We may well look back on February 8, 2024 as the specific moment in time Joe Biden’s bid for reelection was lost. The report of the special prosecutor issued this afternoon effectively said Biden was guilty of willfully mishandling classified documents—but that he could not be successfully prosecuted (and would not be until he was out of office anyway) because he is a nice senile old man and no jury would convict him.
Democrats and others expressed outrage at the way special prosecutor Robert Hur chose to explain this decision—but what else exactly was Hur supposed to say? He had to produce a report. He had to lay out why he wasn’t going to try to bring a case against Biden. He did. What he said was that Biden had sat for an interview with his team and that the president’s memory was so poor and his capacity for recollection so feeble he came across as non compos mentis.
Joe Biden erupted in outrage that the special prosecutor actually mentioned he was unable to recall the year of his son Beau’s death. “How dare he?” Biden said at his nightmarish appearance before the press in the White House. But Hur dared say it because he was trying to explain, in a report he was obliged to file under law, why he was letting Biden off the hook.
Fifteen seconds after he expressed his anger, Biden couldn’t remember the name of the parish where his late son Beau had gotten the rosary Biden now carries with him. Ten minutes after that, Biden said that the president of Mexico had closed the crossing to Gaza. “My memory is fine,” he had barked at a reporter earlier. Oh, sure.
Now, Donald Trump will not be able to argue successfully in federal court that the case against him should be dropped because he is being prosecuted for exactly the same offense Biden will not face legal sanction for. These are separate cases, and it’s also true that Biden didn’t seek to hide documents while Trump did.
But come on. This is the end of the political jeopardy to Trump from the classified-documents case. And that was the one case against him that gave even his supporters pause.
The common charge is the mishandling of classified information. Trump seems to have done it. Biden seems to have done it. Trump’s argument is, in part, that everyone has done it, and that those were his documents to keep. That is exactly the same argument Biden himself made to the special prosecutor—and exactly the same argument the special prosecutor adopted in part in his report as he sought to explain why he believed he could not secure a conviction.
Oh, and then, Biden decided it was a good moment to throw Israel under the bus.
He was on his way out of the press conference from Hell before deciding to go back to the podium to say that Israel’s handling of the war in Gaza was “over the top” and only his efforts to negotiate with the president of Mexico—I mean, Egypt—made it possible for there to be humanitarian aid. And Biden basically said he was now working toward a permanent ceasefire, the first time he has openly expressed such a thought. “I’m pushing very hard now to deal with this hostage cease-fire. I’ve been working tirelessly on this deal…because I think if we can get the delay, the initial delay—I think we would be able to extend that so that we could increase the prospect that this fighting in Gaza changes.”
I have done nothing but defend Biden since the war broke out. I have said, time and again, that he has resisted the pressure to pull his support from Israel’s effort to destroy Hamas after October 7, and has been heroic in using aircraft carriers and diplomatic pressure to prevent the opening of a front against Israel in Lebanon. But with the moral equivalence shown by Secretary of State Blinken in Israel yesterday—where he basically said Hamas had dehumanized Israelis and now Israel was dehumanizing Palestinians—and Biden’s statement today, the temperature has cooled and the mood has shifted. Apparently Israel is to be opposed in its effort to destroy Hamas because Biden needs to shore up his electoral standing in Michigan.
But hey—why worry? Biden has probably already forgotten what he said. And whom he called. Think that’s over the top? Ask Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand, two dead people he said he had spoken to this week. Maybe tomorrow he’ll have a conversation with Margaret Thatcher, who will tell him to stop going wobbly and be a man.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. All I can say is this: The man we saw speaking from the White House tonight, on February 8—that man will not be reelected president. Maybe Biden can become a new man. Maybe he’s had an off week. Maybe they can adjust his meds. Maybe. But probably not. Right? Probably not.