to open his mouth and when to be silent. But that's not the point. The only thing that matters is that they keep the "nuclear briefcase" away from the head of state.