Further slippage? Latest gaffes reignite questions about Biden's mental fitness
While campaigning in Florida, the president said the current inflation crisis was caused by the war in Iraq — where, he added, his son died. Neither claim is true.
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President Biden's latest public gaffes are reigniting long-held concerns about his cognitive acuity and mental fitness for the highest office in the land, one to which Biden has indicated he'll seek reelection in 2024.
While campaigning in Florida on Tuesday, Biden, who turns 80 this month, delivered a speech full of errors that ended up overshadowing his message.
First, Biden described inflation, which has soared to its highest levels in four decades, in a disjointed, scarcely comprehensible way.
"That's what I call inflation," he said. "The end of the month. What you have left. You have no money. That's inflation. What's, what do you, the things you need. Are they going up? They are. They are."
Biden explained the cause of inflation by pointing to the "war in Iraq" before correcting himself to say Ukraine. He then explained he mentioned Iraq because "that's where [his] son died" while deployed there.
"Inflation is a worldwide problem right now because of a war in Iraq and the impact on oil and what Russia's doing — excuse me, the war in Ukraine," said Biden. "I'm thinking about Iraq because that's where my son died."
One of Biden's sons, Beau, did serve in Iraq. However, he died of brain cancer six years after his deployment ended. (Biden noted the actual circumstances of his son's death shortly afterward while discussing the high cost of the drugs needed to treat his condition.)
At the same campaign event meant to rally Democrats to go to the polls, Biden also claimed he spoke to the man who "invented" insulin, despite the men who discovered it dying before the president was born.
"How many of you know somebody with diabetes, and needs insulin?" Biden asked the crowd. "Do you know how much it costs to make that insulin drug for diabetes? ... It was invented by a man who did not patent it because he wanted it available for everyone. I spoke to him, OK?"
Dr. Frederick Banting and professor John James Richard Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1923 for their 1921 discovery of insulin, a hormone produced in the body. Both men declined to put their name on the insulin patent.
Banting died in 1941, and Macleod in 1935. Biden was born in 1942.
It's possible the president was referring to two other men involved in the discovery of insulin — James Collip, a PhD biochemist, and Charles Best, a medical student — who died in 1965 and 1978, respectively. They transferred the patent rights to the University of Toronto for $1, believing insulin should be made as widely available as possible.
Biden was touting how the Democrat-backed Inflation Reduction Act, which he supported and signed into law, caps the cost on insulin at $35.
During his remarks, Biden also mistakenly referred to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) as "senator" and to Hurricane Ian, which recently wreaked havoc across Florida, as "Hurricane Ivan," which caused significant damage in the Caribbean and made landfall in Alabama in 2004.
The Florida speech came one day after Biden said the U.S. has "54 states" instead of 50 during a campaign stop in Pennsylvania.
Biden's string of gaffes caused many observers to question his mental fitness for office and call for the president to take a cognitive test.
"A confused Biden thinks we have 54 states, and he's forgotten AGAIN how his son passed away, saying he died in Iraq. This is false. He died years later due to cancer," tweeted Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), who served as a White House doctor for years and as the physician to the president under both Donald Trump and Barack Obama. "If Biden's forgotten moments in his life like this, he's not fit to lead. Take a COGNITIVE TEST or RESIGN NOW!"
Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) similarly expressed concern about Biden's mental health, adding that she joined Jackson in signing a letter asking why the public hasn't seen a cognitive test for Biden.
"I think we should be very concerned," Tenney told Newsmax, questioning why Biden's team is letting him do public events and interviews. "This is just a continued pattern. It's daily. He doesn't even know what he's talking about. It's obvious that he's got issues."
Biden has recently made several gaffes similar to those in his Florida speech.
He said last week, for example, that the price of gas per gallon was "over $5 when I took office," despite it being $2.39 on Biden's Inauguration Day, according to the American Automobile Association.
Days earlier, Biden claimed his student loan forgiveness plan "passed by a vote or two," although Congress never voted on the plan as it was an executive action announced by the president.
In one particularly high-profile episode in September, Biden was speaking at a White House conference and asked for Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), who wasn't there because she had died in a car crash less than two months earlier.
Beyond blunders with his words, Biden's presidency has been highlighted by several instances of appearing lost or confused at public events. One day after asking for Walorski, for example, Biden appeared to walk away from the microphone at FEMA's National Response Coordination Center prematurely, leaving FEMA Director Deanne Criswell and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas calling after him, to no avail.
The majority of Americans are concerned about Biden's mental health, according to recent polling, which has shown a growing number of Democrats — in some cases even a majority — also expressing concern.
Against this backdrop, the Hill published an opinion piece suggesting Biden might be removed from office under the 25th Amendment, which can be invoked when a president is considered unable to carry out his duties as commander in chief.
"We frequently see him [Biden], after he has delivered a speech, wander off as if he doesn't know where he is or where he's supposed to go," wrote Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the pro-limited government think tank, the Institute for Policy Innovation. "Someone hurries over and takes his arm and points him in the right direction. "At times he's lucid and in control, but at other times he seems baffled and confused. It's not unusual to see this behavior in older people, and Biden turns 80 this month."
Matthews added, "If that is indeed mental decline we're seeing, it will likely get worse."
Biden, the oldest president in U.S. history, recently said his "intention" is to run again for the White House. However, a majority of Democrats don't want Biden to seek reelection in 2024, according to recent polling. It's unclear what role concerns over mental health play in those results.
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment for this story.