Last week, The Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen wrote an interesting piece arguing that President Trump’s tactic of making fun of Joe Biden’s cognitive decline and memory lapses is counterproductive and will hurt his re-election prospects more than it helps.
Thiessen provided the following two points to defend his position:
“First, Trump is lowering the bar for Biden in the debates. That is the opposite of what successful candidates do. Trump should be raising the bar for Biden, talking about what an experienced debater Biden is, having participated in so many debates during his more than four decades as a politician in Washington. If Trump continues to dismiss him as incompetent, all Biden will have to do to win is string together a few coherent sentences.
Second, mocking Biden’s decline is offensive to seniors. In 2016, Trump won seniors by nine points, but today, Trump is losing among seniors by six points in key battleground states. His push to reopen the economy has many older Americans spooked, because they are most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and least concerned about bringing back jobs quickly since most are retired. Instead of helping win these voters back, making fun of Biden’s mental functions further alienates them. Many struggle with memory problems themselves.”
Thiessen’s argument isn’t a bad one. However, in my own opinion, I believe that Trump should make this an issue during the campaign. I am open to the argument that he shouldn’t make fun of or belittle Biden, but he needs to constantly bring attention to his mental lapses.
If Biden wasn’t running for the most powerful office in the world, I would have sympathy for him. I have family members with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, but they aren’t campaigning to be president of the United States. The president must be sharp and on his game at all times, and that’s simply not Joe Biden.
Say what you want about Trump, but the man has energy and a good memory. Biden lacks both. Biden has forgotten multiple times what city he was in, the words of the Declaration of Independence, and even forgot Barrack Obama’s name (You know, that guy that used to be his boss and picked him off the political ash heap. Yeah, that guy.)
During his reelection campaign in 1984, President Ronald Reagan, who was in his 70s at the time, was fielding questions about his mental capacity. In the first debate against Walter Mondale, Reagan appeared sluggish and unable to recite basic facts and statistics.
Was the Gipper losing it? That was the question he was asked in the next debate. When Reagan was asked the question, he was prepared with a classic Reagan one-liner: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
Even Mondale had a chuckle. It was later reported that Walter Mondale knew at that very moment that he was going to lose the election. And he did; in fact, he got absolutely shellacked. Reagan was reelected in a landslide, winning 49 of 50 states, losing only Minnesota, which was Mondale’s home state.
But now, in 2020, Joe Biden is no Ronald Reagan—not even close. That is why Trump should exploit Biden’s age and mental deficiencies because there is no way that Biden would be able to deliver a knockout punch like Reagan. With all due respect to Marc Thiessen, Donald Trump should make Biden’s age and mental capacity an issue in this campaign.