Two Septuagenarians Battle Over Senility

Robert Brooks Contributor
Two Septuagenarians Battle Over Senility
Read Time: approx. 2:45

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Two Septuagenarians Battle Over Senility: On January 20, 2017 Donald Trump became the oldest person to assume the presidency at the age of 70 years, 220 days. This past June, President Trump turned 74, therefore if he wins a second term in November his record will stand. However, if the presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden unseats Trump, he will insert himself in the history books in Trump’s place. The former Vice President is currently 77 years old, and celebrates his birthday on November 20th. This means that on inauguration day Biden would be 78, and after four years he would be 82 years old. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, senility and questions of mental fitness are being used as undisguised attacks by both sides as we inch closer to the election. Here’s a sample of what each side is saying:

On the Left: Multiple left-leaning outlets and commentators have questioned President Trump’s mental fitness since 2016, during the last general election. On July 27, 2016 Vox’s Erza Klein wrote a piece titled, “Have we stopped to appreciate how crazy Donald Trump has gotten recently?” On the same day, TIME’s Will Drabold wrote about how “Michael Bloomberg Says America Needs ‘Sane, Competent Person’“. On Twitter, Keith Olbermann, an MSNBC newscaster called Trump a “Psychopath” on July 28, 2016. Jeffrey Flier, former Dean of Harvard University School of Medicine, tweeted two days later: “Narcissistic personality disorder. Trump doesn’t just have it, he defines it. #trumpdiagnosis”. Then, on August 3, 2016, POLITICO quoted Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee William Weld who said “Trump has ‘a screw loose“. Two years later, in 2018, CNN ramped up their attacks on Trump’s mental stability, as noted by Axios. “After Trump’s Twitter tantrums calling for the jailing of a political opponent and bragging his nuclear button is bigger than North Korea’s — CNN used its powerful platforms and people to suggest the president is mentally unstable. Brian Stelter opened his late-night media newsletter, Reliable Sources (which had the subject line ‘Trump’s fitness’): ‘There’s a word for this. Madness.’ Later, when Stelter was on Anderson Cooper 360 he added, ‘What would we say if the leader of Germany or China or Brazil posted tweets like Trump’s? How would we cover it? We’d say: That person is not well. We’d wonder whether that person is fit to hold office.’ Tapper added: “None of this [is] normal, none of this [is] acceptable, none of this [is] frankly stable behavior.” Fast forward to 2020, these same outlets devoted a fair amount of coverage to the release of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, a book by Mary Trump, the President’s niece. The book claims the President has psychological disorders as studied by Mary, who has a doctorate in psychology. Plenty of other books have been published as well, such as the “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” which contains essays from 27 psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health professionals describing the “clear and present danger” that US President Donald Trump’s mental health poses to the “nation and individual well being”. Long story short, Trump’s mental fitness has been in the spotlight for quite some time.

On the Right: Multiple right-leaning outlets and commentators point to Joe Biden’s gaffes and blunders as evidence that the former Vice President is mentally compromised. Recently, Fox News highlighted Ben Shapiro’s warning Thursday that “Joe Biden is completely ‘falling apart‘ and Democrats are going to have to face the music sooner or later.” Shapiro, a conservative political commentator, said that Biden’s incoherent statements during an interview at the virtual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists “sounded like ‘a normal person after they’ve had a bunch of Ambien.‘” “He is just falling apart. It is perfectly obvious to anyone … that Joe Biden is just mentally inept,” Shapiro said. “He can’t string sentences together anymore.” Fox News and other outlets also picked up on “Biden’s rebuke of CBS correspondent Errol Barnett for asking the former vice president if he had taken a cognitive test, claiming the question was similar to asking Barnett if he was using cocaine.” Biden also “raised eyebrows when NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro pressed the former vice president about whether he would ‘re-engage’ with Cuba as president, something suggested would have an impact on Cuban-American voters in Florida. “Yes, yes,” Biden responded. “And by the way, what you all know, but most people don’t know, unlike the African American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.” The Trump campaign was quick to respond, tweeting “Uhh… did Joe Biden just say that Black people are all the same?” The New York Post also recently highlighted “a 2009 HBO clip of late comedian and actor Robin Williams talking about then-Vice President Joe Biden.” “In the 30-second video, Williams, who would have turned 69 last month, doesn’t mince words,” the Post says. “There’s always ramblin’ Joe Biden,” said Williams in a stand-up routine. “Joe says s - - t that even people with [Tourette syndrome] go, ‘No.’ ” Plainly stated, Joe Biden’s mental capacity has also been in the spotlight for quite some time.

Flag This: Age, mental acuity, and senility isn’t necessarily a new issue as it relates to US Presidential elections. As Axios notes, “Candidates’ age and mental state have been questioned in past presidential campaigns — remember Barry Goldwater in ’64, Ronald Reagan in ’84 and Bob Dole in ’96 — but never like this.” It’s also a delicate subject, as it should be. As far back as 2016, even left-leaning outlets like the Washington Post published pieces chastising those calling Trump mentally insane. Patrick Kennedy wrote a piece in August of that year titled, “Stop calling Trump ‘crazy.’ It demeans people with mental illness.” Kennedy said, “Perpetuation of stigmatizing, outdated stereotypes makes it harder for those experiencing mental illness to seek the treatment they need.” Even now-a-days questions arise. On Friday, Mike Bebernes, Editor of Yahoo News, published a piece called: Questions of mental fitness: Fair game or dirty politics? At the end of the day, the American public is likely to see more advertisements and social media clips geared towards this angle of attack.

Cover: Joe Biden, Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, Flickr. Trump, Senior Airman Delano Scott.