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EDITORIAL: Biden’s ‘diminished faculties’ a great concern

If Democrats believe Donald Trump is an existential threat to American democracy, why do they insist on sending a weakened 81-year-old Joe Biden into battle against him? That question became a bit more urgent last week.

On Thursday, special counsel Robert Hur issued his report on Mr. Biden’s mishandling of classified documents. It was both damning and worrisome regarding the president’s fitness for office.

Mr. Hur declined to bring charges against Mr. Biden, although he concluded the president had “willfully” retained and disclosed classified documents after leaving the vice presidency seven years ago. Mr. Hur suggested that Mr. Biden’s cooperation was a factor in his leniency.

But he also noted that Mr. Biden’s fading mental state was in play.

The report found that the president was a “well-meaning elderly man with poor memory” and described Mr. Biden as having “diminished faculties in advancing age.” Mr. Hur speculated that the president’s attorneys would potentially raise the issue of their client’s “limitations” if the case went to court.

But it gets worse. The president, the report found, “did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still vice president?’). He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died.”

This should be alarming enough given the current state of domestic and international events. But based on Mr. Hur’s observations, it’s no longer impolite to ask whether Mr. Biden is capable of carrying out the duties of the Oval Office for the next nine months, let alone through 2028.

Democrats insist Mr. Biden is sharp and lucid. Yet it’s notable that he has held the fewest news conferences of any president in more than three decades. He maintains a limited campaign schedule. His handlers insist on tight control to ensure his accessibility is limited.

Mr. Hur, on the other hand, had lengthy conversations with Mr. Biden, The New York Times noted, that included “hourslong interactions with the president in controlled settings.”

Mr. Biden lashed out in response to Mr. Hur’s findings, but made matters only worse. “I know what the hell I’m doing,” he said during a hastily arranged news conference that passed for damage control. He then referred to the president of Egypt as the leader of Mexico.

The White House, wrote CNN’s Stephen Collison, has “a huge political problem on its hands.”

The bind in which Democrats find themselves is exacerbated by Vice President Kamala Harris, who is drowning in the polls, with an unfavorable rating of 53 percent, according to a recent NBC News survey.

Mr. Biden may carry the day come November, but he also may be the only Democrat — perhaps along with Ms. Harris — whom the baggage-laden Mr. Trump can beat. Do Democrats want to take that chance?

Mr. Hur’s bleak evaluation of the president’s acuity should be of great concern to American voters. Mr. Biden simply isn’t up to four more years. Conscientious Democrats must try to persuade Mr. Biden that it would be best for the nation if he were to drop out of the race and be content with a single term in the White House.

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