Democrats angered by special counsel report questioning Biden’s memory

| Updated: 12 February, 2024 1:25 pm IST
Democrats express frustration at special counsel report scrutinising Biden's memory. (Image credit: X)

NEW DELHI: Democrats are furious over a special counsel report, heightening concerns regarding US President Biden’s memory, amplifying a longstanding issue that poses a significant political risk for the party in November.

In a 388-page document, special counsel Robert Hur contended that it would be improbable for a jury to find the president guilty for his management of classified materials, creating a scenario that typically would bring considerable relief to a beleaguered incumbent seeking favourable developments.

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However, Hur arrived at this conclusion while describing the president as ” a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” sparking anger among many Democrats and fuelling a media storyline that the White House is eager to steer clear of. Republicans capitalised on this single statement, using it to criticise Biden’s age and cognitive capacity, while Democrats denounced it as biased and excessively politicised.

“It is really concerning and points to a way bigger problem within how these two men are covered,” Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, said, as per a report by The Hill. “The scrutiny and the coverage on whatever Biden’s gaffes are 10,000 times what the scrutiny and the toughness and calling out are when Donald Trump rambles incoherently, mashes facts, and comes across as if he has no grasp on reality.”

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Reinish called the display “infuriating.”

Disturbed by the report on Thursday evening, Biden, who typically avoids engaging with the press, unexpectedly addressed a large gathering of journalists in a spontaneous briefing, to dispel doubts about his cognitive abilities at 81. His defensive and flustered responses to questions surprised many observers.

“I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing. I’ve been president; I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation,” Biden said.

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Some Democrats drew comparisons between Hur’s report and former FBI Director James Comey’s controversial comments in 2016, where he criticised then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information during her tenure as secretary of state.

Many within the party expressed concerns that another episode akin to Comey’s remarks would be detrimental in 2024, especially as the recent developments raised uncertainties about Biden’s future course of action.

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“I think you can file it under the double standard, Comey 2.0 file,” said Democrat Antjuan Seawright, who helped Biden’s election effort in South Carolina last cycle. “The special counsel obviously did not indict Biden legally, so he decided to manufacture political outrage by indicting him politically.”

While the unfavourable optics offered Republicans ample material for criticism, Democrats primarily attempted to mitigate the situation’s timing, emphasising that Team Biden still has several months ahead to address any concerns.

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Some Democrats supportive of Biden argue that if it were to occur at all, it’s preferable for it to happen now rather than later.

“The good news for Biden and Democrats is this report is coming out in February and not October. This is not 11 days before the election, like what Jim Comey did,” stated Democratic communications strategist Doug Gordon. “The election is still nine months away and there is plenty of time to change voters’ perceptions. And there will certainly be other big events over that period that will shake up the race,” he added.

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The greater Trump factor, these Democrats argue, ranges from his shaky standing with some voting blocs and the still-unknown ending to his many legal problems.

These Democrats contend that the larger Trump factor encompasses his uncertain support among certain voting demographics and the unresolved outcome of his numerous legal issues.

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Biden’s camp has based their case for his re-election this year on the argument that he is the most experienced Democrat to challenge Trump, having previously defeated him four years ago. Supporters continue to promote this narrative, highlighting Biden’s victory in the last election despite it going against conventional expectations.

Democrats’ performance in the 2022 midterms provided them with additional support to advance this argument. Tangible factors such as a robust economy and several significant legislative victories further bolstered their case.

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Biden’s recent landslide victory in the initial round of early state primaries, despite facing considerably smaller challengers within his party, shows voters’ strong inclination to endorse him for another run, potentially laying the groundwork for a rematch against Trump.

Democrats supporting Biden’s candidacy view the age issue as a persistent, unchangeable factor present since he announced his bid for re-election in April.

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