Demented Thinking About Joe Biden

Most Voters Believe Joe Biden in Early Stages of Dementia

            The president is suffering from dementia.

            I’m a cartoonist and a writer and I am most assuredly not a gerontologist. I did not go to medical school. If I am not an expert in aging and cognitive decline, how do I know Biden has dementia? The same way I and you and everyone else know things to be true despite our lack of credentials: experience and pattern recognition.

            I don’t need to be an ornithologist in order to identify a blue jay.

            I’m not a doctor yet I was right and my doctor was wrong when I told her I had a hernia and she said I didn’t; I’d had one on my left side in 1999 and this felt like that, but on my right. Knowing your own body sometimes counts for more than formal education.

            I didn’t go to NYU film school. Despite my lack of official accreditation in cinema I know, as do you, that Meryl Streep is a better actor than Brendan Fraser. We know this to be true because we have seen a lot of movies.

            When my car’s wheel well issues a rubbing sound that gets faster when I accelerate I know it’s probably an issue involving a) brake pads, (b) ball bearings (if the car has significant mileage) or (c) wheel alignment. I’m not a mechanic. But I’m 57, I’ve driven since I was 15 and had rubbing-something sounds enough to have learned what it probably means.

            When I watched Biden’s first presidential press conference last week I didn’t have to have an M.D. or Ph.D appended to my name to recognize the clear, painfully obvious signs of dementia. My mother died of Alzheimer’s a little over a year ago. The president looked and acted like my mom about two years before she died: valiantly struggling to hold it together, moments of lucidity and occasionally of brilliance alternating with terrifying brain freezes, random rambling in search of connection and reaction and cringy rhetorical crashes when the fremdschämen-o-meter shot to 11.

            It took five reporters a question and four follow-ups to make Biden understand that he was being asked whether he favored the elimination of the filibuster, a question at the top of political news since he came into office. Here’s what the commander-in-chief finally came up with: “If we could end it with 51 [votes], we would have no problem. You’re going to have to — the existing rule — it’s going to be hard to get a parliamentary ruling [my emphasis] that allows 50 votes to end the filibuster, the existence of a filibuster.”

            Abdicating journalism, corporate media outlets dutifully transcribed Biden’s response despite its glaring wrongness. Whether or not the filibuster-as-we-know it survives has nothing, nada, zip to do with a Senate Parliamentarian ruling. Paradoxically, a simple 51-vote majority could kill the filibuster.

Biden’s answer was, had to be—there’s no other possible explanation—the product of dementia. Pre-dementia, after all, Biden was as intimately knowledgeable about Senate rules and procedure as any human being on earth. He served 36 years as a senator and 8 years as vice president/president of the senate—a total of 44 years. Pre-dementia, there was no world in which Biden would have said anything so totally, crazily, amazingly incorrect. Not drunk, not asleep, not at all.

Dementia frustrates. As its victims’ inner life becomes harder to articulate to others, they occasionally lash out in disproportionate anger. We’ve seen this more and more with Biden, watching a famously affable guy with a patented aw-shucks grin deteriorate into nervous hardness and even rage.

            And dementia befuddles. It mixes your knowledge and memories and opinions into a blender; though you often sound OK what spews out of your mouth increasingly approaches randomness. That’s what happened to Biden during his presser. He obviously conflated two bits of news—the parliamentarian’s ruling that a proposed minimum wage increase be stripped from the coronavirus relief bill, which grabbed news attention, with the question about the filibuster. Vice President Biden would never have done that. Senator Biden wouldn’t have either. He knew/knows this stuff too well.

            Everyone forgets stuff. It happens more with age. What’s happening to Biden isn’t the occasional senior moment, nor is it stuttering—as Biden himself has said. Biden crashing and burning on a question about senate procedure would be like me messing up questions about Photoshop or Central Asia, two things that have been central to most of my life. If I start mixing up RGB and CMYK and Ashkabat and Astana, topics I know forward and backward and about which I am obsessed, that will point not to whatever-no-biggie but to worrisome cognitive decline.

