It's getting harder for the White House to pretend Biden forgets things

Most of us with eyes can see what happened. President Biden forgot that the late Representative Jackie Walorski died in a car accident last month. “Representative Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I think she was going to be here to make this a reality.”

It could have been a nice moment to praise a lawmaker who had passed away. But Biden clearly didn’t remember that Rep. Walorski had died eight weeks ago. I’m a bit surprised that his team didn’t prepare him with something nice to say about her but then again, maybe they did. 

Biden had no ill intent, he just plain forgot.

But the Biden team refuses to acknowledge this, with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre going to absurd lengths to insist that Biden did not misspeak.

Asked what happened, Jean-Pierre said, “The President was naming congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work.” She added, “Of course she was on his mind. She was of top of mind for the president.”

Okay, no one has a problem with Biden remembering her or having her in mind. The problem is that he seems to have forgotten her death. That’s the issue. She completely sidesteps that though unlike some people on Twitter she’s not denying Rep. Walorski is who Biden was talking about.

I generally try not to overstate things but in this case the White House looks completely broken. They can’t deny and they can’t explain but they still don’t want the media to run with this because it looks really, really bad. It is inexplicable apart from the thing they don’t want to talk about.

Why is the White House being so stubborn about this? Probably because admitting any uncomfortable public memory lapse by Biden will reopen the discussion about whether the soon-to-turn-octogenarian Biden’s general mental state is compatible with the duties of the presidency, an argument that started to get loud in early summer. Mark Leibovich wrote in the Atlantic  that Biden shouldn’t run for another term because, in his view, though Biden’s mental sharpness and physical health are just fine right now, they might not be in a few years. 

The New York Times reported:

Although White House officials insist they make no special accommodations the way Reagan’s team did, privately they try to guard Mr. Biden’s weekends in Delaware as much as possible. He is generally a five- or five-and-a-half-day-a-week president, although he is called at any hour regardless of the day as needed. He stays out of public view at night and has taken part in fewer than half as many news conferences or interviews as recent predecessors.

Forgetting that a member of Congress recently passed away is unfortunate, but minimally consequential. Forgetting your military advisers recommended the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan is much more consequential.

Acknowledging a routine memory lapse is harmless to most presidents, but in this administration, admitting the president has forgotten anything is likely to spur the fair question, “say, how is Joe Biden’s memory these days?”

At this point I don’t have much more to add except that, obviously, President Biden is struggling with the usual things that come with getting older. I think this incident makes it clear that there’s a real problem that can’t be ignored even by Biden’s fans and defenders.

I will say that the idea Biden could possibly run for reelection in two years and hold it together for another four years beyond that is just silly at this point. Does anyone really believe that’s possible? I think we need to worry a bit more abut how much worse this could get over the next two years.

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