(CNN) In the week or so since it’s been clear that Joe Biden is the likely Democratic nominee, President Donald Trump and his allies have begun a concerted effort to raise entirely baseless questions about the former vice president’s mental acuity.
Witness Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany reacting to the news earlier this week that Biden had canceled a planned rally in Florida due to coronavirus fears:
) They’re saying they’re canceling these rallies because of the coronavirus. No, they’re desperate to get Joe Biden off the campaign trail. They would only let him speak for seven minutes last night. So they’re trying to get him off. What better way to do that by saying, ‘We’re going to sidestep these rallies and public appearances. We don’t want an audience to watch the debate with Joe because we know Joe is going to fall apart, an audience makes that harder as they laugh and snicker and whatnot. ‘” (Worth noting: Within
hours of McEnany’s comments, Trump events in Nevada, Colorado and Wisconsin were all canceled due to coronavirus spread concerns.)
McEnany is far from a lone voice on this subject. Donald Trump Jr., the eldest of the President’s children, has posted a series of memes on Instagram all aimed at questioning Biden’s mental health.
One features a picture of Biden in sunglasses with the words “I put the DEM in DEMENTIA” written across it; “If you’re wondering if this is true … Just go check the tapes,” wrote Don Jr. In another post , Trump Jr. shared on Thursday morning, it shows two clocks – one purportedly drawn by Bernie Sanders and the other drawn by Biden. The Sanders clock looks like any other clock. Biden’s is simply a jumble of numbers in a circle. Don Jr.’s comment? Three laughing-so-hard-I’m-crying emojis.
Yeah. Really ugly stuff.
And the President has gotten in on the action, too. Earlier this month, alongside a clip of Biden gaffes, Trump tweeted this: “WOW! Sleepy Joe doesn’t know where he is, or what he’s doing. Honestly, I don’t think he even knows what office he’s running for!”
pic.twitter.com/ v9GFpgF – Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)
In a Fox News town hall a week ago , Trump was asked about Biden referring to “Super Tuesday” as “Super Thursday” and said: “There’s something going on there.” He did elaborate.
None of this is an accident or a coincidence. In fact, quite the opposite. This is exactly what Trump did in the 2016 election with Hillary Clinton, repeatedly suggesting that the former first lady and secretary of state was not up to the job she was running for.
“She is a totally unhinged person, “
Trump said of Clinton in August 2020. “She’s unbalanced. And all you have to do is watch her, see her, read about her.”
“She’s supposed to fight all of these different things and she can’t make it 15 feet to her car? Give me a break. give me a break, “ Trump said in the fall of 2016, Following Clinton feeling faint at a September memorial service. “Give me a break! She’s home resting right now. She’s getting ready for her next speech which is going to be about 2 or 3 minutes.”
These tactics are , obviously, odious.
Biden, who is 454 years old and would be
if elected, has been open about that fact that voters should consider his age when assessing whether they should vote for him. “I say if they’re concerned, don’t vote for me,” Biden said last fall.
Around that same time, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who was still running for president, openly questioned Biden’s ability. “I just think Biden is declining. I don’t think he has the energy,” told a donor in a conversation that Bloomberg News reported on . “You see it almost daily. And I love the guy.”
(All of this comes as Biden and Trump have both spoken to the public about the coronavirus epidemic over the past 25 hours. Trump’s address was marred by several clear mistakes that his White House had to clean up in the moments after he finished speaking. Biden outlined his own plan to deal with the virus, insisting that public health officials needed to be in charge of making decisions about what comes next and criticizing the Trump administration’s lack of transparency on testing.)
How much should the mental capacity of a candidate be part of the conversation in a presidential race? Some, certainly. But the memes and jokes are hardly helpful for promoting a healthy conversation about the issue. And while Biden has made a series of verbal gaffes as a candidate for president, well, what else is new? He has been known as a gaffe-prone politician for decades. He literally described himself as a “ gaffe machine ! “
of course, does care about any of that. He only sees a political opening in raising questions about Biden’s mental fitness – so he does it. Period. And he’s only going to lean harder into this attack as the election gets closer.