On a day that has been called a “tragic moment” for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden’s mental health was thrust into the spotlight. Biden, who is currently 81 years old and running for re-election, had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the special prosecutor of the Department of Justice in an investigation into his handling of classified documents when he left the vice presidency. However, Hur’s report described Biden as “a nice, well-intentioned old man with a bad memory,” and mentioned that he didn’t remember when his son Beau died. This touched on a sensitive topic for many Americans: Biden’s mental health.
Today, at 86 years old if re-elected, Biden would be the oldest president in U.S. history to serve two full terms. The report from Hur raised questions about Biden’s ability to handle the demands of the job due to his age and memory issues. Republicans seized this opportunity to launch a barrage of attacks against him, questioning his mental fitness and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office if deemed unfit.
In response, Biden held an impromptu press conference at night where he tried to reassure Americans that his memory was fine and that Hur’s report was incorrect. However, he stumbled over some of his words and made confused answers during this press conference which left more doubts about his cognitive acuity and temperament when people were looking for stability and reasoning on this subject.
According to Christopher Arterton, Professor Emeritus of Political Management at George Washington University, it is “the most serious deficit that threatens his re-election” because it is an issue that touches on voters’ concerns about their ability to govern for another four years due to his age. Arterton also noted that some phrases in Hur’s report touched on this issue and described him as having diminished capabilities which goes beyond Hur’s expertise as special prosecutor. This combined with some recent mistakes has brought more attention to this issue which is becoming increasingly important in determining whether or not voters will support him in November.