Why the Democrats lied about Joe Biden’s frailty

The presidential debate has exposed the ruthlessness of the American establishment.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics USA

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So this is how republics die. Not with a bang but with the hoarse ramblings of their ageing leaders. Few events have shone a light on ‘American decline’ as much as Joe Biden’s sad, impassive performance in last night’s CNN presidential debate. Here was the leader of the free world speaking in faint, broken tones, and struggling to stay focussed, and at points seeming to blank out entirely. Before the eyes of the world, it became clear: this man is too old, too frail and too infirm to be at the helm of America.

And yet, Old Joe’s physical infirmity is not the thing that should horrify us. Everyone ages, everyone withers. No, it is the moral infirmity of the Democratic establishment that is truly chilling. It is those who are so bent on power that they’ll force a frail man on to the world stage to do their bidding who deserve our ire. It is the media movers and shakers who said ‘Joe is fine’, and who damned the concerned as ageist cranks, who have behaved atrociously. Behind Biden’s physical decay is the far graver problem of the moral decay of a ruling class that will lie, gaslight and bully just to stay on top.

The debate was a dreadful spectacle. No one can now deny that Biden is not fit for the highest office in the Western world. Even Donald Trump seemed to put a lid on his usual piss-taking, perhaps clocking that Biden’s decline is now too serious for wisecracks. Although at one point, after Biden breathlessly mumbled something about border control, Trump snuck in a jibe: ‘I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said, either.’ The vacant, doleful look on Biden’s face in response to Trump’s swipe was painful to see.

At times, Biden glitched completely. Fourteen minutes into proceedings, and then again 22 minutes into proceedings, his mental faculties seemed to betray him and he just stalled. The moderator, Jake Tapper, had to save him at one point, delivering a merciful ‘Thank you, Mr President’ after he malfunctioned during a muddled commentary on Covid or Medicare or something. He even fluffed his attack on Trump over his lack of physical prowess. ‘You can see he is six feet five and only 224 pounds. Or 20… 30… five pounds’, he said, weakly, strangely. In trying to land a blow on Trump over alleged ill-health, he hurt only himself.

But the glitches and gaffes (at one point he said ‘We finally beat Medicare’, which is an odd way to talk about a health policy loved by Dems) were not the worst thing. No, it was his general demeanour that will have alarmed viewers. He was ‘white as a sheet’, as one observer put it. His voice was puny, bordering on inaudible. At times he was flat-out expressionless – ‘blank, like those painted eggs where they have sucked out everything inside’, said Charles Lipson. He was a shadow of his old self, and you found yourself wondering if he’d make it to the end of the debate, never mind through another four years of steering the free world.

It was so bad that even the liberal media, like groundhogs finally stirring from hibernation, piped up and said: ‘Is there something wrong here?’ The kind of people who said ‘Joe is fine’ as he stuttered and stumbled through speeches and meetings are now wondering if actually Joe might be knackered. Overnight, the New York Times has been gripped by dread over Biden’s health. ‘Biden cannot go on like this’, says one headline. ‘He must bow out of the race’, says another. This is the same New York Times which just last year was thundering against ‘the manufactured panic over Biden’s age’. When us plebs raise concerns about Biden’s wellbeing, it’s fabricated crap. When the Old Grey Lady does it, it’s legit.

The panic now sweeping through Democratic circles feels enraging. You want to shout: ‘Where have you people been?’ ‘Democrats panic as Biden stumbles in bad-tempered debate with Trump’, says the Financial Times (‘stumbles’ – still with the euphemisms). Dem bigwig Van Jones says Biden ‘didn’t do well at all’ and should now consider ‘taking a different course’. Seeing him so scrambled was ‘personally painful’, said Jones. According to reports, party strategists are discussing the possibility of replacing Biden ahead of the election. That noise you can hear is the scales falling from a thousand eyes.

These overnight worriers for Biden’s wellbeing are utterly without shame. For all of them belong to that credentialled class that has either been content to ignore the blazing signs of Biden’s waning health or have actively conspired in playing it down. For years these people gaslit the American populace. Biden’s in tip-top shape, they said, as if millions of Americans haven’t nursed old relatives through the twilight years and seen with their own eyes what age can do. Just three months ago, CNN’s own one-time White House correspondent, John Harwood, damned the talk of Biden’s ‘alleged mental decline’ as ‘utter bullshit’. Now CNN platforms a presidential debate in which that mental decline becomes abundantly, terribly clear.

In truth, the ‘utter bullshit’ came not from people concerned for Biden’s health, but from an establishment hell-bent on disguising Biden’s withering. Their gaslighting was ceaseless. When a New York Times poll in March found that 73 per cent of Americans agreed – ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ – that Biden is ‘just too old to be an effective president’, journalism professor Jeff Jarvis raged: ‘This is not journalism.’ It is ‘shameful’, he said, to make age an ‘issue’. Time slammed the ‘ageist attacks [on] President Biden’. ‘Biden’s big problem? Your ageism’, sneered one columnist at bigoted America. Just this month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said video clips of Biden looking lost and confused are mostly ‘cheap fakes’ made by right-wingers in ‘bad faith’.

Here’s the truly sinister thing: many of these people who said Biden was fine knew he wasn’t. They knew the White House insisted he always be flanked by minders, lest he stumble physically or verbally, in what was known by insiders as ‘Operation Bubble Wrap’. They knew he had become so frail that even special counsel Robert Hur decreed he should not be charged for keeping classified documents because he is an ‘elderly man’ with ‘poor memory’ and ‘diminished faculties’. They knew he was receiving regular physical tests but not cognitive tests, for fear of what might show up. They knew but they denied and lied and snapped at any uppity member of the public who said ‘Is Biden okay?’.

And why did they cover up Biden’s troubles? For power. In order that they might still rule. Out of naked, brutal self-interest. The Democratic elites and their footsoldiers in the cultural establishment are painfully aware they have few big-hitters who can connect with the public. Kamala Harris? Please. Gavin Newsom? Even Californians have tired of him. So out of desperation, they put blusher on Old Joe, fed him lines they prayed he would remember, and sent him out in a wretched bid to secure their own political clout and cultural hegemony. Behold the ruthlessness of the technocratic class. We now know there’s nothing they won’t do to fortify their authority. We can feel sorry for Biden, but for the rest of them we should feel only contempt.

Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Politics USA


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