Doddery Biden Shocks the Nation

In 1787, the Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, journeyed by barge down the Dnieper River accompanied by a number of foreign ambassadors whom she hoped to impress with the wealth and stability of the settlements in the region.

Unbeknownst to Catherine and her guests, the prosperous towns and villages they viewed along the way were an illusion created by Grigory Potemkin, Catherine’s former lover and the Governor of the region – with the buildings little more than mere facades or temporary buildings disassembled and moved to the next location, once the barge had passed.

Since that time, the term Potemkin Village has come to refer to an impressive façade – often in politics and government – created to hide an unpleasant reality.

Based on President Biden’s embarrassing performance during the election debate in June 2024 and his obvious cognitive decline, which has been covered up for more than a year, it would appear that the current US Administration resembles a Potemkin Village more than any of us might care to admit.

An election debate gone seriously wrong

By any standard, Biden’s poor showing in the debate represents a serious setback for the President and the Democrats’ hopes for achieving a second term in office. For instead of seeing a man who was still at the top of his game — as his handlers had hoped — millions of viewers saw a man in a rather advanced state of mental and physical decline, whose words and thoughts wandered and who at one point froze for some 14 seconds.

For many ordinary Americans, who had believed up to that point that the President was just fine, seeing the reality of Biden’s condition came as a terrible shock. Which was totally understandable given that they had been told for months by White House spokespersons, innumerable elected officials on the Democrat side of the aisle, and much of the mainstream media that he was in good health and brimming over with energy. And yet here he was – not fine at all.

However, harder to understand and credit was the shock and alarm expressed by key Democrats and many journalists who should have been expected to know the real state of affairs, since it was their job to do so and who, in some cases, would have had contact with him and those closest to him. To believe that they somehow had been unaware of his condition or deceived by others seems a bit of a stretch, to say the least.

To my mind, a more likely explanation is that many knew and, for whatever reason, chose to parrot the Administration’s narrative or stayed silent, believing discretion to be the better part of valour (or career success).

This latter explanation was given credence in an interview given by Carl Bernstein on CNN, in which he claimed that sources close to the President have told him that the situation seen during the debate was not a one-off event, but rather that there have been 15 or 20 similar events that have occurred recently. He further claimed that there have been concerns for the last year about Biden’s health and mental acuity and that many people have known about this, including many journalists.

That being the case, the question arises, “Why have none of these people – especially journalists, who are supposedly tasked with keeping the public informed and speaking truth to power – spoken up until now?” And why have some journalists dismissed warnings as little more than political posturing by Republicans – as seen in the ever-popular “Republicans pounce” phrase that appears in so many headlines and articles in the US mainstream media?

What now?

So now that the cat is out of the bag, what now?

Well, to begin with, there is a great deal of damage control to be done by the Democrats and their media allies. For having a candidate who is cognitively challenged is not the best way to win an election — however, politics being what it is, recent history suggests that this is not always a deal-breaker.

So media lines will have to be crafted immediately – the current spin-du-jour being that Biden stumbled, but at least he’s not a liar like Trump. And an even more recent one is that the Presidency is more than one person — which is true in a way, but which also implicitly suggests that we can always fall back on the Deep State if Joe gets in real trouble. (Cynics might suggest that the Deep State has, in fact, been running things from the beginning — with Biden little more than a figurehead throughout his time in office.)

As well, they will have to mount a counter-attack, coordinating the efforts of the White House with their allies in the media and various sympathetic organisations.

And then there is the question of whether to ditch Biden and find someone to replace him for the fight in November. This remains to be decided – with important Democrats still uncertain as to which way to go.

Larger issues at stake

Still, all of these are just a matter of politics. And political fights and posturing are usually short-lived and ephemeral, as those of us who have engaged in them or reported on them can testify.

But there are larger issues at play here – which may well have longer-term, real-life impacts that do matter.

Such as how revelations about Biden’s mental sharpness (or lack thereof) may impact perceptions of foreign leaders concerning American resolve and power – which could make the world a more dangerous place by encouraging some to take gambles they might not otherwise consider.

And perhaps most serious of all is the damage that has been done to the trust Americans have in key institutions, such as the government and the media. For, having been reassured for least a year, maybe more, that Biden is just fine and reports of his many blunders are little more than “cheap fakes”, citizens have now seen with their own eyes that the man is definitely not okay.

Recognising the discrepancy between what they have been told and what they saw in the debate, many will conclude that they have been lied to – a conclusion that, quite frankly, is difficult to rebut.

And many may conclude that this particular lie was not a one-off event, and that being lied to by those in power may be a feature of the system rather than a glitch. When that happens, trust in the system – which has been dropping precipitously for some time – will plummet even more.  A situation that, if left unchecked, can threaten the very existence of democracy.

Reasons to hope

Still, all is not lost. For America is a great nation. Americans are a great people who have gone through even more perilous times in the past than these. And each time, they emerged even stronger.

There is a strength and resilience in the American character that reasserts itself eventually, in spite of the fools and scoundrels who all too frequently have plagued the nation’s history.

And while the current crop of fools and scoundrels in Washington who govern the nation may be little more than a Potemkin Village – a mere façade covering a more sinister reality — the people they are supposed to represent are anything but that, and will eventually prevail.

And when that happens, Joe Biden and those around him will be just a bad memory.

What did you think of the US presidential debate? Comment below.


Paul Malvern writes from Canada. He is President of The Malvern Consulting Group which provides public and private sector clients with advice in strategic communication and social marketing. He is also an author and social critic.

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EDITORS NOTE: This Mercator column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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