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State of the Union: Joe Biden’s Last Chance Saloon

How effectively will he gaslight the American people?

Long ago and far away, when someone wanting an adult beverage was about to enter a zone where drinking was prohibited, he would arrive at what was commonly called a Last Chance Saloon. It was where travelers would get one final opportunity to imbibe before entering the land of teetotalers. And that seems an apt analogy for tonight’s State of the Union address by Joe Biden. It may represent his last, best chance to dispel the widespread notion that he is too old, too neurologically compromised, or both to return to the White House for a second term. If he fails to do so, his political wake will come in November.

In what had the feel of a defining moment for the incumbent’s collapsing position in the polls, an investigator from his own Department of Justice, Robert Hur, famously labeled Biden an “elderly man with a poor memory.” In confirming what so many have witnessed in ever greater measure since he assumed office, it put Biden squarely on the defensive, forcing him to say he “know[s] what the hell is going on.” As Ronald Reagan once said about politics, if you are explaining, you are losing. It must be painful for a president to be reduced to angrily defending his own competence.

Those familiar with people who present with the type of cognitive decline Biden has displayed understand there is one particularly damaging characteristic of the condition: The person himself is most often the last to realize or admit the magnitude of the problem, if they are even willing to acknowledge there is a problem at all. Democrats’ whispers and hints turned to pleadings for the octogenarian to step aside since he can barely make it through a single event without losing his way, figuratively or literally. But now it is too late. He won’t budge. They are stuck with him like a fly to fly paper. And unlike most political crises that can at least be addressed or remediated in some fashion, there is no solution for Biden’s fragile countenance – slow to speak, slower still to walk, painfully slow to react. He is having a great deal of trouble interacting with the world around him.

This president sees the same polling as everyone else but continues to angrily deny publicly available information and make absurd claims. For example, in recent days, he asserted that he had won five straight polls against Trump, contrary to readily available evidence. In fact, Biden has won a grand total of three of the last 25 recognized national polls stretching back to late January – and two were by a single point.

State of the Union: An Anxious World Will Be Watching

For all his obvious stumbling and bumbling and one cringeworthy public display after another, one thing the 81-year-old president can still do quite effectively is read a script on a teleprompter. Tonight, he will use that indispensable crutch in an attempt to convince millions of people that things are much better than what they are actually experiencing in their own lives. It’s called gaslighting. He might do best to glide past the areas where he is particularly vulnerable – inflation, the economy, the southern border, crime, two ground wars – but then he would have little to say beyond citing macroeconomic figures and cherry-picking convenient facts to argue that things are the opposite of how they appear.

None of that will succeed if he continues to insist that all is well. To even begin to reverse his increasingly perilous position, this president must acknowledge the mood of the country – displeased at best – and offer concrete steps to address the cost of living while somehow assuring Americans he has crime and the border under control. He will undoubtedly blame Republicans for refusing to bail him out of the border crisis after he failed to act for more than three years as millions crossed illegally, but now expects them to bend to his will and agree to emergency legislation in an election year. Like so many episodes of the Biden presidency, it is too little, too late.

He refused a chance to speak to hundreds of millions of people during the Super Bowl. He is barely able to respond to reporters’ questions without mistakes. He has now taken to sitting instead of standing whenever possible to avoid drawing attention to his grandfatherly shuffle and unsteady balance. But tonight, Joe Biden has full control of the biggest stage of all, the United States Capitol, and the ultimate presidential platform, the State of the Union address. If he expects to mount a comeback, this is when and where it must begin. He had better not miss the turnoff to his Last Chance Saloon.

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