One moment can change everything.
It takes a lifetime to establish and build a reputation, and only one split-second – or perhaps as long as half a minute – to have that repute come tumbling down, aided by the world’s modern rapid communications capabilities and the 24/7/365 news cycle. Such was the case for the second most powerful man in the United States senate last week.
Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell hasn’t been himself lately. The Minority Leader has experienced several falls, spent a long period in the hospital and now is combatting perhaps a more ominous health threat: temporary incapacities during public appearances. The incidents didn’t result in the powerful Republican’s needing to go to the hospital (this time), yet Mitch’s foibles have people talking, again, about age and its influence on the current presidential race.
“Nate Silver, the founder of FiveThirtyEight, argued on Monday that President Biden’s age is a legitimate concern for voters in the 2024 election, warning that former President Trump could be one ‘Biden-has-a-McConnell-moment’ away from a second term.
“’If the expert class doesn’t understand that Biden’s age is both a real concern for voters and a valid concern, they’d better be prepared for getting a second Trump term instead,’ Silver wrote in his newsletter. ‘This election is probably going to be close, and Trump might be only one Biden-has-a-McConnell-moment away from winning,’ he added.
“The reference to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) comes in the wake of the GOP leader’s second public freeze-up in just over a month. McConnell stared ahead for about 30 seconds while taking questions from reporters last Wednesday.”
Yeah, for those who haven’t seen McConnell’s ultra-worrisome “senior moment(s)”, it was more than a little frightening. Notice how his eyes don’t move during the episode, and he appears to hear but can’t respond. It reminded me a little of the scene towards the end of the epic historic movie “Braveheart” when the princess whispers unwelcome things into the evil stricken English king’s ears, yet he’d lost his ability to respond (other than to wheeze and growl).
McConnell’s second catatonic moment within the span of weeks generated more than its share of commentary about how stupid Republicans must be to allow the obviously ailing Kentuckian to continue presiding over the GOP Senate conference, but tell me, who among those who’ve seen the agonizingly long 30-or so seconds didn’t have a flash to the equally impaired Democrat president in the White House? True, Biden hasn’t experienced anything similar, that I can recall, though he’s frequently caught shaking hands with phantom friends after making speeches, gets lost on the White House lawn, can’t remember names and generally gives the impression that he’s not playing with even close to a full deck.
By all appearances, McConnell has aides standing close by when he speaks, which certainly lends the impression that this type of “freezing” thing has happened before – probably frequently. The Minority Leader’s handlers are no doubt desperately hoping that he won’t lock up during an increasingly rare public glimpse, something that’s transpiring simultaneously in senile Joe’s orbit, though he hasn’t done anything overly embarrassing in recent events.
It could also be the vast majority of the establishment media’s attention has simply returned to where it’s resided for the past eight years -- on Donald Trump himself. Imagine if the media had to actually cover real news rather than whatever the Democrats are doing to bring down Trump at the moment – and thus stir up more hysteria than before.
The more stimulating Republican presidential primary campaign could also have something to do with it, not because the race is tightening – it’s not – but due to Vivek Ramaswamy’s ascendance and the stunned not-Trump candidates struggling to find ways to deal with the new balance of media power. Similar to Trump, Ramaswamy just seems to understand how to get the establishment talkers going – and, as they always say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
It's not as though Americans forgot about Biden’s age issue. They haven’t. But the weeks and months are going by and there isn’t much sign that Democrats are actively trying to push Biden to the side so that the faster-moving and thinking contingent of radical leftists-in-waiting can move their egos and mouths to the forefront. We’re just past the Labor Day holiday, the NFL season just launched and there seems to be more happening elsewhere than in Democrat circles.
Yet Nate Silver is correct: all it would take is one McConnell-like freeze failure and everyone would be all over Biden like ants on a melted ice cream cone. Here’s thinking those in the highest echelon of Democrat headquarters would find ways to cover senile Joe’s rear end for a time, but what if it happened again and again, like it did with Mitch?
