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New details emerge about Biden’s mental state — and the steps staffers take to shield him

Internashonal

New details emerge about Biden’s mental state — and the steps staffers take to shield him


More questions about President Biden’s cognitive state are emerging as a new poll showed a jaw-dropping 72% of registered voters do not believe he is mentally fit for the job.

While many Democrats were left flabbergasted and sent into a tailspin by Biden’s debate debacle last week, the 81-year-old president’s cognitive slips have been nothing new to his inner circle.

White House aides have been meticulously working behind the scenes throughout his presidency to minimize his exposure to situations where his cognitive slip-ups could flare up in public and to adapt the day-to-day of the presidency to the needs of an octogenarian.

The commander-in-chief is seen as prone to absent-minded gaffes and fatigue outside of six hours a day — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — and while traveling abroad, Axios said in a new report.

Top aides and allies have helped President Biden try to cope with his age-related struggles out of the public eye. AP

From shorter stairs when boarding Air Force One to guiding him on jaunts over concerns about his gait and proclivity for appearing lost, his team has reportedly been forced to step up its efforts over time to shield him more and more.

“I know many of these people and how the White House operates,” said Chandler West, the White House’s former deputy director of photography under Biden, in an Instagram story after the debate, Axios reported.

“They will say he has a ‘cold’ or just experienced a ‘bad night,’ but for weeks and months, in private, they have all said what we saw last night — Joe is not as strong as he was just a couple of years ago,” West said.

“The debate was not the first bad day, and it’s not gonna be the last,” said the ex-administration staffer, who had a first-hand seat to the president’s behavior.

“It’s time for Joe to go.”

The problem is, “A true succession plan does not exist,” a senior Dem campaign adviser admitted to CNN. “That’s what makes all of this not just heartbreaking but very problematic.”

The White House has hit back at these characterizations of Biden’s mental acuity. 

“Not only does the President perform around the clock, but he maintains a schedule that tires younger aides, including foreign trips into active war zones, and he proves he has that capacity by delivering tangible results that pundits had declared impossible,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement. 

Bates cited NATO expansion, “outmaneuvering China to bring manufacturing home,” and “out-negotiating Republican officials as they try to impose recession-causing MAGAnomics policies and radical abortion bans” as evidence that Biden is up to the job. 

In addition to his mental issues, the elderly president reportedly often wears orthopedic shoes and has undergone physical therapy to help combat stiffness, the White House physician previously disclosed.

After his hard fall during last year’s Air Force Academy commencement caused by him tripping over a sandbag onstage, aides have been careful to avert any repeats.

Post-debate footage showed the president being helped off stage slowly by his wife after the 90-minute bout against former President Donald Trump, 78.

A former White House staffer who was tasked with helping to tend to the president’s accommodations in the executive mansion told Axios that senior officials often “wouldn’t let us do anything for them,” suggesting it is to keep Biden’s issues on the down-low.

“In every administration, there are individuals who would prefer to spend more time with the President and senior officials,” Bates said, crediting Biden for “achieving historic results for the American people because of his determination, values, and experience.”

Press access in Biden’s White House has also been remarkably limited.

Three and a half years into his presidency, Biden has held the fewest solo press conferences of any president since at least the late 1980s — despite several raging wars, a migrant border crisis and economic upheaval, according to data from the American Presidency Project.

Moreover, he rarely does sit-down interviews with news outlets. One rare interview he gave to Time Magazine that was published earlier this month featured him conflating Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as making a series of other factual blunders.

“I have been very critical of the campaign strategy and the White House and their decision to sort of bubble-wrap him in the last year — you can’t run for president by duck and cover,” a former spokesman for the first lady, Michael LaRosa recently vented on Fox News’ “Media Buzz.”

Biden’s tripping over a sandbag last year prompted concerns. Reuters

Several reporters have alleged that Biden campaign officials have sought to dissuade them from talking with rally attendees who were questioning the wisdom of having him as nominee.

At times, Biden has quipped about his handlers demanding that he limit his own question-and-answer sessions during press sprays. In September, an official was heard telling the press that the conference was over — while Biden was rambling on. Staffers appeared to turn on music to signal the end as well.

Behind the scenes, First Lady Jill Biden has reportedly lashed out at aides who failed to cut short pressers where Biden was making gaffes.

Flashback: WH bristles over ‘cheap fakes’

Clips of Biden rambling in hard-to-follow tangents, making glaring verbal mishaps, appearing to struggle on his way off stage and just appearing to wander around generally have swirled online.

Earlier this month, the White House press team launched a full-throated effort to push back against many of those clips and bashed The Post’s reporting on several of them.

