Biden was in a fighting mood over a surprise speech — but he didn’t win
It came out of the blue. The White House announced that Joe Biden would speak at 7.45pm, giving the press just 23 minutes to prepare. No one knew what the surprise speech would be. The element of surprise and uncertainty was reminiscent of the era of Donald Trump.
As it happened, several White House reporters were in a meeting near the Watergate building about a mile and a half away. The Guardian was among four people who jumped into a car, drove across the city, then sped down quiet Pennsylvania Avenue, to be greeted by an annoyed and disheveled Secret Service.
Perhaps the press was about to witness history. Was Biden scheduled to declare peace in the Middle East or Ukraine? Was this a Bin Laden moment, a military strike that killed a top terrorist leader? Or after a damning Justice Department report said his memory was lost due to old age, was he about to do a Lyndon Johnson-esque and announce that he was not seeking re-election?
Reporters, television and radio crews gathered in the Diplomatic Reception Room, the site of Franklin Roosevelt’s radio speeches known as “Fireside Chats.” Above the fireplace was a picture of George Washington and thick hardcover books bearing the names of previous presidents. The old-fashioned stateroom has panoramic French wallpaper showing views of America.
After all this silence and noise, Biden took to the stage and did not resign. far from it; He was in a fighting mood. Biden was responding to the special counsel’s report, welcoming his conclusion that no charges should be brought against him for mishandling classified information. But the president was also aggressive and emotional, then — not for the first time — answered one question too many and paid the price.
Special Counsel Robert Hoare described the 81-year-old Democrat’s memory as “foggy,” “vague,” “flawed,” “impoverished” and with “significant limitations.” “There’s even a reference I don’t remember,” Biden commented — he paused for a moment and swallowed, as if the words were still difficult to pronounce — “when my son died.”
Beau Biden died of cancer in 2015. “How the hell dare he bring that up?,” the president continued, with barely concealed anger. Honestly, when I was asked that question, I thought to myself, it’s none of their damned business. Some of you have commented. Every day, since the day he died, I wear the rosary that he received from Our Lady…”
He arrived to show the rosary and seemed to be choking. “Every Remembrance Day, we hold a mass to remember him, attended by friends, family and people who loved him. I don’t need anyone, I don’t need anyone to remind me of his death.”
The tall, blond, loud-voiced Peter Doocy of the conservative network Fox News, which is aggressively pushing the aging case against Biden, noted that the special counsel described Biden as “a well-intentioned elderly man with a weak memory.” The president responded, saying, “I’m a well-meaning old man and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president and I got this country back on its feet.”
“How bad is your memory,” Ducey pressed, “and can you continue as president?”
Biden: My memory is too bad to let you speak.
Another reporter commented, “Do you think your memory has gotten worse, Mr. President?”
Biden replied: “My memory is good.” Take a look at what I’ve done since becoming president. None of you thought I could pass any of the things I did. How did this happen? “I think I forgot what was going on.”
But soon things started to go a little off track. Among the vociferous voices of reporters, one emerged to ask: “Mr. President, when you were asked for months how old you were, you responded with, ‘Watch me.’ Well, many Americans have been watching you and have expressed concerns about your age.
Biden looked cross again. “This is your rule!” He said loudly, pointing an accusing finger. “This is your judgement. This is not the judgement of the press” – he supposedly meant to say that to the public.
Biden went on to insist, saying: “I am the most qualified person in this country to be President of the United States and to finish the job I started.”
More questions. More frantic noise. More angry expressions and finger pointing from Biden. “I did not share confidential information!” He almost screamed. “Let me answer your question!”
However, he concluded by boasting: “I did not break the law. Period,” and began making his way to the exit. Biden’s communications team must have been breathing a sigh of relief. Fiery response to his critics! No major missteps! Then imagine their dismay (“Keep walking, don’t turn around, oh my God, he’s coming back”) as Biden pulled over He turned and returned to the podium, unable to resist a question about hostage negotiations in Gaza.
At the time, after protesting that his memory was good and that his age was not an issue, Biden put his foot down again, wrongly referring to Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as “the president of Mexico.” This came in the wake of his confirmation that he had met in recent days with François Mitterrand of France and Helmut Kohl of Germany when they had already died.
After all, Doocy and Fox News had their story. Minutes later, the network played a musical slogan: “Biden confuses the presidents of Egypt and Mexico.” He followed that up with: “Biden raises more questions about cognitive health after disastrous press conference.”
And it’s still only February.
(tags for translation)Joe Biden