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Democrats must tell the truth about Biden’s mental fitness

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Washington DC partisans went to their predictable corners after the Wall Street Journal published a 3,000 word article investigating the mental fitness of sitting President Joe Biden. Conservatives, understandably, argued that it confirmed their prejudices around the president’s occasionally strange behavior. 

Liberal allies disagreed. Within hours, the White House sent out nine responses blasting the piece as a “complete and utter editorial fail.” MSNBC Biden booster Joe Scarborough dismissed the “slipping” thesis as “a Trump hit job.”

The same thing happened just two months ago, after Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report “uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified material…when he was a private citizen.” But Hur declined to recommend prosecution, reasoning that “at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”  

Biden was so sensitive to the Hur criticism that he invoked executive privilege to block release of the audio recordings of Hur’s interview with him, insisting that to protect his privacy a transcript must suffice.

But the White House has now been forced to concede in a court filing seeking to block release of the audio that the Hur transcript was doctored. Repeated words and filler words such as “um” were often omitted.  Even with that, the transcript shows Biden saying, for example, “and, and” more than 20 times.

While partisans argue, aren’t the American people voting this November owed more substantive information? One thing we know for sure: there’s a long history of presidential aides lying and obfuscating about their bosses’ health, in no small part because their power rests on him staying in office. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, a leader’s inner circle believes he is so precious that he must be protected by a bodyguard of lies.

Woodrow Wilson, after his stroke in 1919, had his wife practically running the government behind the scenes for a year and a half. On any given day in office, John F. Kennedy was using up to 12 painkillers and medications that brought on a myriad of side effects. His Addison’s Disease was carefully hidden from the public and some doctors believe he wouldn’t have survived a second term if he hadn’t been assassinated.

But the most egregious coverup involved Franklin D. Roosevelt hiding the fact he was dying from the public in the election year of 1944. The year began in January with naval doctor Ross MacIntire, the president’s personal physician for 12 years, telling reporters that FDR’s health was the best it had been since he started examining him. Several days later, Dr. MacIntire was promoted to rear admiral.

In March, MacIntire diagnosed FDR with acute congestive heart failure, and In July told him he probably wouldn’t finish a fourth term if he won it. A day later, Roosevelt announced he would run for re-election. In September, MacIntire assured the press that FDR had “absolutely no organic difficulties at all.”

With such assurances and a few carefully staged appearances, Roosevelt won. In January 1945 a dying, drugged-up FDR left for a fateful summit with Stalin and Churchill in Yalta. In a letter, Roosevelt described his negotiating strategy to his friend William Bullitt: “I think that if I give (Stalin) everything I possibly can and ask nothing from him in return… he will not try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.” We know how that turned out – Stalin reneged on all his commitments and 120 million Eastern Europeans were condemned to live under Communism for over 40 years.

World War Two historian Lynne Olson, writing in the New York Times, concludes that “Roosevelt’s cover-up of his failing health in the 1944 campaign was an egregious deception of American voters and helped contribute to a climate of cynicism about politicians.” 

The way to avoid deepening that cynicism is to learn from history and not take spoon-fed assurances from the Biden White House at face value. In February, the president completed his annual physical exam and Kevin O’Connor, his personal physician, issued a one-page summary declaring him physically fit for duty.  

But, tellingly, he declined to answer any questions from reporters. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre admitted that no cognitive exam had been given: “He passes a cognitive test every day,” she claimed.

Given the mounting evidence that Biden isn’t the man he used to be, that kind of brushoff is insulting. The president should have been given a cognitive test, and in any event his physical is now nearly four months old.

Instead of a partisan tit-for-tat debate over whether Joe Biden is the same as he was four years ago, the least the
American people deserve is that President Biden take a serous cognitive test supervised by independent medical authorities. 

A failure to take the mounting evidence seriously risks not only a collapse of trust in the White House that will affect future presidents but the specter of real crises during a second Biden term.

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