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Furor swirls around Special Counsel’s remarks about Biden being an “elderly man with a poor memory”

Political furor is now swirling over Special Counsel Robert Hur’s 388-page report which resulted in no charges against President Joe Biden for keeping classified documents but contained Hur’s characterization of Biden as an “elderly man with a poor memory” who couldn’t remember the year of his late son’s death. Biden has angrily denied that.

Republicans are basically saying “I told you so” while most Democrats and a former FBI official say what’s happening is deja vu. Is this Biden’s “James Comey” moment when a federal official Republican sinks or damages Biden’s campaign with a comment?

The Hill:

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe argued Friday that the special counsel’s report on President Biden’s retention of classified documents while vice president has “nauseating similarities” with findings from the agency’s 2016 investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emails.

While special counsel Robert Hur’s 388-page report, released Thursday, found Biden “willfully” kept the documents after leaving the White House, no charges were brought against the president. Hur, in his release, remarked that Biden is “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” which has drawn scrutiny from Democrats and the White House.

In an interview with CNN, McCabe said Hur — who was appointed by former President Trump — was trying to please Biden’s critics.

McCabe said that Hur, a Trump-appointed prosecutor, was likely trying to please both Biden’s allies, by not pressing charges, and critics, by finding he mishandled the documents.

“It really felt like it was another instance of a very high-profile investigator who was coming out with a conclusion that he likely knew would not be accepted or embraced by many people and kind of attempting to even out the scales,” the former FBI official said.

“In other words, to play to the sort of … the segment of the audience that was going to be frustrated by the fact that he concluded not to pursue charges,” he added. “That’s what it felt like to me.”

The same thing happened in July 2016, McCabe suggested, when then-FBI Director James Comey found evidence that Clinton was “extremely careless” with classified emails on a private server, but said was not enough to merit an indictment — ultimately opening the door for her to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.

“I think where we step far over the line and made a mistake was in Jim’s rhetoric clearly criticizing Hillary Clinton but of course not recommending that she be charged,” McCabe said Friday. “The use of those terms was very likely a violation of [Department of Justice] policy, which says you don’t say bad things about someone you say you’re not going to charge.”

The Biden age/memory story is all over the legacy media, internet media and social media. The New York Times has run several opinion columnists saying Biden should step aside. Here’s one example. Meanwhile, although Donald Trump is only three years younger than Biden and also mixes things up and forgets, the age issue is clearly hurting Biden more than Trump. Some pundits are putting forth theories about why that’s happening. Now the issue is: how Biden should handle it?

Jonathan Alter, who has long argued that Biden shouldn’t seek re-election, writes that his “New Year’s Resolution is to stop agitating for Biden’s withdrawal and start figuring out how to help him get reelected and save the republic.” He writes:

I first met Joe Biden during the 1988 presidential campaign, and I’ve interviewed him many times since. In 2016, I spent weeks with him on and off when writing profiles for the Times and Politico. He has been repeating corny stories, mixing up words (partly a product of a stutter he overcame), and tangling his syntax for all the years I’ve known him. It’s part of what made him one of the worst presidential candidates I’ve ever covered, even as he is proving to be one of the best presidents of recent years. The memory and language lapses are worse now, but only marginally so. This is what every Biden aide I’ve discussed this with confirms. The man is old but not senile. Full-stop.

The way to deal with the now-widespread impression that he might be is to abandon the current strategy of minimizing public interactions and get people comfortable seeing him out there, even when they know he will sometimes mess up. The White House made a good start on this when he went before the press immediately after the Hur Report was issued. Even though he misspoke in describing Egyptian President Sisi as the leader of Mexico and used the word “press” when he meant “public,” the appearance was a net plus because he seemed feisty and in charge.

