One of the cardinal rules in responding effectively to insults is to never repeat a charge when denying it. If someone calls you a sexual predator, he is just waiting for you to say, “I am not a sexual predator.” The very restatement of the charge by the accused adds weight to the accusation, no matter its veracity. This is particularly true in politics, a realm where perception becomes reality. And in an age when every word stated by a politician is run through the wringer of social media critique, it sends the message that there must be something to it, or else you would have simply laughed it off – instead of choosing to repeat and deny it.
There were two particularly infamous instances of repeating charges that came back to haunt the politicians who uttered them. Christine O’Donnell, running for the U.S. Senate in Delaware in 2012, tried to dispel wild rumors from her opponent that she was a witch by running an ad in which she declared, “I am not a witch.” She lost badly. More famously, President Richard Nixon actually set up and knocked down his own straw man as Watergate was closing in on him, saying, “people have got to know whether their president is a crook,” and then presenting a sound bite for the ages, repeated millions of times since: “I am not a crook.” He resigned shortly thereafter.
For more than two years now, ever since he initiated his third run for the White House, it appeared obvious to many if not most that Joe Biden is not the same man with whom the country had become familiar over his lifetime in Washington. It was hard to miss the signs. He was moving tentatively and talking slower. He was more forgetful, quicker to anger, and often seemed confused. And so the whispers began. Is this man who wants to be president no longer firing on all cylinders? Is he in the early stages of dementia? Is he senile? You can’t make a diagnosis based on TV appearances alone, and dementia can have several possible causes, but it was hard to look past worst-case scenarios surrounding a commander-in-chief who’s not all there.
Now that the issue of his cognitive health did not cost him the election, there’s another question for those who continue to believe Biden is indeed in decline: who is actually running the country? Because of course a man not in full control of his faculties can’t be making decisions affecting the whole planet.
These are things apparently discussed only in conservative circles. A virtual embargo on the subject of Biden’s cognitive health was honored by all major media, except occasionally in passing. Incredibly, it seemed the visible decline of a man who would be president was never an apt subject for serious discussion. Hush was the word, as if the pandemic-driven opportunities to hide Biden away could effectively subjugate the Biden-is-senile narrative to the thousands dying from a plague and rioting across the land. They were proven right. The media’s single-minded mission to take down Trump at any and all costs took the focus entirely off Biden and his deficiencies.
But with Biden safely ensconced in the White House, USA Today has somehow decided to end its own embargo – to repeat the charge of the right. Instead of ignoring a subject that provides nothing but downside risk, and from which even most conservatives have moved on since the election, the reliably liberal national newspaper dove into the deep end of the pool with a scathing denial that Biden is in the throes of dementia, and that anyone but he alone is making decisions for the country. They are responding publicly to observations and accusations made not in public, but sotto voce, meaning in a quiet voice, on the down low. Few are comfortable magnifying the shortcomings over which an opponent has no control.
But after Biden said at a recent press briefing that he was “instructed” to call on selected reporters from reliably friendly outlets, USA Today, for one, evidently felt the need to issue an apologia for the 46th president. In an opinion piece entitled, “The new big lie Republicans want you to believe? That there’s a puppeteer at the White House,” writer Jill Lawrence says, both provocatively and defensively, “Nobody is cutting off Biden’s mic or dictating his decisions.” She speaks of “the big lie that Biden, at 78, is muddled and incapacitated.” Then, she ridicules a little-known statement by Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) referring to the Biden presidency as a “puppeteer act” and demanding to know who was pulling Biden’s puppet strings. And finally, the writer cites the “disordered speech” of Donald Trump as proof that it is probably Trump, not Biden, who has cognitive issues. Does this not sound like the old playground taunt, “everything you say bounces off of me and sticks to you?”
This attack on any who dare trust their own eyes over the gaslighted version of the truth presented by the activist media is hardly new. The left sent out their select experts during the 2020 campaign – mostly in the guise of “fact-checkers” – to brush off and ridicule charges that Biden is demented, senile, or cognitively impaired in any way. Politifact wrote something that would make their hand-picked distinguished professor look silly:
“It’s ‘a shameful display of ageism and ignorance,’ said Donald Jurivich, Eva Gilbertson Distinguished Professor of Geriatrics and Chairman of Geriatrics at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences.
The word ‘senile’ may create a mental picture of someone who has stooped posture, is slow moving and cognitively impaired, Jurivich said. ‘I don’t think any of these descriptors match Joe Biden’s demeanor and vigor,’ he said.”
As Cousin Eddie said to Clark Griswold in the classic movie Christmas Vacation after Clark informed the kids that Santa Claus had been spotted in flight, “you serious, Clark?”
There are so many pitfalls involved in even raising this issue, which has hung over the version of Joe Biden that has emerged over the last two years. Does this leftist writer – among others – riding to the rescue of this president by angrily denouncing the hushed charge that he’s in decline and on puppet strings signify that there is fire behind the smoke, or in the pregnant words of Shakespeare, that she and her fellow travelers doth protest a bit too loudly?
~ Read more from Tim Donner.