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Biden: Survival of the Unfittest

Biden’s snap press conference paraded all his weaknesses before the nation—but don’t expect the Democrats to do anything about it.

President Biden Responds To Special Counsel's Report On Handling Of Classified Material

Joe Biden’s presidency imploded on live television Thursday night. 

Hours after a special counsel report found him culpable of violating federal secrecy yet excused him on grounds of mental incompetence—calling him “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”—the president held a snap press conference that proceeded to prove just how poor his memory is. 

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Biden is never more sympathetic than when he talks about the death of his first-born son. Yet his outraged response to the report’s claim that he “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died” only confirmed the fact. “I wear, since the day he died, every single day,” he began, “the rosary he got from Our Lady of”—and that was all. He could recall the object on his hand but not where it came from.

The president dismissed his faulty memory on the days when he was questioned by investigators by noting Israel had been attacked the day before the first interview. During the question-and-answer session after his prepared remarks last night, however, Biden could not avoid a wince-inducing blunder in discussing the Middle East, as he labeled Egypt’s president, Abdel el-Sisi, “the president of Mexico.”

There was pathos in the bookshelf behind him as Biden spoke. He was flanked by two volumes bearing the names of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford on his right, George H.W. Bush on his left—and when he turned, Jimmy Carter’s name was on the spine of the book right behind him. The hasty, defensive nature of the press conference called to mind Nixon’s troubles at the height of Watergate. Ford, Carter, and the first Bush comprised a litany of one-term presidents. That night they became Biden’s bracket.

Visuals were the least important thing about the night, but it was also poignant that the American flag on Biden’s lapel was crooked, pointing down to 4 o’clock.

Why did Biden rush to embarrass himself this way?

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If he were simply old and forgetful, he might still possess self-control in other respects—at least enough to listen to the advisors who must have recognized what a disaster this would be. That he didn’t listen is as important as what he said.

Biden is angry, devious, and impulsive: Despite the kindly words of the special counsel, he isn’t “sympathetic” or “well-meaning” when he acts according to his nature. That was on display Thursday night as he blamed his aides for the lawbreaking documented in Robert Hur’s report. 

He overreacted to the report with this emergency press conference because he’s brittle and easily wounded. That, as much as his diminished memory, is a cause for concern in a man with the world’s most powerful military and administrative arsenals at his command. He’s not just scatterbrained, he’s panicked.

His own party knows this. Yet Biden has the perfect insurance policy against sudden regime change—her name is Kamala Harris. If Biden resigns, who takes his place? A vice president who polls worse against Donald Trump than a compromised Joe Biden does. And who in the Democratic Party would dare cut out a black woman in line to succeed to the White House? Since it’s Biden’s own qualities—rather than the dismal performance of his administration—that Democrats acknowledge to be a problem, they don’t have a ready case for jettisoning Harris along with the president. But to depose him only to wind up with her would unquestionably make matters worse for the party.

Besides, does Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, to name one hopeful, really want to become president in the midst of two wars with all the wreckage of the Biden era to deal with? California’s Gavin Newsom evidently doesn’t. He knows his hour will come after Biden and Harris lose. Congressional Democrats, well aware of the likely swing in the House if Trump is in office come the next midterms, also have reason to be reluctant to replace Biden with a likelier winner. And all the aspirants to the 2028 nomination would be galled to see a rival vanquish Biden-Harris this year. Newsom’s loyalty to the incumbents is rationally self-serving; the same rationale applies to anyone else aspiring to be the next Democratic president.

Implosion would be the end for anyone else, but not for Joe Biden. He’s unfit, yet irremovable. And as much damage as he inflicted on himself with Thursday’s rash press conference, it attests to his furious desire to remain in office—even when his own Justice Department finds him guilty of a crime yet exempt from prosecution because he’s an “elderly man with a poor memory.” He will not resign; he’ll only fight harder, and humiliate himself all the more. The most damning thing about Hur’s report is what it says about expectations of Biden. He can’t be convicted because he’s already an irrelevant old man in the eyes of Justice, in the eyes of his party, and doubtless in the eyes of the president of Mexico and other Middle East leaders, too.

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