As President Biden feels the pressures of his office, he’s increasingly erratic and at times even lethargic, prompting debate about his physical and emotional condition.
Stories from the families of our fallen who interacted with the president while attending last week’s dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base support a troubling theory.
One father recalling his encounter with the President said Mr. Biden spent his time talking about his son, Beau, rather than his fallen son. Another relative told the Washington Post that Mr. Biden “kept checking his watch and bringing up Beau.”
Mr. Biden speaks of his son Beau often. He awkwardly brought him up in that now-infamous interview with George Stephanopoulos about the Afghan pullout, even though it wasn’t germane to the conversation.
He mentioned Beau in his stilted national address in defense of the withdrawal, as well speaking with great sincerity about losing a child, describing it as “feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest. There’s no way out.”
There is emerging a Beau Biden effect on this presidency that sometimes appears to render the president so risk-averse and so hobbled by emotion and natural decline that he cannot effectively project American power abroad. It also makes it hard for him to project genuine empathy.
That leaves us at grave risk in a world that is getting more dangerous under his watch. It further calls into question his independence from influential subordinates or forces outside the White House.
When Mr. Biden speaks of his late son, you get the sense that he’s not consoling the nation but working through his own grief. No one could doubt that what he feels is genuine. The loss of a child is the most gut-wrenching of human experiences. In Mr. Biden’s case, that loss was then compounded by a sexual drama between his late son’s wife and Hunter, the crack-smoking, amateur porn producer and newly-minted artist.
There is an old saying that parents are only as happy as their unhappiest child. If that’s true, for all the broad smiles and bravado of his younger years, the president lives in a very dark place.
We’ve had presidents who have faced loss before. From John Adams to George Bush, it is a shockingly long list considering only 45 men have held the office.
But if the car accident that claimed the lives of his wife and young daughter once served to steel the brash young Senator, propelling him to run for president in 1988, the death of Beau may have finally encumbered his soul to the extent that it is speeding his decline and impacting decision-making.
No doubt, his pain is real. We need to understand whether there exists a nexus of factors at play here that make him unable to lead effectively. If Beau’s death combined with the consequences of age and other conditions have left Mr. Biden with clay feet when it comes to projecting military power, it puts countless lives worldwide in danger.
He once remarked to his wife after he was elected to the Senate at age 29 that he feared something would happen. It was all “too perfect,” he recalled in Richard Ben Cramer’s book, What it Takes.
We’re dealing with a man who’s a contradiction. A Catholic who believes in the uncontrollable ravages of fate, perpetually waiting for the next disaster. In the past, he’s come out of it somehow stronger, but perhaps not now.
He’s tried throughout his career to leverage those tragedies to help him relate, but in these waning years, he’s the one who needs to come to terms with his grief.
Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, the presidency is unforgiving, unrelenting and will not allow it. His own emotional difficulties are getting in the way of his performance and, consequently, our freedom and security.
• Tom Basile, host of Newsmax Television’s “America Right Now,” is an author and adjunct professor at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he teaches earned media strategy.