• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG


Updated Feb 9, 2024, 11:02am EST
politicsNorth America
icon

Semafor Signals

Supported by

Microsoft logo

Biden hits back at claims his memory is failing

Insights from Semafor, the BBC, and The Atlantic

Arrow Down
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
TweetEmailWhatsapp

Sign up for Semafor Principals: What the White House is reading. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

U.S. President Joe Biden strongly hit back at the findings of a special counsel report, denying that he improperly shared classified documents or forgot when his son died.

“My memory is fine,” he said during a surprise news briefing Thursday. “I know what the hell I’m doing. I put this country back on its feet.”

The report comes days after Biden publicly misremembered the names of multiple world leaders, confusing both former German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron with their dead predecessors, and referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as the president of Mexico when discussing the Israel-Hamas war.

icon

SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Report will fuel opponents’ attacks as voters worry about Biden’s age

Source icon
Sources:  
Semafor, The Associated Press

A poll last year found that more than three quarters of Americans thought Biden, 81, was too old to run for a second term as president: That number includes 69% of Democrats. Biden’s advanced age has been a frequent sticking point as the president enters his reelection campaign, and Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report will fuel political opponents, who have attacked Biden about his memory, Semafor’s Shelby Talcott noted. Hur’s “observations about Biden’s apparent memory problems are a gift to [former President Donald] Trump in an election where the leading candidates’ age and competency are at the forefront of conversations,” she wrote.

Report’s findings are a ‘political grenade,’ confirming Democrats’ concerns about Biden’s weakness

Source icon
Sources:  
BBC, The New York Times

Questions about Biden’s age and mental faculties have swirled for the majority of his term in office, and were raised during his 2020 run for president, the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher noted. Hur’s findings were a “political grenade in the form of a 345-page report,” he wrote, and prompted Biden’s camp to launch a campaign to fiercely deny them. But that denial could open him up to further scrutiny: “Every attempt comes with the risk of actions or evidence that feed existing concerns,” Zurcher said. The report confirmed veteran Democrats’ longtime concerns that “something would come along to remind voters about the age issue,” The New York Times’ Micheal D. Shear wrote, which many feel is Biden’s “biggest weakness.”

President’s age becoming an unavoidable topic in lead up to election

Source icon
Source:  
The Atlantic

It’s no longer possible to avoid conversations about Biden’s age, The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis wrote. Conversations about the age and health of presidential candidates have proliferated in past elections, and Biden has been largely protected from hard questions about his mental faculties by his party. The result is that conversations about the president’s age have “stalled out,” she noted. Voters should watch recent speeches by Biden and ask themselves “honestly if you believe that the man you see has another four years of presidential decision-making ahead of him,” Lewis wrote. “If not, then reconcile yourself to the fact that you are really voting for Kamala Harris.”

Media coverage of Biden’s age is overblown and feeds into ageism

Source icon
Sources:  
Journalist Michael Hobbes, Time

The media is putting the Biden memory story “through the Hillary Emails wringer,” journalist and podcaster Michael Hobbes wrote on Bluesky, in which outlets devote breathless coverage to “how a meaningless gaffe ‘raises questions’ and ‘highlights concerns.’” The media, he argued, both creates and amplifies those concerns, and then “reports on how they’re getting worse.” The debate over Biden’s age has “descended into ageism,” Mauro Guillén, Vice Dean at The Wharton School, wrote for Time last year. Biden’s experience and abilities should counterbalance his age, Guillén argued. Americans now live longer than ever before, so instead of debating whether an aging person can hold office, “we should be celebrating the fact that a second term would reflect the increasing diversity of American society in terms of age.”

Semafor Logo
AD