Opinion

KOLB: It’s Time To Seriously Question Biden’s Mental Health

Charles Kolb Deputy Assistant to George H.W. Bush
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President Joe Biden is facing a serious national security crisis. The challenge comes not from abroad but rather from the neural connections operating inside his own head.

On July 21, 2021, at a CNN-sponsored town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, moderator Don Lemon asked Biden about the prospects for American children under 12 getting COVID-19 vaccinations in the near future. This was Biden’s response:

“And the question is whether or not we should be in a position where you, uh, um, um are, why can’t the, the, the experts say we know that this virus is, in fact, uh, um, uh, it’s going to be, or excuse me, we, we know why all the drugs are not temporarily approved, but permanently approved, that’s underway too, I expect that to occur quickly.”

Partisan affiliations should not matter when it comes to assessing what has to be one of the most incoherent presidential utterances in recent American history. Biden’s reply was not one of his typical gaffes. His rambling, pointless answer suggests that something appears to be seriously wrong with the president’s cognitive abilities.

We know that, as a boy, Biden overcame stuttering, and, as an adult, he was treated for two cerebral aneurysms. Did his town hall performance reflect problems with his neurological functioning that might suggest limitations as to his overall cognitive capabilities?

Presidents are typically briefed in detail before press conferences and town halls. They review potential questions and answers and rehearse with White House staff. Given the rising concerns nationally about COVID-19’s Delta variant among unvaccinated individuals, Biden and his briefing team surely would have anticipated a question about vaccinations for younger Americans. Lemon’s question was a softball pitch.

These are serious issues for the nation and for the world. When American presidents are perceived as weak (for whatever reasons), bad things tend to happen on the world stage.

So, why is the mainstream media ignoring Biden’s mental capacity? Are they biased?

During his first debate with former Vice President Walter Mondale on October 21, 1984, Ronald Reagan (age 73) gave an unsteady, rambling and disjointed closing statement. Reagan’s performance was so bad that the media immediately began raising questions about his age and mental fitness to handle a second presidential term.

In prepping for that debate, then-OMB director Richard Darman grilled Reagan for hours in the fourth-floor briefing room of the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House’s West Wing. Reagan had briefing books crammed with countless details. The problem was that Reagan persuaded people with masterful narratives, not by mastering minutiae.

In his second debate with Mondale, Reagan eschewed details and won handily when he said of Mondale: “I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Even Mondale cracked a smile. Reagan won a landslide reelection.

Almost from the moment he launched his presidential campaign, Donald Trump faced an onslaught of questions about his intelligence and his mental health.

Journalist Elizabeth Drew wrote in a March 2017 “New York Review of Books” article that Trump’s increasingly limited vocabulary and sentence structures suggested a marked decline in mental capacity over a 30-year period, noting that Trump’s overall mental capacity was limited and that dementia or even Alzheimer’s might be affecting his cognitive capabilities.

Abandoning the ethical practice of not opining on the medical conditions of patients they had not treated personally, dozens of psychiatrists published opinions to the effect that Trump suffered from a serious personality disorder (namely, narcissism).

Today’s mainstream media is giving Biden a pass by refusing to probe his mental lapses more deeply. Where are today’s inquiring journalists, neurologists, and psychiatrists, armchair or otherwise?

The point here is not to embarrass the president but to get assurances that he is fully capable of discharging the duties of his office. Whether the media inquire or not, given the president’s recent Town Hall performance, the Biden White House and the president owe the American public explanations.

One approach to providing such assurance is to make Biden more available at press conferences where he can face rigorous questioning about his official duties.

All Americans should hope and pray that Biden (age 78) enjoys robust physical and mental health during his presidency. We should all wish him well, because it is also increasingly clear that his understudy is just woefully unprepared to assume the presidency.

Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House