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President Joe Biden appeared confused and incoherent at several points during a live town hall event hosted by CNN Wednesday, highlighting persistent questions about the 78-year-old Democrat’s mental fitness.
Biden has been famously gaffe-prone during his decades in politics, but over the past two years the increasing frequency of odd, incoherent and confused statements from the former senator and vice president, as well as the frequency with which he ended his daily campaign schedule by noon or earlier, sparked a marked increase in speculation from friends and foes alike as to whether his mind has deteriorated with old age, so much so that during the 2020 campaign Biden pledged to only serve one term “if anything changed in my health” to render him mentally incapable of the job.
Biden’s conservative critics argue that this week’s nationally-televised event provided additional evidence of exactly that.
At one point, CNN’s Don Lemon asked Biden when the federal government will approve COVID-19 vaccination for children younger than twelve. “Soon, I believe,” Biden responded. “I do not tell any scientist what they should do. I do not interfere. And so they are doing — they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now.”
In the midst of explaining some of the nuances of the testing process, however, Biden appeared to get tripped, up: “And the question is whether or not we should be in a position where you are — why can’t the experts say we know that this virus is, in fact — is going to be — or, excuse me — we know why all the drugs approved are not temporarily approved, but permanently approved. That’s underway, too. I expect that to occur quickly.”
During an answer about animosity between Republicans and Democrats, Biden abruptly changed gears to touting his experience in foreign relations. “And I’ll say one last thing, and you’re going to — I’ve had a lot of experience internationally,” he said. “And I mean, not good or bad, just I have. I chaired the Foreign Relations Committee. I’ve been deeply involved. I did national security for our last — the administration with Barack.”
“But, folks, the rest of the world’s wondering about us. Those of you who travel abroad, not a joke. Not a joke. You ask — you know, when I went to this G7, all the major democracies, I walked in, and I know a lot of them because of my role in the past,” he continued. “And they walk in and I said, ‘America’s back,’ and they go — I’m serious, heads of state — I give you my word as a Biden — they said, ‘Are you really back? I mean, how can I — we believe you, Joe, but will the country ever get it together?’”
In a particularly unguarded moment, Biden told a woman asking about gun violence: “The idea you need a weapon that can have the ability to fire 20, 30, 40, 50, 120 shots from that weapon, whether — whether it’s a nine millimeter pistol or whether it’s a rifle, is ridiculous. I’m continuing to push to eliminate the sale of those things.” This answer, effectively endorsing the outright criminalization of standard handguns, goes drastically further than the official Democrat platform on gun control and Biden’s own claims to recognize the Second Amendment.
During the event, Biden also claimed that “if you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in an ICU unit, and you are not going to die … you’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.”
Even CNN called out the accuracy of these claims, noting that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledges the existence of “breakthrough cases” and pointing out that “[e]ven vaccinated people on Biden’s own staff have been infected. So have a senior aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, multiple Democratic state legislators from Texas who have been in Washington, DC, this month; and various other high-profile people.”
Biden has said he expects to run for a second term in 2024, but many remain doubtful. Whether or not the 2024 nomination would go to Vice President Kamala Harris, whose strengths as her own candidate remain in doubt among some Democrats, may depend in part on whether Biden resigns the presidency to her before completing his full term.