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More thoughts on old Joe's debate debacle

The near-universal horror that Joe Biden’s debate performance inspired among political observers has revolved primarily around his obvious decrepitude evinced by his senior moments, exhausted voice, and feeble body language. But, it’s worse than that. The optics of this spectacle were only as bad as its more substantive movements. Even Biden’s rare flashes of cogency were no less bewildering than his stammering forgetfulness or the stupefied expression the president wore in periods of reprieve.

“The truth is, I’m the only president this century — this decade — that doesn’t have any troops dying anywhere in the world like he did,” the president insisted with all apparent sincerity. That is not “the truth.” It is, at best, an egregious memory lapse, although that is in no way exculpatory.

Thirteen U.S. service personnel were killed in the attack on Abbey Gate at the Kabul Airport due, in no small measure, to the slapdash manner in which U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was conceived and executed. In January of this year, two Navy SEALs were lost off the coast of Somalia, interdicting a shipment of Iranian-made weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. That, too, was a mission necessitated by the president’s bizarre tolerance for Houthi attacks on commercial shipping and allied naval traffic in the region. Later that month, three American troops were killed and scores more wounded in a Shiite militia attack on a U.S. outpost in Jordan. It was the most successful attack in an Iran-backed campaign of region-wide violence targeting U.S. forces that did not produce a kinetic response from the president until American lives were lost.

Joe Biden gave the orders that resulted in the deaths of these troops — orders that are certainly justifiable but for which the president is obliged to take responsibility. Indeed, in some instances, Biden himself received the caskets of these fallen soldiers when they returned to U.S. soil. Does the president remember that? We cannot be sure he does.

Biden’s faulty memory notwithstanding, the disrespect his assertion showed the families of those troops, to say nothing of every other service member, past and present, their families, and patriotic Americans writ large, is inexcusable. The president and the White House are obligated to apologetically correct the record.

That wasn’t Biden’s only gaffe. When CNN’s moderators lobbed him a layup question on abortion — a subject so central to the Democratic Party’s messaging that Biden should have been able to stuff it in the hoop without breaking a sweat — the president somehow managed to indict his own administration’s lethargy. The blizzard of half-coherent thoughts that Biden let loose in his response to that question defies transcription, but CNN made an admirable attempt:

Look, there’s so many young women who have been — including a young woman who just was murdered and he — he went to the funeral. The idea that she was murdered by a — by — by an immigrant coming in, and they talk about that. But here’s the deal, there’s a lot of young women who are being raped by their — by their in-laws, by their — by their spouses, brothers and sisters, by — just — it’s just — it’s just ridiculous. And they can do nothing about it.

In answering a question designed to highlight one of the Democratic Party’s strongest issues with the prospective voting population, the future of abortion rights in the post-Dobbs environment, Biden pivoted without solicitation to one of the Democratic Party’s biggest liabilities: illegal immigration.

Indeed, he appeared to make the case that America needs a lax abortion regime because there are so many undocumented rapists about. That menace is compounded by the fact that American women are routinely threatened with sexual assault by their spouses, their spouses’ families, and their siblings. They can even become forcibly impregnated by their “sisters,” although we would need a gender-studies major to explain to us how.

Speaking of immigration, did you know that Biden had somehow “changed the law,” assuming extraconstitutional legislative powers in the process? That was the president’s claim, anyway. “I’ve changed it in a way that now you’re in a situation where there are 40 percent fewer people coming across the border illegally,” Biden insisted. “And I’m going to continue to move until we get the total ban on the — the total initiative relative to what we’re going to do with more Border Patrol and more asylum officers.”

That was Biden’s attempt to wield the compromise legislation negotiated by Republican Senator James Lankford, which failed due to Donald Trump’s opposition to the measure, as a cudgel against the GOP. When it comes to Biden’s reckless border policies, deflecting the issue onto the Republicans and alleging that they prefer the problem to its solution is the only arrow in the Democratic Party’s quiver. And Biden blew it.

“I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence,” Trump said one comically timed beat after Biden concluded his thought. “I don’t think he knows what he said either.” Tough but fair.

A number of factors contributed to the outburst of Democratic panic over Biden’s obvious infirmities at the conclusion of last night’s debate, not the least of which was their pent-up frustration over having to suppress their instincts for fear of offending the White House. The permission provided by the spectacle we all witnessed partly explains the sudden outbreak of Democratic candor. But that reaction is also likely attributable to the fact that down-ballot Democrats cannot run successfully in competitive states and districts if the top of the ticket cannot stick the landing on the issues.

From the easy stuff (abortion) to thornier matters (Biden’s failed experiment in American retrenchment), the president appears at sea. And when he opens his mouth, he makes life for down-ballot Democrats more difficult. Given those circumstances, you’d be panicking, too.

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