Biden supporters who deny the visible signs of Biden’s mental deterioration are acting no more rationally than the Trumpies who made excuses for the former president’s crazy behavior. You can feel relief that Trump is gone and believe Biden to be an improvement while conceding that Biden isn’t up to the job and should step down in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris. This is the U.S. presidency. Good enough is anything but.

The fact that “Biden has dementia” is an RNC/Fox News talking point does not make it incorrect. Denying obvious truths—Trump is a racist jerk, climate change is real and caused by mankind, masks help fight COVID, Biden has dementia—makes you look stupid and silly and no one should listen to you.

Trump’s war against truth was toxic; his supporters and enablers undermined decency and logical rhetoric, essential foundations of civil discourse. Democrats who refuse to watch Biden’s dismal unscripted public appearances and who fail to question the president’s unwillingness to face the press at the same rate as his predecessors, and who omit mention of his frequent mental breakdowns, are no better than Trump and the Republicans.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

           

 

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Bernie Sanders Could Win. America Could Become Socialist. Are We Witnessing the Failure of Propaganda?

The independent senator from Vermont says the economic system is rigged against working-class Americans. He’s right.

The electoral political system is a subsidiary of those who rule the economy. Which is why Bernie Sanders never stood a chance. The political system was rigged against him.

And yet, despite the formidable institutional obstacles stacked against him, Sanders is doing great: largely considered a shoo-in to win New Hampshire, leading in Iowa, closing the gap nationally. Surprised pundits are marveling at his popular momentum, ground organization and fundraising prowess. There is now a credible path to the Democratic nomination and, if he runs against GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, to the White House.

Center-right Hillaryworld wants to know: how did this happen?

Leftists wonder: is this cause for hope?

It is an amazing story. Everyone in a position to block Sanders’ campaign did everything they could to sabotage him.

Knowing that coverage is the essential oxygen of politics, the media mostly ignored him. By one measure, corporate media gave Trump 23 times more coverage than Sanders! On the few occasions when they spilled a little ink on Bernie, it was to insult him and his socialist politics. (My personal Exhibit A was a New York Times piece that carried a photo that emphasized his bald spot.)

Marginalization always used to work. Remember John Edwards? His 2008 primary campaign was doomed because TV networks refused to cover him. But the media’s cold shoulder isn’t hurting Bernie.

In the bag for Hillary Clinton and remembering the lesson of 2008 — the more voters hear from her the less they like her — the Democratic National Committee fed her aura of inevitability by refusing to give Bernie the exposure and legitimacy offered by a robust round of debates. Debates, the few of them the manipulative DNC chair and Hillary toady Debbie Wasserman Schultz allowed to take place, were scheduled for the nights known for low television viewership.

That tactic backfired. Hillary did better than Bernie in the first three debates. But no one saw her flex her foreign-affairs muscles.

Bernie got nothing but chicanery from the DNC, to the point that the Sanders camp had to sue to access its own voter data. Which only reinforced his image as a rebel — not easy for a U.S. senator — and further endeared him to his supporters.

Despite everything, Sanders could win.

Moreover, it’s not just Sanders the candidate who is doing well. His “unusual” politics are becoming usual.

Sanders’ self-labeling as a democratic socialist — universally considered political suicide in the United States — is catching on. In one of the most surprising poll results of the 2016 race, a recent survey of likely Iowa caucus-goers finds that more of them call themselves socialist (43%) than capitalist (38%).

Where did Iowa’s socialists come from? They certainly weren’t indoctrinated by the mainstream system. No ideology, not even radical Islam, has come under heavier systemic assault than socialism. From the Palmer Raids of a century ago to McCarthyism to the Tea Party’s (sadly mistaken) insinuations that President Obama is a secret red, socialism has been the bête rouge of mainstream American politics: reviled in ridiculous movies, misrepresented and excluded from acceptable public debate, even on the watered-down liberalism that passes for a “left.” Even in schools, socialism and communism are lied about — if they’re mentioned at all.