Joe Biden seems to have more political lives than a cat, having come back from defeat after defeat, son Hunter’s mounting scandals (that involve “The Big Guy”), falling up the stairs of Air Force One, fixating on his watch after the Afghanistan casualties came home for the last time, falling off a bike in front of reporters, blowing gas in the presence of the royal family, falling asleep at meetings, displaying temper in front of… well, everyone, and wandering around numerous rooms without appearing to have a friend in sight.
Joe Biden is 80 years old and acts like he’s well into his nineties. If he wasn’t being shuttled around with lots of guiding hands to official Democrat political functions, Joe would likely be telling tall tales of his high school exploits to other Korean War era seniors down at the convalescent home rather than pretending to run for president again.
Mitch McConnell is exactly nine months older than Biden, to the day. To put it in context, McConnell was born about two and a half months after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Biden a little less than a year afterwards. No wonder they’re not quite expected to be able to run marathons any longer – but to run the country?
Need another comparison? Legendary singer Jimmy Buffett died last weekend (of a rare form of skin cancer) at the age of 76. Buffett was born a little over 49 months after senile Joe. The singer was still travelling the world as of last year performing concerts and thrilling his most devoted fans. He had to cancel much of his ‘22 tour due to an undisclosed illness. Now he’s gone. Game show host extraordinaire Bob Barker also passed recently… but he was 99, or about how old Biden acts.
To say that age and age-related loss of abilities will be an issue in the 2024 race isn’t exactly a secret, yet it still keeps cropping up whenever someone of vaunted stature experiences an episode. Donald Trump is only a few years younger than Biden, yet his age usually takes a backseat to his “shiny objects” media attractions such as Trump’s four separate court venue indictments. But it’s still there, hidden by the career real estate developer/reality TV star’s amazing energy and mental sharpness.
Senile Joe is at the other end of the scale, yet I’m not sure I’d agree that Democrats would be so eager to dump Biden upon the occurrence of a “McConnell moment”. First and foremost, as has been repeatedly argued, senile Joe’s most immediate successor would be Kamala Harris. Lots of commentators are fond of suggesting there’d be a “real” primary campaign in Democrat-land if Biden were ruled down and out due to incapacity.
But how would it come to pass? Kamala may or may not be elevated to the Oval Office, but would the Democrat higher-ups, including the Obamas, suddenly shift course and endorse some other Democrat when an African-American female is the rightful possessor of the title? Would they, for example, give their nod and approval to slick-haired – and very white and male (they can’t get out of it, he’s married to a woman) – California Governor Gavin Newsom?
Would the American black vote – more specifically, the African-American young and single female bloc – be willing to stomp on Harris’s pride and switch to another white dude? These are the most dedicated identity politics voters in the country. What percentage would just smile and go along with the Democrat establishment’s dictates?
Don’t forget that black Democrats saved the party from Bernie Sanders in early 2020, and they would see it as betrayal to get rid of their loyal servant just because he mentally went offline for a few dozen seconds.
Here’s guessing that black Democrats see Joe Biden as Barack Obama’s political heir and the most electable party candidate vis-à-vis the hated Donald Trump. Polls may show that even black Democrats think Biden is too old to run for president, but could they consolidate around one non-Kamala alternative? If not, they’d be in a similar position as not-Trump Republicans find themselves in these days.
In other words, ditching or removing Biden remains a tough sell unless the man himself – and wife Dr. Jill – is onboard with the notion of leaving due to age-related un-electability.
Joe Biden has had many “close call moments” similar to Mitch McConnell’s bizarre and serious brain freeze last week, and yet Democrats are hesitant to admit that he has a real capacity problem. Would it take Biden to go “full McConnell” to persuade Democrats that Joe needs to go? Democrats only care about winning – and not necessarily about who wins – so it’s going to take a lot for them to let go of Joe Biden.
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