When President Woodrow Wilson was incapacitated and couldn't do the job, he kept it a secret by having his wife and doctor perform all essential duties of the office. For nearly 18 months, she effectively ran the entire country, and no one knew. She called it a "stewardship." FDR needed a wheelchair to function and hid that fact from the American public. The Secret Service took journalist photos, and the President had special choreographed events to hide his disabilities. However, it was an open secret in DC.
Presidents hiding their deficiencies isn't new, even if it's unfair to the American public. With President Biden, what's different is that his inability to perform the job is open and apparent for everyone to see. Calling it an open secret seems unkind - everyone knows it, admits it, and people are forced to reject that it matters. Looking at any poll, however, people clearly think it matters. That's why watching the press take the opposite side is so bizarre.
Jonathan Martin is Politico's senior political columnist and politics bureau chief. He wrote a whole column outlining how Biden can "turn it around." Martin references Biden's poor polls, sinking approval ratings, and Democrats waiting in the wings. But the most remarkable part Martin brushes past is that everyone he interviewed doesn't believe Biden can do the job:
2024 will be an extraordinary election, and it demands extraordinary measures. That's in part for reasons Biden refuses to accept: his capacity to do the job. The oldest President in history when he first took the oath, Biden will not be able to govern and campaign in the manner of previous incumbents. He simply does not have the capacity to do it, and his staff doesn't trust him to even try, as they make clear by blocking him from the press. Biden's bid will give new meaning to a Rose Garden campaign, and it requires accommodation to that unavoidable fact of life.
From that cheery note forward, Martin lays out his pro-Biden case for winning 2024. If Biden can't do the job now, why are we even discussing how he could turn around his campaign for 2024?
And let's just put a fine point on this: Martin says, matter-of-factly, that the White House staff doesn't believe Biden can even handle a press conference or interview. Whenever Biden delivers remarks, he strides out of the room without taking questions. That's happening because the White House does not believe the President is functionally capable of answering a question. Martin writes, "his staff doesn't trust him to even try, as they make clear by blocking him from the press."
At this stage, as a voter, you have to assume you're not voting for Biden but rather some kind of shadow presidency. This isn't some conspiratorial slant. If Biden can't perform his duties, they still have to be carried out by someone else. Neither Kamala Harris nor Jill Biden are doing this; it's unclear if they can do anything.
If you work under the assumption that we're operating under a quasi-third term of Obama, some of these decisions make more sense. We know, for instance, that Obama effectively wrote the latest round of AI regulations from the White House. And he's never left Washington DC, keeping his campaign team intact for his own purposes. Foreign policy is where this matters the most, though. Obama fancied himself as a grand strategist in the veins of Cardinal Richelieu, Klemens von Metternich, Bismark, Otto von Bismarck, Kissinger, or Brent Snowcraft—a lone genius "balancing" the international system to bring peace to everyone.
Obama's grand vision with Iran was building it up as a counterbalance to Israel and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. He believed if the entire region were on the same playing field, they'd meet some power equilibrium where no one would act on the other. And so we get the utterly bizarre headline that the Biden administration is unlocking fresh sanctions waivers for Iran, giving them access to $10 billion in funds. The White House confirmed the details to the Washington Free Beacon.
This is despite Iranian proxies launching a wave of 55 attacks against US troops in the past month. "Since Oct. 17, US forces in Iraq have been attacked 27 times, while US troops in Syria have come under attack 28 times, deputy Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said on Tuesday. In those attacks, 59 US troops have been injured, all of whom have since returned to duty, though nearly half were evaluated for traumatic head injuries. A majority of the injuries occurred during attacks on Oct. 17-18 that began this new chapter of heightened tension."
Only the Obama presidency believed in building up the Iranians, even while those same bad actors did everything in their power to murder Jews and US soldiers. Let's repeat that: the US is aiding a country actively trying to kill US soldiers and Jews. There is no grand strategy that okays this kind of idiocy. Only a credentialed elite who believes it's more intelligent than everyone else looks at this situation and thinks: this is ideal.
But we're in this situation because Joe Biden can't do the job. Whatever US policy is, it's clear to everyone in Washington DC, that Joe isn't calling the shots. It's all a charade to benefit whoever runs a given issue in the White House. The problem is that this isn't some graduate thesis or TED Talk to the CFR crowd - people are dying. Americans are hostages in Gaza.
Biden can't do the job. And everyone knows it. It's fair to ask, if Biden isn't running things, who is?