My friend the film critic Cole Smithey calls what we’re seeing “the failure of propaganda.”

It’s certainly a notable moment. The ruling elite’s old tricks are indeed failing them. But it’s too early to declare propaganda dead and gone. Propaganda works. That’s why those in power keep using it.

Here’s what I think is really going on: old institutions have been discredited. Sanders’ growing support and Iowa’s surprisingly socialist hordes reflect public contempt for everyone in charge.

Pundits have mostly focused on populist anger on the right, embodied by the wild neofascist-lite pronouncements of Donald Trump. But there is just as much rage on the left excluded from the Democratic Party since George McGovern’s 1972 defeat to Richard Nixon. Divided or not, one thing Americans can agree upon is that they don’t trust government — on the right to leave them alone, and on the left to help them out.

Propaganda is still effective. But when it’s broadcast by elites who are widely despised, its effect is opposite of what’s intended.

Hillary Clinton racks up endorsements from unions and left-leaning organizations like Planned Parenthood. In the past, these would have given her a boost. This year, it reinforces a negative framing of her as bought and paid for by special interests.

In days of yore the endorsement of a young actress starring in a hip TV show would have been a feather in Hillary’s cap. In 2016, it’s hard to imagine how poor Lena Dunham will wash away the stink of Hillary’s hard-edged corporatism.

Hillary has an incredible resume: first lady, senator, secretary of state. This year, she’d be better off as an outsider. Credentials subtract from her credibility. What’s wrong now, voters feel, is partly her fault.

Bernie Sanders’ campaign gets accused of improperly accessing Hillary’s data on DNC servers. In the old days, the smell of an ethical breach might have doomed his candidacy. Now, because Democratic voters are disgusted by the DNC’s brazen attempt to fix the primaries for Hillary, the controversy looks like another sleazy attack on Bernie the outsider.

Because the public distrusts journalists, the media blackout works in Bernie’s favor. Through the lens of this new politics of contempt, if the powers that be want to censor the “wild and crazy” socialist senator, he musn’t be that bad after all.

What Bernie really needs is for Hillary to receive Obama’s endorsement (which she obviously, foolishly, wants.) That would be the end of her.

The same reverse-propaganda paradigm holds true for socialism. As America’s continuously lauded state religion, capitalism takes the blame for all its associated evils: layoffs, stagnant wages, home foreclosures, health insurance companies that don’t pay claims. If socialism is anti-capitalism, an alienated populace has evidently concluded, it doesn’t matter that they don’t know very much about it. Socialism can’t be that bad.

If elected, President Sanders will be ineffective. Either that, or he’ll sell us out. Such is the nature of this system: it chews up and spits out those who don’t go along to get along.

A Sanders victory would nonetheless mark an important prerevolutionary moment. As Ché Guevara observed, people will not resort to armed struggle before they exhaust every last opportunity to nonviolently reform the existing system by casting their votes in elections.

A Sanders Administration would be our best, last, 100% doomed shot at fixing a rigged regime.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie” is being released today.)

The Traitors Within

Shockingly for patriotic Muslims, thousands of naive young Muslims are committing treason against their own people, rejecting their homeland to travel to the United States, where they join the terrorist military. Why would anyone join a group responsible for horrific atrocities, which have been documented on video?

Positively Lying

Facts don’t matter in attack ads, where anything goes. Why not take the same approach in positive ads that tout a candidate’s achievements?

Retroactive Courage

For years Obama was too cowardly to support the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Now that that right is popular with voters, however, he has changed his mind. And now he’s bragging about his courage.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Pravda-ization of the News

No Context, But Propaganda Is Amusing

Try as they may to make the news as boring as possible, U.S. media outlets keep churning out hilarious “news” stories. Hardly a day passes without the release of some piece whose content is so ridiculous, its tone so absurdly credulous, that it makes us feel as if we live in a bizarre reincarnation of the propaganda-soaked Soviet Union.

