As Joe Biden edges closer to the White House, Donald Trump and his institutional attack dogs—a reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee—are escalating their efforts to portray the former vice president as cognitively deficient.
Republicans for decades have mastered the ability to hurl personal insults at their Democratic opponents.
Bill Clinton, a Democrat with a massively popular agenda, was attacked as a “womanizer.”
John Kerry was attacked as a “traitor.”
Barack Obama — “Kenyan Muslim.”
Hillary Clinton — “corrupt murderer.”
Now Joe Biden has dementia.
Trump, who’s been dogged by questions about his own mental fitness, has for months implied Biden lacks the mental capacity to be president.
With every passing day, Trumpworld has focused on connecting the candidate’s foot-in-mouth moments into a broader “Sleepy Joe” narrative.
Last week, much to Trump’s delight, Biden forgot Sen. Mitt Romney’s name.
Earlier this summer he claimed that 150 million Americans died due to gun violence in the past 13 years, and made an erroneous description of his “Senate” campaign.
To be clear: Biden doesn’t have dementia; he’s been a gaffe machine since the ’70s and many of his verbal blunders are a result of his stutter.
The Biden campaign has responded to these accusations by asserting that Trump is desperately “resorting to more disinformation about the vice president” because he is ‘so panicked’ about losing, as campaign spokesman Andrew Bates put it.
And that’s a good point.
Biden has maintained a steady lead in national polls all summer, and now he’s ahead in key battleground states that Trump must win including Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.
So, with 20 days to go until the election, it’s desperation time in the Republican ranks and attempting to ding Biden with dementia may be the last Hail Mary left.
Taking their cues from the top, the Trump campaign and the RNC have honed their attacks on Biden by tweeting out short clips or compilations of his verbal stumbles.
Donald Trump Jr. went so far as to diagnose the former vice president with “Alzheimer’s.”
Top-rated Fox News host Sean Hannity said on-air that if Biden ever “had a fastball, even a slow pitch, it seems to be long gone,” while his colleague, Tucker Carlson, suggested that Biden’s “fading intellect” will allow the Democratic establishment to essentially run the country should he be elected in November.
Former Trump aide Michael Caputo described Trump’s anti-Biden messaging as a campaign of “constant reminders,” saying that “voters won’t be able to look away from Biden’s guaranteed gaffes, and this will amplify existing concerns to weigh down the former vice president.”
But despite the coordinated attacks, voters seem to have made up their minds about Biden long ago.
“Behind in the polls, with time running out, it’s not surprising that Trump’s reelection campaign is resorting to more disinformation about the vice president — after all, Trump himself was so panicked about Biden that he got himself impeached by trying to force a foreign country to lie about him,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman.
Last December, Biden released a three-page summary of his medical history in which “his doctor declared he is a ‘healthy, vigorous’ 77-year-old fully capable of taking on the role of president.”
John Hendrickson wrote in The Atlantic about Biden’s continuing battle with a stutter.
“A stutter does not get worse as a person ages, but trying to keep it at bay can take immense physical and mental energy. Biden talks all day to audiences both small and large. In addition to periodically stuttering or blocking on certain sounds, he appears to intentionally not stutter by switching to an alternative word—a technique called “circumlocution”—which can yield mangled syntax. I’ve been following practically everything he’s said for months now, and sometimes what is quickly characterized as a memory lapse is indeed a stutter. As Eric Jackson, the speech pathologist, pointed out to me, during a town hall in August Biden briefly blocked on Obama, before quickly subbing in my boss. The headlines after the event? “Biden Forgets Obama’s Name.” Other times when Biden fudges a detail or loses his train of thought, it seems unrelated to stuttering, like he’s just making a mistake. The kind of mistake other candidates make too, though less frequently than he does.”
The attacks on Biden bear a striking resemblance to the ones Trump and his conservative allies launched against Clinton four years ago.
The pro-Trump Breitbart News published a series of articles about Clinton’s health, including one that linked to a story on a conservative website alleging the former secretary of State was engaging in “bizarre behavior” and questioned whether she had a seizure.
Infowars, another pro-Trump site that peddles in conspiracy theories, piled on with a piece exploring whether Clinton had Parkinson’s disease.
The onslaught only intensified after Clinton suffered a bout of pneumonia while attending a Sept. 11 memorial event.
Clinton allies said the attacks took a toll.
Philippe Reines, a former top Clinton adviser, has urged Biden to respond forcefully by raising questions about Trump’s mental fitness and about why Trump hasn’t been more forthcoming about his health during his bout with coronavirus.
“It’s an absolute layup,” Reines said. “And the vice president, bless his soul, doesn’t seem to take to what he probably thinks is mean or adversarial.”
Other Democrats, however, aren’t so sure Trump’s offensive will work.
Jennifer Palmieri, who served as communications director on Clinton’s campaign, pointed out that Trump has been savaging Biden for months with questionable results. Democratic and independent voters, she said, were tuning out the attacks.
“The Trump campaign has been hitting Biden and his family for over a year and the attacks don’t seem to weaken him with voters,” Palmieri said. “He just gets stronger.”