White House aides mistakenly turned down the usual pre-Super Bowl interview. They must trust their candidate — or urge him to withdraw. If they opt for trust, they should now schedule a round of live interviews, including one with Fox News’s Bret Baier. In its inimitably lazy-minded way, the press will seize on any lapse because it fits the “pattern,” but viewers will be able to see what aides and foreign leaders know — he’s basically OK — and each interview will diminish the impression of senility rather than compounding it.

Alter offers several strategies then adds:

[Attorney General Merrick]Garland’s refusal to intervene on Biden’s behalf was ethically correct and politically advantageous. Remember, Trump’s entire campaign is rooted in grievance against Biden’s DOJ for launching a “witch hunt” against him. When the Trump Coup Trial finally opens in late spring or summer — and last week’s decision by the D.C. Circuit to slam dunk Trump’s immunity claim increases the odds of that — we can anticipate a familiar ritual like the one that unfolded recently in two New York cases. Trump will lose all day in court and then go out on the steps of the Prettyman Courthouse and claim the Justice Department is persecuting him.

Biden’s response to that should be: “That’s ridiculous. The Justice Department is prosecuting my son for crying out loud. And it filed a report about me that I really didn’t like.” The rightwing press will respond that a judge essentially forced the DOJ to prosecute Hunter Biden, but the Hur report gives Biden more ammo to push back and convince independent voters that Jack Smith is following the law, not pursuing a witch hunt.

Talking Point’s Josh Marshall adds:

The news conference Biden held just after the release of Hur’s report is actually a case in point. Biden was clear, assertive, even angry. That was all good. He addressed specific policy issues in a way that demonstrates his active engagement with them. He didn’t confuse anyone with anyone else. He swapped “Mexico” in for “Egypt”. But what he was describing was clearly the US’s on-going negotiations with Egypt over the situation in Gaza. The point is that very few viewers would have even noticed that goof. But it’s close to the only things reporters focused on afterwards. Saying how this is unfair is great for commiserating with fellow Biden supporters. It may have a marginal impact bludgeoning reporters for their hackish work product. But the only way to get around that is to make those public appearances frequent and pervasive enough people actually see them. Yes, he’s a goofy and clumsy public speaker. Keeping him underwraps to prevent Fox News gotchas is totally self-defeating. Jon even, ingeniously, suggests cutting a viral blooper reel of Biden bloopers going back to his 30s and 40s and 50s. It wouldn’t be hard and makes the point. Certainly no one would have to worry about it going viral.

NBC News went to neurologists for comment about the memory/aging issue:

The report on Biden’s handling of classified documents noted that the president hadn’t remembered the exact time frame that he served as vice president and was struggling to recall the period when his late son, Beau Biden, had passed away. Biden defiantly rejected the changes in a press conference late Thursday, saying “my memory’s fine.”

There’s also been scrutiny of other recent events when the 81-year-old president mixed up names of foreign leaders.

However, neurologists say blanking on the names of acquaintances or having difficulty remembering dates from the past, especially when under stress, can simply be part of normal aging.

“If you asked me when my mother passed away, I couldn’t necessarily tell you the exact year because it was many years ago,” Dr. Paul Newhouse, clinical core leader for the Vanderbilt Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, said.

Almost every older patient has trouble remembering people’s names, Newhouse said.

“I think it’s by far the most universal complaint of every person as they age,” Newhouse said.

In Newhouse’s experience, this type of forgetfulness doesn’t actually predict who ends up having memory disorders. Only a person’s doctor or neurologist can make that diagnosis, not outside observers, brain experts say.

Dr. Dennis Selkoe, co-director of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, agreed that forgetting names doesn’t actually provide much insight into potential memory problems. In fact, stress and a lack of sleep, can interfere with memory, no matter how old someone is.

“Naming proper nouns is not an adequate basis to make a conclusion about whether an individual has a more consistent and more concerning substantive progressive memory disorder,” Selkoe said.

Meanwhile, on X, formerly known as Twitter:

The post Furor swirls around Special Counsel’s remarks about Biden being an “elderly man with a poor memory” appeared first on The Moderate Voice.

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