It began shortly after President Biden’s inauguration. First, there were whispers and what seemed like slander on far-right websites and social media that the president was suffering from cognitive decline. His subsequent slurred speech, his trips and falls, and his confusion even while reading a teleprompter, all have led to denunciations and explanations by the White House press secretary, some congressional Democrats and legacy media for raising the issue.
The subject is no longer on the fringes. Mainstream media are now carrying stories and editorials about the president’s mental condition and his fitness for a second term. Asked about his age by Fareed Zakaria on CNN (a related but not the main subject), Biden said with age comes wisdom.
Not for everyone.
Questions about Biden’s mental state have grown louder in recent months. Axios reported this week that “President Joe Biden, behind closed doors, has a temper that sees him yelling at staff and shouting obscenities. In fact, his temper is so bad that some staff try to avoid meeting alone with him or bring along a colleague to help defuse the situation.” That’s quite a contrast from the president’s promise on his first day in office to fire anyone on his staff if they “disrespect others.”
Why should this matter? It matters because there is a connection between such behavior and the possibility of dementia, or Alzheimer’s.
According to the website Dementia Care Central, “…it is common for one’s behavior to change in unexpected and unwanted ways. One common complaint and concern that is frequently expressed by the loved ones of a dementia patient is the use of swear words and foul language.”
The website explains, “There are two sides of the brain, the right side and the left side, and both play a role in language skills. The left side controls formal language, while the right side is responsible for automatic speech, swearing, and singing. With Alzheimer’s disease, an unfortunate reality is one’s language skills controlled by the left side of the brain fail before those controlled by the right side of the brain. … With Alzheimer’s disease, not only is impulse control lost, so is the ability to find replacement words for the foul ones that come to mind. Therefore, when your loved one searches for another word to say, there is nothing but the swear word to grasp, and this is what comes out verbally.”
During the 2020 campaign, Biden was asked if he had been tested for dementia and Alzheimer’s and he said he had. He said the opposite in an interview with the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists: “No, I haven’t taken a test. Why the hell would I take a test? Come on, man. That’s like saying you, before you got on this program, you take a test where you’re taking cocaine or not. What do you think? Huh? Are you a junkie?”
If he has been tested, the public deserves to see the results. If he hasn’t, he should be tested to put the issue to rest and allow voters to determine whether he should serve, or is up to serving, a second term. For the ultimate in credibility, testing should be conducted outside of the White House physician’s office, perhaps at the Mayo Clinic.
If he refuses to be tested, that will suggest he has something to hide and it will send its own message to voters who would then be looking for someone else to be president, which polls, even among Democrats, indicate they would like to see happen.