Colin Brazier: Should we doubt about Joe Biden's abilities?

It’s vital we talk about this, because the decline in acuity can be quick.

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Our team is in real trouble. Look at this pair of war-birds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping via a video link at his residence outside Moscow, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin holds talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping via a video link at his residence outside Moscow, Russia

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jingping this week, agreeing a new level of co-operation against the West. Against us. Against you and yours. Whatever else they are, these are two tyrants at the top of their game. Ruthless, energetic and focused.

Our team captain, the leader of the free world, is this man.

US President Joe Biden during the Cop26 summit
US President Joe Biden during the Cop26 summit

Joe Biden, 79, but – were he to serve a second term, potentially still President… at 86.

Is there a conspiracy of silence, almost a code of omerta, that is preventing candid discussion of what this might mean.

Well, not any more. In a blistering piece for the flagship organ of liberal America, columnist Bret Stephens wrote this in today’s New York Times.

It’s now considered horrible manners to raise concerns about Biden’s age and health. As if doing so can only play into Trump’s hands. As if the president’s well-being is nobody’s business but his own. As if accusations of ageism and a giant shushing sound from media elites can keep the issue off the public mind.

Is he right? Is the mainstream media leery of questioning Biden’s mental faculties for fear of boosting Trump? Almost certainly. Are they also worried about sounding ageist too?

That's not as daft as it sounds. This morning we read, not in the New York Times, but the Times of London, how an employment tribunal has ruled that it’s discriminatory to ask someone in their sixties when they plan to retire.

But it's one thing for an office worker in his 60s to be facing ageism - that's wrong. But it's entirely acceptable, necessary indeed, to ask a man about to turn 80 when HE plans to retire. Not just any man. But the most powerful democratically elected person in the world. This stuff really matters. I mentioned the Chinese communist leader Xi Jingping a moment ago. The West is now, belatedly, pivoting to recognise the threat he poses.

And yet, when it came to unveiling the Australia, UK and US defence pact designed to counter Beijing recently, president Biden couldn’t even remember the name of Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

It’s vital we talk about this, because the decline in acuity can be quick.

Our former prime minister Margaret Thatcher was a woman with a ferocious intellect – until dementia struck. According to Cabinet colleague Ken Clarke, small signs of memory loss may have started in her last year in office. Perhaps it was a mercy that she was forced from Number Ten when she was.

But nobody is forcing Joe Biden from The White House; quite the contrary. In the absence of a viable Democratic alternative, and given the uselessness of his vice-president, the West may be stuck with his faltering leadership for most of this decade.

Can anything be done?

Perhaps the president should ask the Pope, who he met at the Vatican a few weeks ago.

As a Catholic, president Biden will know what a revolutionary step the Pontiff who came before Francis – Benedict - took in stepping down. It simply isn’t done.

Traditionally, Popes died in office. Even if that meant, as it did with Pope John Paul the Second, that the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics were left with a leader struck down with Parkinson’s Disease.

If the Vatican, a nearly 2000-year-old institution which still conducts official business in Latin, can move with the times, why can’t the Democratic Party.

But it can’t. Last month the White House confirmed Biden will run again. Should he win, and incumbents rarely lose, he’ll be closer to 90 than 80 come the end of his presidency. That will be 2028, the same year China’s economy is predicted to overtake America’s.

Anyone who thinks a world where communist China is top dog will be hunky dory needs their head examining. But so does Joe Biden. And we all need to know the results.