What Is the Real State of Biden’s Mind?

News & Politics

Ever since Joe Biden began to run for president, there have been questions about his cognitive decline. That’s because, for his entire career, Biden was known on Capitol Hill as a canny and well-prepared negotiator. By most accounts, he is not all there all the time.


This is to be expected of an 80-year-old man. He has good days and bad days. This is especially true for someone in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy exploration of Joe Biden’s mental state and cognitive ability. The reporters talked to 45 individuals over the last several months who have interacted with Biden. Most administration officials and Democrats who interacted with Biden found no fault in Biden’s abilities, but tellingly, some did.

As with everything else in American politics, the perception of the state of Biden’s cognitive abilities depends on your partisan leanings. That’s not nearly good enough. The next four years promises to be the most challenging time in American history. Would Biden really be up to taking on those challenges and bringing the U.S. safely through to the other side? 

I don’t see how anyone can be confident that Biden can lead us after frightening missteps like this.

On May 20, during a Rose Garden event celebrating Jewish American Heritage month, Biden said one of the U.S. hostages held in Gaza was a guest at the White House event, before correcting himself. One day earlier, at a campaign event in Detroit, he indicated that he was vice president during the Covid-19 pandemic, which started three years after he left that office. It was one of numerous flubs in the single speech that prompted the White House to make corrections to the official transcript.

In January, he mixed up two of his Hispanic cabinet secretaries, Alejandro Mayorkas and Xavier Becerra. During a February fundraiser in New York, he recounted speaking to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl—who died in 2017—at the 2021 Group of Seven meeting. That same month, at a different fundraiser, he said that during the 2021 G-7 summit he had spoken to former French President François Mitterrand, who died in 1996. 


People age differently. There are some 81-year-olds who are as sharp as when they were 50. Others are afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and have trouble remembering almost everything. 

And then there are most of the rest of us in the middle. Most elderly people (like me) are forgetful at times. When writing, I have difficulty remembering where I read some fact flake from the previous day. Did I take my heart medication today? My mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, and since it’s a hereditary disease, I’m naturally anxious about any slip-ups like that. My doctor tells me not to worry. He says it’s normal for older people to forget.

But there’s nothing normal about a president who forgets or who can’t follow what’s happening during a meeting.

On January 17 of this year, Biden held a meeting with top congressional lawmakers about Ukraine funding. It was not a good day for Biden. Some congressional attendees report that they could barely hear Biden, who was reading from note cards and listing talking points that everyone in the room already were aware of.

“You couldn’t be there and not feel uncomfortable,” said one person who attended. “I’ll just say that.” 

“What you see on TV is what you get,” said Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), who attended the meeting. “These people who keep talking about what a dynamo he is behind closed doors—they need to get him out from behind closed doors, because I didn’t see it.”


Another bad day for Biden was in February when he met with Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) about energy policy.

Johnson brought up a new administration energy policy that halts future permits for shipping LNG to many countries, including in Europe, while the climate, economic and national-security impact of those exports are studied. The policy fanned concern that the ban would scuttle new projects and ultimately force U.S. allies to import more from energy-rich adversaries like Russia. The policy also affects several multibillion-dollar projects in Johnson’s home state of Louisiana by denying them, for now, key export permits.

“Mr. President, you are helping Vladimir Putin,” Johnson told the president, according to one of the people briefed on the exchange. Biden said that wasn’t true, and that the new policy was only a study, according to several people familiar with Johnson’s version of what happened. Johnson was dismayed that Biden appeared to have forgotten details of his own policies, they said.

On other occasions, Biden has appeared to be engaged and on top of things. In a meeting in the Situation Room during Iran’s attack on Israel, there was universal acknowledgment from participants that during the long hours, the president was fully engaged and participated in talks with Israeli officials.

Biden has not made public any diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Those who say you can tell just by looking at him or listening to him that he’s suffering from a debilitating mental condition lack the knowledge to be taken seriously.


For us lay people, it’s a matter of grave concern. That’s because it’s not going to get any better.

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