Remember “Baghdad Bob”? Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraq’s information minister during the 2003 U.S. invasion, kept denying reality, insisting that Saddam’s regime was winning even as attacking tanks appeared in the background of his camera shots. I had a Baghdad Bob flashback moment earlier this week while listening to NPR’s afternoon news program “All Things Considered.”

“President Obama toured the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington today joined by Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel. Mr. Obama said the U.S. must never again allow such atrocities to take place,” said Melissa Block.

Whaaaaa…?

The implication is that Obama cares about protecting innocent people from state-run mass murder. That the U.S. has moral standing. But…but…

The U.S. is currently the world’s leading perpetrator of atrocities!

American wars against Afghanistan and Iraq have slaughtered at least two million people and injured many millions more. The U.S. maintains a network of “black site” secret prisons and concentration camps around the world. President Obama claims the right to assassinate anyone, including U.S. citizens, anywhere in the world, without having to explain himself to a court. We’re the #1 arms dealer on the planet. And, as a British newspaper has learned, the military maintains dozens of secret drone bases here inside the U.S., obviously for future use against the enemies of our increasingly oppressive police state.

The Obama Administration isn’t killing as many people as were killed during the Holocaust—but that’s not saying much. Does NPR think we’ve forgotten that the hands of our political leaders are dripping with blood? Or is NPR trying to compete with Comedy Central?

The report included an Obama sound bite: “And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience. Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence simply for demanding their universal rights. We have to do everything we can.”

When innocents suffer. Well, not all innocents, right, Mr. President? Like, we’re not supposed to lose sleep over the thousands of detainees—including children—in U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia, Thailand, and Bulgaria. All of who are, under U.S. law, innocent of any crime (because they’ve never been charged, much less convicted, in court).

Anyway, it’s not like the U.S. is doing “everything we can” for the Syrian resistance. Not that we should. But coverage like this—it really does hearken back to the glory days of Pravda and Izvestia.

It’s bad enough to be fed propaganda. But at least make an effort when you lie. This crap is insulting.

In the same report, Don Gonyea let loose this howler: “Mr. Obama announced new sanctions against nations that commit grave human rights abuses through technology that includes cell phone tracking and monitoring citizens on the Internet.”

What a kidder! Such awesomely dry delivery!

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “The President took aim at Syria and Iran, whose leaders have tapped compliant phone companies and Internet services to hunt down dissenters.”

Listening to and reading that, you could almost forget that Obama voted for FISA, which retroactively legalized Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping program, which was carried out by the National Security Agency and—ahem—compliant phone companies such as AT&T. FISA also radically expanded the federal government’s right to listen to your phone calls and intercept your email without a warrant.

Obama’s own commission of “grave human rights abuses through technology that includes cell phone tracking and monitoring citizens on the Internet” is context worth mentioning in a story about Obama imposing sanctions on other countries that do the same things. Maybe something like this: “Mr. Obama, whose Administration vigorously asserts its right to track Americans’ cell phones and track them on the Internet, announced sanctions against other countries that do the same thing.”

They wouldn’t be telling us anything we didn’t already know. But here’s the thing—as ignorant and stupid as the American public is, the media thinks we’re even stupider and more ignorant!

If nothing else, our neo-Soviet media sure is funny.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is tedrall.com.)

Focus on the Good Apples

After Sgt. Bales shoots 16 unarmed civilians in Afghanistan, the Army and the U.S. urge Afghans to focus on the good work being done by U.S. occupation troops.

Joe Paterno, RIP

For the child rape victims, justice for Penn State coach Joe Paterno would look very ugly.

The Recovery Continues

Official economists claim the recession is over. However, it wasn’t a recession to begin with, but rather a depression.

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