by Bob Barr
The Democrat Party in 2020 subjected the United States to a truly grave disservice by hiding from the American electorate candidate Joe Biden’s cognitive decline. The question now is, can the damage to the country be contained; a predicament we have not faced for more than a century, if ever.
There were telltale signs of Biden’s slips during the last campaign, but as a candidate he still did well enough in the debates (where the bar has become increasingly low) and in his limited public appearances, such that it seemed he had enough left in the tank to get through at least one term.
In hindsight, it is clear he was already running on fumes.
It is no secret that the emotional and physical stress of the presidency will rapidly age whoever occupies the office, regardless of how young or old he or she may be. One only need look at the before and after pictures of George W. Bush or Barack Obama – both relatively young men when first elected – to see the changes eight years in the Oval Office will bring.
Biden, who at 78 was the oldest ever to be inaugurated, was already at a distinct disadvantage even before having to deal with the simultaneous challenges of a pandemic, a cratering economy, serious national security challenges in Afghanistan, and now an actual war between an ally and an adversarial superpower.
The burdens of the past 16 months have taken a visible toll and we are not yet near the incumbent’s first term midpoint. His noticeable absences from key moments on the world stage has America leading from behind, and if this trend continues, America will in fact be left behind. Once surrendered, a nation’s position as world leader is not easily reclaimed.
As Woodrow Wilson’s mental and physical decline a century ago revealed, protecting America’s global interests is not a passive duty. Incapacitated by a severe stroke in his second term, historians point to the failure of the League of Nations as due in large measure to Wilson’s compromised health. His inability to drum up sufficient support for the United States to join the international organization led directly to its demise, and ultimately helped precipitate the Second World War.
International diplomacy has grown incalculably more complicated since Wilson’s era, and a United States that is largely absent from global power plays in this 21st Century leaves our national interests extremely vulnerable. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the dynamics of that situation is just one of many ongoing international challenges facing the United States. North Korea once again is threatening to ramp up its nuclear program, China is an increasingly belligerent threat to Taiwan, and the U.S. is currently engaged in sensitive and far-reaching nuclear talks with Iran.
A president operating at anything other than the top of his game for any one of these vital national security issues would be dangerous. A drowsy commander-in-chief attempting to navigate all of them at once is potentially catastrophic.
Biden fumbling for words even with the aid of a teleprompter, then searching blankly for a staffer to guide him to an exit, are images not lost on our allies or our adversaries. Administration spokespersons pretending publicly that everything is fine in the face of the obvious, makes the problem worse, not better.
Domestically, the challenges are not any easier, and the lack of a head of state slows our ability to respond to domestic emergencies. Critical decisions become outsourced to staff and officials who are neither elected nor accountable for their actions. This is a recipe for unrestrained bureaucratic activism, if not outright corruption.
We have seen examples of this before, as when Richard Nixon surrendered much of presidential decision making to his aides, including Henry Kissinger, as he became consumed with his looming and almost-certain impeachment in 1973. But never have we been forced to suffer under an Administration led by a president undergoing such obvious cognitive decline as facing us right now.
Who is controlling the levers of power in the White House? In Foggy Bottom and at the Pentagon? At the CIA and the FBI? Even on Capitol Hill? Far, far too much is at stake at home and abroad for this series of questions to have anything other than an honest and crystal-clear answer. Right now, we have neither.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.