Joe Biden's Cognitive Decline is Now an Albatross for Democrats

Democrat primary voters initially wrote Biden off as inept, blowhard, retread impediment to their leftward march

By Victor Davis Hanson

Joe Biden is the apparent Democrat presidential nominee. Mr. Biden is winning the nomination largely because he was not the Democrat-Socialist Bernie Sanders, who terrified the Democratic establishment. The least offensive candidate left standing was Mr. Biden.

He has, after all, a seemingly insurmountable lead in delegates going into the rescheduled August convention in the postponed Democratic primary race. 

On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden's insulted several voters – using insults such as “fat,” “damn liar” and, weirdly, “lying dog-faced pony soldier.”

Many Democratic primary voters initially had written him off as an inept retread, a blowhard and an impediment to the leftward, identity-politics trajectory of the newly progressive Democrat Party.

Long ago, he spun tall tales about how in his youth he had taken on a Delaware street gang with a 6-foot chain, or slammed a bully’s face into a store counter. More recently, he taunted President Trump with tough-guy boasts about taking him behind the proverbial gym and beating him up.

Mr. Biden has been unable to keep his hands off women.

Even his supporters cringed when he was seen sniffing the hair, rubbing the shoulders, or whispering into the ears of unsuspecting females – some of them minors.

Stranger still, Mr. Biden waxed on about his commitment to the  #MeToo movement. The handsy Mr. Biden has insisted that women who made accusations of sexual harassment must be believed.

The more House Democrats attacked Donald Trump for supposedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden’s wheeler-dealer son Hunter, the more Mr. Biden’s own suspect dealings with Ukraine surfaced. Such scrutiny followed from Mr. Biden’s boast, caught on video, that he had leveraged Ukraine by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless a Ukrainian prosecutor was fired.

That prosecutor had wanted to investigate the Ukrainian company for which Hunter Biden worked.

During the year-long rise, fall, and rise of his campaign the 77-year-old Biden often appeared confused. He was occasionally unable to remember names, places or dates. Mr. Biden would try to speak ex tempore but seemingly forgot what he was trying to say.

The coronavirus epidemic and subsequent lockdown seemed to offer rest for Mr. Biden.

But the more he recuperated from campaigning – and sent out video communiques from his basement – the more he appeared to confirm that his problem was not simple exhaustion or age, but real cognitive impairment.

With the Democrat nomination a lock Mr. Biden assumed liberal reporters would allow him to campaign as a virtual candidate – that they would forget his lapses, and ignore prior controversies, including the sexual assault allegations by Tara Reade, a former aide.

At first the media complied — as it always had with Mr. Biden’s:
  • troublesome habit of violating the personal space of women,
  • his bizarre put-downs on the campaign trail,
  • his exaggerated he-man stories,
  • his mental lapses, and
  • his dealings with Ukraine.
Again, to the Democratic establishment, Mr. Biden was far preferable to Mr. Sanders. Had the socialist Sanders won the nomination he likely would have wrecked the Democrat Party in 2020.

But Mr. Biden misjudged the liberal media. Reporters were, at first, willing to overlook his liabilities. But the more Ms. Reade persisted in her accusations, and the more the media ignored them, the more embarrassing the media’s utter hypocrisy became obvious.

Journalists had torn apart U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh over allegations of sexual assault, after all.

So suddenly, the press decided that Mr. Biden was no longer worth shielding. Yet the change of heart was not entirely for fear of appearing hypocritical.

Rather, the media seem terrified of Mr. Biden’s increasingly obvious cognitive decline.

In other words, the media were most certainly not going to be degraded on behalf of a nominee who may no longer seem viable.

In the three months before the Democrat National Convention, Americans will witness some of the strangest political scrambling in presidential campaign history. Simply put, how does the Democrat Party cut from its neck an albatross — one who has the most delegates, but is likely not up to serving as president?

And how to do the deed without inciting the moribund Sanders campaign and his army of Bernie bros?

A host of Democrat donors and operatives would like Mr. Biden to disappear, clearing the way for a replacement such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, failed 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton, or former first lady Michelle Obama.

But even if Democrats know why Mr. Biden must go, they haven’t a clue about when or how.

Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, is the author of “The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won”.