President Joe Biden has probably had one of the most difficult weeks of his political life, with his mental acuity called into question by a special counsel report detailing instances of memory lapses.
Special counsel Robert Hur’s report, issued Thursday, found evidence that President Biden “willfully retained” and shared highly classified information after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen, but determined that evidence didn’t support charging the president.
In his 388-page report to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Mr. Hur also included a highly critical evaluation of the 81-year-old president’s mental fitness, describing him as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
The report referred to the president’s memory as “hazy,” “significantly limited,” “faulty,” and “poor.”
The White House attacked the report’s findings about the president’s memory, calling them “gratuitous” and “politically motivated.”
During an interview with the special counsel’s office, President Biden displayed poor memory, as he couldn’t recall the start or end of his vice presidency, the report said.
President Biden also struggled to recall significant events, such as the timing of his son Beau’s death and details about important matters like the Afghanistan debate, according to the report.
Vice President Kamala Harris blasted the special counsel as being “wrong on the facts” in response to a reporter’s question.
“Listen, I have been privileged and proud to serve as Vice President of the United States with Joe Biden as President of the United States. And what I saw of that report last night, I believe, as a former prosecutor, the comments that were made by that prosecutor: gratuitous, inaccurate, and inappropriate,” she said on Friday.
“So, the way that the President’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and, clearly, politically motivated,” she added.
Ian Sams, a spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, declined to describe Mr. Hur’s motivation directly but claimed that the special counsel’s views might be influenced by political pressure from Republicans.
“The gratuitous comments in the report are troubling, and they’re inappropriate,” he told reporters during a press briefing on Friday.
Mr. Garland appointed Mr. Hur as special counsel in January 2023 to lead the probe into President Biden’s handling of classified documents. He is a former federal prosecutor with a “long and distinguished career,” Mr. Garland said of him at the time.
‘My Memory is Fine’
President Biden was visiting the House Democratic retreat in Virginia when the report was released on Thursday afternoon.
After the comments from the special counsel hit the headlines, the president hurriedly summoned a press conference that evening to address the growing concerns surrounding his age and memory.
“My memory is fine,” President Biden said angrily amidst intense questioning from the press.
He slammed the special counsel for questioning his mental acuity and became upset while responding to the report’s comments about his recollection of when his son died.
“How in the hell dare he raise that?” he said.
He also fired back at FOX News’ Peter Doocy, saying, “My memory is so bad, I let you speak.”
Later, the Biden campaign used the video clip featuring that question and answer for its advertisement.
Critics argue that former President Donald Trump doesn’t face as much media scrutiny regarding mental acuity or verbal blunders as President Biden does. They assert that the former president, who is the GOP frontrunner, has also exhibited troubling instances of confusion, such as recently mixing up Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi.
“I support candidates based on their policies and policy results, not pronunciation,” Ann Lewis, a Democratic strategist and former White House communications director under the Clinton administration, told The Epoch Times. “That’s why I enthusiastically support Joe Biden.”
It was a challenging week for President Biden. Before the special counsel’s report, he faced media scrutiny for mentioning deceased European leaders while discussing recent conversations with his global counterparts.
President Biden, in a speech on Feb. 4, confused French President Emmanuel Macron with deceased French leader François Mitterrand. He also mixed up former Chancellor Angela Merkel with deceased German leader Helmut Kohl on Feb. 7.
While defending his memory on Thursday evening, he also mixed up the leaders of Mexico and Egypt, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the “president of Mexico.”
Lately, there has been much speculation regarding whether the president has dementia. According to Roger Klein, a doctor and former advisor to the Department of Health and Human Services, the president’s behavior is “very concerning.”
“Without really examining him and talking to him directly, it’s hard to make a definitive statement,” Mr. Klein told The Epoch Times.
“For example, the presidency is a very tough job, and he could be fatigued. So, I don’t want to make definitive pronouncements, but it’s very suspicious and very concerning,” he said.
“It’s suspicious for—especially in the context of his overall appearance and his facial expressions—cognitive decline or dementia,” he added.
President Biden is the oldest sitting president in American history. If he wins reelection, he’ll be 86 by the end of his second term.
Nearly 76 percent of voters, including half of Democrats, say they have concerns about President Biden’s lack of mental and physical fitness to be president for a second term, according to the latest NBC News poll.
In contrast, when asked about President Trump’s eligibility for a second term at the age of 77, 48 percent expressed similar concerns.
Past Presidents’ Mental Health
It’s not uncommon for presidents to face scrutiny regarding their health, says David Pietrusza, a presidential historian.
For example, he recalled Woodrow Wilson famously suffering a series of strokes that led to his incapacitation in 1919–1920. Dwight Eisenhower also endured a heart attack in 1955 and ileitis surgery in June 1956. Furthermore, observers raised doubts about Ronald Reagan’s mental abilities towards the end of his first term.
Both Ike and President Reagan won reelection in landslides, he said.
“No president aside from Mr. Biden has suffered the indignity of having his mental capacities and age so harshly questioned in an official document publicly released by his own administration,” Mr. Pietrusza told The Epoch Times.
And none have had to publicly fend off media questions about their capacity in the manner that President Biden has, he noted.
“Frankly, I was stunned by yesterday’s events,” he said.
According to John Gizzi, a veteran White House correspondent and Newsmax’s chief political columnist, the closest he has ever seen a president’s cognitive ability questioned was in 1987, when 76-year-old President Reagan came under fire. President Reagan stated that he had no recollection of ever being informed that profits from Iran weapons sales were diverted to the Nicaraguan contras, which became known as the Iran-Contra scandal.
“In the weeks and months ahead, Reagan would deliver a much-praised State of the Union address, hold at least one press conference, and do several sit-down interviews. His popularity rose, and questions faded about his mental status,” Mr. Gizzi told The Epoch Times.
“He and his staff dealt with a matter in which questions about his mental condition could have metastasized but instead were put to rest.”
Now, the question remains whether President Biden and his staff can dispel the recent doubts about his mental acuity ahead of the 2024 election.
“He’s going to have difficulty overcoming these problems,” says Mr. Klein.
“His strategy has been not to put himself in positions where he’s unscripted in public,” he said.
He believes that engaging with tough journalists and responding to challenging questions in an unscripted manner is the most effective method for the president to rebuild confidence.
Jackson Richman contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times.