There’s a fascinating article in today’s Berlingske:
Analysis: If Biden really wants to insult Putin, he should call him “toothless,” Emil Rottbøll, Berlingske.dk, March 19
Rottbøll is Berlingske’s Russian correspondent, and the article examines the stupid kerfuffle of words between the Russian and American leaders that culminated in Putin’s having just yesterday challenged Biden to a live debate.
It’s not the facts of the thing that I found fascinating, but the manner in which Rottbøll covered it:
…Putin has delivered a string of taunts, the most recent of which fell on Thursday when he was asked to respond that the new president of the United States had called him a “murderer.”
Putin began by wishing Joe Biden good health “without irony,” presumably alluding to persistent accusations that the president suffers from advanced dementia, which prominent politicians around Putin had already aired that day.
Putin then said that it [the accusation of murder] reminded him of when children on the playground shout, “I know you are but what am I?”
And now he’s invited Biden to a live duel of words. He might as well have said, “Shall we settle this outside?”
Inviting Biden to a debate, Rottbøll is saying, is analogous to calling him out for a brawl. And we all get it. Putin was taunting Biden by drawing attention to the rumors (or “persistent accusations”) of the president’s deteriorating cognitive abilities.
It was not so much that Putin was challenging Biden to a debate that was intended to sting: it was that Putin was daring Biden to engage in an unscripted, live exchange.
Rottbøll is hinting at that without saying it out loud. Euphemizing the man’s visible and obvious deterioration as something manifest only in “persistent accusations” is evasive. “Widespread belief” would be more accurate. One doesn’t have to agree with the premise to acknowledge that it’s a belief shared by many, many people, inside and outside of the governments of the world.
Biden’s deterioration is the world’s biggest and worst kept official secret. He certainly didn’t do himself any favors in that respect by referring (again) to Vice President Kamala Harris as “President Harris” on Thursday. Or by forgetting the name of his Secretary of Defense (it’s Lloyd Austin) and the name of biggest government building in the United States (the Pentagon) in the same sentence at an event earlier this month:
That the American president is fading is obvious to anyone willing to use their own eyes, ears, and little gray cells. Watch any video of the man from each of the past several years and it’s impossible not to note the decline. Whether it’s clinical dementia, senility, or simple geriatric absent-mindedness, there’s no denying it’s there—unless you’re a Democrat or an establishment journalist. Then it’s just good old Joe being good old “gaffe-prone” Joe. Or it’s something like: the man has suffered all his life from a speech impediment, you monsters: how dare you mock his disability!
The internet is forever, and I think a lot of journalists and prominent Democrats are going to have a lot of explaining to do when, after years of their assertions that the real problem is people presuming to question Biden’s cognitive fitness, Biden is suddenly whisked off-stage to spend more time with his family.
Or maybe I will, when Biden is wrapping up the final year of his presidency. It is after all possible that I’m wrong, that everyone who senses things are off with Biden is wrong. I’ve never liked the man (dating all the way back to his first presidential campaign back in the spring of 1988, when I was in my twilight days as a Democrat), so I’ll cop to a heaping hunk of bias. Maybe he’s just a tired old man whose cognitive functioning is nevertheless in tip-top shape (for him, I mean; we’re obviously grading on a curve here). There are whispers from some Republicans in Congress that they were in a meeting with the man and he seemed sharp and alert. But those Republicans remain unnamed and I’m only aware of them through a secondary or tertiary source (which I can’t even remember: it might have been someone being interviewed by Dave Rubin or Bill Whittle on one of their YouTube channels). I’m not monstrous enough in my politics to want the man to be in advanced cognitive decline, but neither am I capable of dismissing what my own eyes and ears are telling me.
Look at the man. Look at him in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. Look at him now. And listen. Is it really humanly possible to observe the evolution of his appearance, his mannerisms, his voice, his memory, and to believe that nothing ails the man?
He campaigned for office from a bunker. He took three- and four-day retreats to prepare for each campaign debate. He disappeared for several days prior to last week’s televised address to the nation, in which all he had to do was read words off a teleprompter.
If Biden wants to prove the rumors wrong, all he has to do is keep a busy and public schedule in the days leading up to his forthcoming press conference (which was announced nine days in advance, unusual in itself) and then play it by ear. Don’t hunker down for three days to prepare. Don’t make reporters submit questions in advance.
Face the press, speak from the cuff, and put our minds to rest.