Terry Prone: It’s not up for debate, Joe Biden isn't fit to be US president again

An expert on dementia gave me their take on what Biden’s stuttering performance best indicates. His answer was as devastating as the debate.

30th Jun 2024
Share this blog post:

Originally published in the Irish Examiner.

Donald Trump came up with the one line that will be remembered from the Big Debate. It wasn’t a clever, cooked-in-advance line. It was spontaneous and — even more astonishing, given the source — it was true.

“I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence,” the former president said of the incumbent. “And I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

It summed up the horror of the broadcast, not just for the campaign, but for people in their sixties, seventies and eighties who were watching. In advance, at the back of the minds of older viewers was the hope that the ever-combative Biden would stick it to the people who said his age had overtaken his abilities. At the front of their minds, from quite an early point in the debate itself, was the sinking recognition that, rather than sticking it to the people who said he was too old for the gig, he was confirming their thesis. The man who jogged with Obama through the corridors of the White House was not present. The man who, in exasperation, begged Trump to “shut up, man” wasn’t present, either.

Debate aficionados wanted Biden to come out with a crack about age like the one Reagan had used because humour, self-mockery, and scratching the viewers where they itch are guaranteed methods to painlessly address the age issue. Democrats wanted him to do something during the second half of the broadcast which would effectively erase the bad impression given in the earlier section. It didn’t happen.

But what was most upsetting to older fans was the unsought insight that they might be looking at their own future, as age liquidised their skills, their wit, their thinking processes.

The awful thing was the familiarity of it. Anybody over sixty has found themselves searching for a name that will not come, despite the owner of the name appearing in the mind’s eye with full colour clarity. No one viewer saw themselves precisely replicated by the President’s performance, but many saw in play the problems and coping mechanisms they use every day.

Click here for the full article.