Underpinning the White House’s grievances were concerns that the footage was heavily edited and therefore lacked complete context, thereby painting an unfair picture of him as infirm.

They called those clips “cheap fakes.”

The motivation was obvious. The White House was endeavoring to disabuse the pesky narrative about Biden’s age that had long haunted his presidency.

Biden put on an energetic performance during his State of the Union address (when he stood behind a teleprompter) in March that eased many concerns. The goal was to have him do it again.

At 81, the president is the oldest commander-in-chief in US history. AFP via Getty Images

‘Watch Me’

On Thursday, Biden was on the debate stage unfiltered before an estimated 51 million Americans to see.

Biden had long sought to prove his naysayers on age wrong with the simple retort: “Watch me.” Media pundits and Democrats did just that. And it left them deeply rattled and panicked.

The president was onstage with a raspy voice, which he later attributed that to a cold, and struggled to give coherent answers at times while staring blankly into the cameras at others.

CNN liberal analyst Van Jones appeared to be on the verge of tears afterward. He was not alone.

Others felt they had been fooled by the White House and Biden’s allies about the exact state of the president’s condition.

“This is no longer about Joe Biden’s family or his emotions,” an adviser in touch with the West Wing fumed to Axios. “This is about our country. It’s an utter f–king disaster that has to be addressed.

Polls show President Biden, here with wife Jill, continues to trail Donald Trump. AP

“There will be a reckoning.”

A Democrat insider told Page Six that Biden’s Hamptons fundraiser Saturday did little to ease concerns.

“It was like he was putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound,” the Democrat veteran said. “He did not have a ‘bad’ debate, he was visibly unwell.”

Unease about his age had long lingered over his presidency, but now efforts to obscure it fell apart on national television.

Some Democrats told The Post they believed Biden’s inner circle has fallen prey to a certain level of “delusion” on Biden.

“The level of delusion is wild,” that Democrat said. “I don’t know the team around him is seeing what everyone else saw. And they need to focus on getting back on track.”

The president has been seen frequenting shorter stairs off Air Force One. Derek French/Shutterstock

Even beyond the US, some allies who had been rooting for Biden to prevail in the Nov. 5 presidential election seemed concerned. But fears about his mental condition had loomed overseas as well even before the debate.

“He ended the meeting with the same anecdote he started it with,” a source familiar told the Financial Times about a recent meeting Biden had with an EU leader, noting that he seemed sharp at first.

“Everyone’s heart sank.”

Biden’s team had been the one that pitched the debate to Trump in the first place, who promptly accepted it under terms that some of his allies felt were less than favorable, explaining later that he figured the offer came as a ploy to entice him to reject it.

Clean-up duty

Top Dems such as National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison as well as former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have all sought to nudge the party to calm down.

“I think it’s unhelpful, and I think it’s unnecessary,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom vented after the debate to MSNBC regarding trepidations about keeping Biden at the top of the party’s ticket.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 84, and Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), 83, did Sunday news interviews seeking to thaw out concerns over Biden.

LaRosa mused on X,”Is this a smart surrogate strategy? Sending an 83-year-old out on the cable shows today to make the case for the 81-year-old candidate?”

Clyburn conceded that Biden’s debate appearance “was a bad performance” but chalked it up in part to excessive preparation.

“I’ve been a part of debate preparation before, and I know when I see what I call preparation overload,” Clyburn told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Pelosi sought to defend Biden by hitting at Trump.

“There are healthcare professionals who think that Trump has dementia,” Pelosi contended on “State of the Union.” “His thoughts do not go together. Not only that — he just lies.”

Biden himself acknowledged that he had a rough go of things Thursday night while at a rally in Raleigh, NC, the next day, and privately felt humiliated as well as “devoid of confidence,” NBC reported.

Trump overwhelmingly won last week’s debate against Biden, observers from both sides say. Getty Images

Bleak polling

Initial polling in the wake of the debate suggests that faith in Biden has been shaken.

A staggering 72% of respondents in a CBS News/YouGov poll said they don’t think Biden possesses the “mental and cognitive health necessary to serve as president.” It was 41% among Democrats.  

But as the Biden campaign noted in a recent fundraising note, enthusiasm for an alternative candidate isn’t particularly strong, either.

Deputy campaign manager Rob Flaherty cited a survey from Data for Progress that showed Trump beating all the top Democrats but stressed its finding that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris performed the strongest.

Biden is expected to be crowned the Democrats’ presidential standard bearer within the coming weeks virtually ahead of the Democratic National Convention.

His team insists that he will still go through with a planned debate against Trump in September.

The White House did not respond to a Post request for comment Sunday.



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