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Remember when the press warned us that Hillary Clinton was at death's door?

5 min read

What a wonderful trip down memory lane. Remember the time in 2015 when the press declared that Hillary Clinton was absolutely, super-for-sure probably maybe dying?


For those who don't remember, back during the 2016 campaign Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had a bout of pneumonia that nobody would even have noticed except that it caused her to stumble and she hit her head and the press immediately decided that this was it, she was definitely or at least probably or at least maybe going to die and the Democratic Party was said to be be scrambling to find a replacement before her corpse went cold. It was a game of telephone, by the press, each using each other's speculation to ratchet up the drama and get the frontpages to the place they always want to go, in every election: What if things got exciting? What if we had a brokered convention?

And then the pneumonia went away and she was fine and Our Damn Press had to find some new reason why the Republican Party running a transparently incompetent and incoherent and crooked oaf was just as valid a democratic choice as the Democratic Party running a former Secretary of State who was never part of their little in club. They landed on "but her emails," and they drove that story into the ground and then some before traipsing merrily through four years of the Trump and Kushner White House using private emails for whatever they wanted to and nobody giving a damn.

Joe Biden is 81 years old, and Donald Trump only a few years younger. That's an age where things can go south pretty quickly, and people are right to be worried about that. And Joe Biden had a pretty damn terrible debate night, although focus groups seemed to be not nearly as worried about it as the Washington, D.C. brunch crowds.

But what's still missing, in all this new tabloid speculation about whether or not Biden is secretly incoherent and has just been amazingly good at hiding it from everyone, is any evidence of this supposed incoherence that's not based on a handful of debate responses during a performance just as notable for his overpreparedness and over-responding to the asked questions.

Biden's made multiple appearances since the debate. He's been on the campaign trail plenty before then, too—more so than the sluggish Trump. And we haven't seen a return of this supposed incoherence. There's been no evidence for it. Our objective and neutral press, however, has continued to push these same sensationalist stories while ignoring, as with their attempted sabotage of the Clinton campaign eight years ago, that their original premise now appears to have been false.

That's what's most eyebrow-raising about all of this. We certainly ought to be prepared for the possibility that either Biden or Trump will become incapacitated between now and November, either because of speedy mental declines or physical ones. There are three candidates on the presidential campaign trail right now, and two of them are known for giving speeches peppered with obvious lies and apparent delusions, bizarre rants on spur-of-the-moment subjects that are very like what the early throes of dementia can manifest as. Two of the current candidates are known for such speech patterns, and the third candidate is Joe Biden.

So much of this concern seems to have been pointedly manufactured. The New York Times has never filled its frontpage with stories questioning whether a coup-attempting convicted felon caught hiding nuclear secrets in his spy-infested club is truly fit for the presidency. Hasn't come up. This, though, this they're all over.

I've got my own theory of the Biden debate disaster, and it's one that I've completely pulled out of my hat but still benefits from having a bit more evidence to it than "secretly Joe Biden is mentally unfit and has been just doing an amazing job of hiding it during every public appearance but that one."

We know Joe Biden is a stutterer, because he's talked about it plenty. We know that he was feeling under the weather on debate night, with his campaign blaming it on a "cold" he picked up from his family. And we know that stuttering can be much harder to control when you're fatigued or feeling ill, because Just Ask A Stutterer, and that a severe stutter isn't just stumbling over a word here and there, it can cause the omission of entire words or phrases, leaving what's left difficult for listeners to parse.

Given that Biden was perfectly coherent throughout all but a handful of debate answers (though again, his debate preparation team needs to be raked over some coals for thinking the right answer to debating Donald Trump was "flood the zone with memorized rebuttals"), doesn't "lost control of his stutter in a very visible way, but by the end of the evening it was already getting better" fit the facts more than "secretly is no longer mentally sound?"

I don't have a dog in this hunt, in that I don't like glorifying politicians on either side of the aisle and am very skeptical of anyone who does; so long as the Republican drive for a fascist presidency is averted, not just once but forever, I'd be content to put a Furby at the top of the campaign ticket and would still crawl over broken glass to vote for it. No, what chafes here is that as time goes on and the "free press" continues to chew the scenery on this, it feels more and more like the sort of salacious and dishonest yellow journalism that the "press" continues to use as its neutral balance for "and also the Republican side is calling for military tribunals targeting Trump's critics."

We're getting follow-on stories that give us such juicy tidbits as "after doing the double jobs of being president and campaigning for reelection, Joe Biden may get noticeably more tired after 4pm," which Christ I dunno what to tell you people but on days when I have to meet a bunch of people and be nice to them I'm worn out by 3:30. We're getting the same "even the candidate's own allies are coming to the candidate with tears in their eyes, big strong allies with tears in their eyes begging the candidate to step aside so that The New York Times won't be so bored."

If something more noteworthy happens and either candidate can no longer run for office, there's plenty of history on how to deal with that. Donald Trump could fall down a flight of stairs tomorrow, and the only reason he hasn't yet is because God wants us all to suffer. Both candidates are, biologically speaking, Equally Old. One of them has been spewing incoherent nonsense in every public appearance and is clearly far less fit for the presidency than he was when he first ran—and it ain't Joe Biden.

That, right there, is proof that this story is manufactured rather than honestly reported. Because our fine free press could tear their hair out over any of the half-dozen things that make Trump absolutely and unquestionably unfit for office in 2024, and they are clamming up about all of them.


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