Live long enough and your greatest achievements may come back to haunt you. Since last fall, the Harvard diploma hanging on my wall arouses only mixed feelings. I feel the same way about the counter-intelligence officer badge, proudly framed on my living room wall. Being an Army special agent once seemed like a dream come true; our duties fighting national security crimes closely paralleled those of the FBI, particularly a shared ethos of professionalism and impartiality.
But today those ideals seem as sadly tarnished as academic objectivity at Harvard, the accountability waiver issued by James Comey to Hillary Clinton or the Russia-gate hoax of Robert Mueller. On February 8th, that infamous record was extended yet again, when special counsel Robert Hur stated in his report to Attorney General Merrick Garland:
“Our investigation uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen. These materials included (1) marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, and (2) notebooks containing Mr. Biden's handwritten entries about issues of national security and foreign policy implicating sensitive intelligence sources and methods. FBI agents recovered these materials from the garage, offices, and basement den in Mr. Biden's Wilmington, Delaware home.”
Despite these damning findings, however, Mr. Hur concluded that this “evidence is not sufficient to convict, and we decline to recommend prosecution of Mr. Biden.” Although the classified documents in Mr. Biden’s possession reached back years, the prosecutor also opined that, “at trial, Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory. Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt. It would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him-by then a former president well into his eighties-of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.” https://www.justice.gov/
How can such an addled octogenarian run for re-election? Even sympathetic-to-a-fault CNN had to add that the report “painted a picture of a forgetful commander in chief who failed to properly protect highly sensitive classified information – a depiction that could hurt Biden politically.”https://www.cnn.
Somewhat predictably, the New York Times noted that “Former President Donald J. Trump, is likely to seize on the report to downplay his own legal woes — and to claim the Justice Department has targeted him politically while letting Mr. Biden escape punishment.” https://www.nytimes.com/2024/
To summarize the report and its findings: The good news is that Joe Biden dodged yet another set of criminal charges; but the bad news is that his steadily worsening mental condition raises more fundamental issues. Mr. Biden’s gaffes have already become so frequent as to raise serious questions about his grasp of fundamentals: Who is Hamas and which foreign leader(s) are still alive and kicking? With his difficulties seemingly worsening daily, questions abound concerning Mr. Biden’s competence on the world stage as well as his suitability as a presidential candidate. Like a telescope gradually coming into focus, the public picture of Joe Biden is not what the American people were told four years ago, COVID-restricted glimpses amidst an intrinsically deceptive campaign. Nowadays, hearing his voice weaken to the point of incoherence inevitably sets off alarm bells; his rants look even more alarming when repeated endlessly on late-night TV.
Some observers are already wondering if the Biden presidency may end with the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which covers presidential disabilities. Naturally, the publication of the Hur Report set off new speculation, House Speaker Mike Johnson arguing that Mr. Biden “is certainly unfit for the Oval Office.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/
But in an incisive 2022 article, Merrill Mathews wrote that the recent Donald Trump controversies showed that most invocations of the 25th Amendment were little more than partisan flag-waving. Looking ahead, he wrote presciently,
“More likely, I think, would be a full-court press by Democratic leaders to convince Biden not to run for reelection…So, if Democratic leaders feel Biden isn’t up to running again, they could use the 25th Amendment provision as leverage to get him to agree.” https://thehill.com/opinion/
With wars on the far horizon amidst unrest at home, is there a Non Compos Mentis moment in our future?
Colonel Ken Allard is a former West Point faculty member, Dean of the National War College and an on-air military analyst for NBC News.