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February/March 2024 79
A report in early February by US Department of Justice special counsel Robert Hur,
admittedly a registered Republican, states: “Biden willfully retained and disclosed classifi ed
materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen including classifi ed
documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan” and handwritten notes
about national security. FBI agents recovered the material from near a dog box in Biden’s
Wilmington, Delaware, home. Biden also shared classifi ed national defence information with
ghostwriter Mark Zwonitzer for a memoir about his (pre-presidential) time in offi ce.
Hur nevertheless — damningly — recommended against prosecution, saying Biden
presented as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who would
probably appear the same with a jury, thereby sowing “reasonable doubt” and a sense that
Biden made “an innocent mistake” in keeping the documents.
In a press conference intended to hit back, Biden undermined his claim to rude mental
health by appearing to confuse Egypt with Mexico while making reference to the ongoing
Israel-Hamas confl ict in the Middle East. The day before he had confused French president
Emmanuel Macron with Francois Mitterand, who died in 1996, at a rally in Las Vegas, while
recounting a G7 meeting in Cornwall some years ago:
“Mitterrand from Germany — I mean, from France – looked at me and said, ‘You know, what...
why… how long you back for?”, President Biden regaled appalled listeners. In New York a few
days later, he claimed to have discussed the Capitol riot with German chancellor Helmut
Kohl, who passed away in 2017, four years before it took place.
Also in February, President Biden appeared unable to recall the name of the terror group
being fought by Israel in Gaza, during a press conference at the White House. In an infamous
slip-up from June 2023, the president muddled up the ongoing war in Ukraine with the Iraq
war, which ended in 2011. Some months ago he described climate change deniers as “lying,
dog-faced pony soldiers”.
The president has suffered several falls during his time in offi ce, including taking a tumble
on stage at the Air Force Academy’s commencement exercises in Colorado and falling off
his bike on vacation in Delaware.
Reports also indicate Biden has opted to take the small stairs when boarding or leaving Air
Force One to avoid potential slips, and has chosen to wear sneakers for extra comfort.
Confusion is the 81-year-old President’s thing. That could be overcome by his advisors, if he
let them. But Biden still steers policy.
That is evident from his repelling, and often blind, support for Israel’s war in Gaza. He is a
self-defi ned long-standing Zionist who has expressed his “lovefor Bibi Netanyahu. He
has vetoed UN resolutions calling for ceasefi res, declared the US’s “unwavering suppoprt
for Israel’s security”, set no limits to Israel’s right of self defence, downplayed the obvious
and crucial concept of proportionality, denied Israel’s culpability for some of the civilian
casualties and disputed Hamas’ death-toll gures. In early February, Biden vetoed legislation
providing $17.6 billion in new military assistance to Israel for the war against Hamas
proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives . However, it was only on grounds
it wasn’t integrated with funding for Ukraine etc and linked to compliance with international
humanitarian and human rights law, and other standards. Initially Biden’s concern had
focused more on the fact Republicans wanted the funding to be taken from the Inland
Revenue Service and he wasn’t linking it to anything. In part to assuage some horrifi ed
Democrats, he appears to be questioning Israel more, mainly in private, but after 28,000
civilian deaths it is all too late. The US provides Israel with about $3.8bn annually for its
military. Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid since its founding,
receiving about $300 billion (adjusted for infl ation) in total economic and military assistance.
As a recent New York Times op-ed piece, ‘The question is not If Biden should step aside, it’s
How’, says, Biden should announce his retirement at the Democrat Convention in August,
allowing that body to choose the candidate. There will be — just — time for better and less
senescent talent to mount a challenge to Trump who is likely to end democracy in the US,
and far beyond, if, as he is favoured to do, he prevails in November’s election.


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