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Monday, August 20, 2012

The Vice President's delicate condition

Writing at Forbes.com, Henry I. Miller opines that "Joe Biden's gaffes call for a thorough neurological examination":

Are these aberrations stupidity, dementia or personality disorders? To find out, shouldn’t there be some vetting or testing of people in, or who aspire to, governmental positions as critical as the vice-presidency? After all, we require bus drivers and hairdressers to prove their competence before they are permitted to ply their trades, and applicants to most police forces undergo psychological testing.

Biden should submit to a thorough neurological and psychiatric examination, with special attention to whether he is experiencing “transient ischemic attacks” – marked by impaired blood flow to the brain – small strokes, seizures, or suffers from a brain tumor. After all, we often demand to know whether a candidate has recovered from open-heart surgery, cancer or a stroke, and many states require elderly drivers to be re-licensed.

Aren’t the vice-president’s highest-level security clearance and his influence on public policy as important as the ability to drive a car?


Don’t voters have a right to know whether Biden is ill or merely unlikeable, impulsive and prone to deceitfulness?

I'm not sure how much of this is tongue-in-cheek. I don't know, or know of, Dr. Miller. Forbes lists him as "a physician [and] the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution." I can tell from this op-ed that he has a fairly good sense of humor. And he came up with a couple of pretty good anecdotes about Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that I hadn't heard before; by themselves, they're worth following the link to his piece.

I'm not quite sure whether Dr. Miller is urging this prescription (i.e., that Biden seek medical and perhaps psychiatric help) upon the Obama-Biden[?] campaign, or whether he's contending instead that the American press or the voting public ought to demand it of the Obama-Biden[?] campaign, and penalize them at the ballot-box if they're non-compliant. If Dr. Miller is counting on the press, though, he might want to consider that there's not a single reporter in the White House press corps who has even the guts or the integrity to ask whether Pres. Obama is or isn't still smoking cigarettes! Perhaps he will recall that before asking America to elect him, Obama released a grand total of one-half page of medical information — that being a conclusory set of opinions from a physician selected by Obama, given without a whit of supporting data or detail. Press furor at an obvious stonewall? Zero. Follow-up on that, by anyone in the mainstream media, since the 2008 election? Zero.

Vice President Joe Biden when he was in the SenateNevertheless, I must reluctantly disagree with Dr. Miller's prescription. For one thing, I'm not sure whether Dr. Miller was aware of Vice President Biden's public medical history, which includes surgery to repair two brain aneurysms some years ago. It is by the design of the Obama-Biden[?] campaign that we know so little more, but I would still be very surprised if Biden's not already getting more thorough-than-usual neuro workups anyway, if only as a consequence of that history. 

More fundamentally, though, I am pretty skeptical of sentences which begin, "Don't voters have a right to know ....?" Voters decide for themselves, for better and often quite demonstrably for worse, how much and what type of vetting they want. Voters can and do employ ridiculous double standards. And it wasn't just the mainstream media who gave Obama a free ride in 2008. A majority of the American republic, as represented through the presidential electors from their respective states, ratified the media's inaction by electing a man who'd campaigned on his "Kansas values" even though he never lived in Kansas for a single day. Some of us cared; some of us were horrified; but not enough of us were, obviously, and so we've been stuck with both President Cypher and his faithful sidekick, Bozo the Veep, for the last three-and-three-quarter years now.

But the voters don't need a neuro or psych report on Joe Biden. His unfitness for office is obvious, but it was obvious in 2008 too. Remember that even among Democratic voters, when Biden was running again for President during the 2007-2008 Democratic primaries (from which Biden dropped out on January 3, 2008), Biden ran a distant tied-for-fourth (with Chris Dodd), polling at a mere 5% — far behind not only Obama and Hillary, but also far behind that blight on the reputation of the entire male sex, Johnny Reid Edwards. No amount of professional whitewash could change any of that; Joe Biden's as far beyond rehabilitation as he is beyond the onset of male pattern baldness.

Nope, even without expert opinions, everyone knows Joe Biden is a disgrace, a bad joke, a catastrophe being kept from America only by Barack Obama's steady heartbeat, may the Lord protect and preserve his good health. The question is whether more of us, this time, will care.

Posted by Beldar at 03:28 PM in 2012 Election, Obama, Politics (2012) | Permalink


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(1) DRJ made the following comment | Aug 20, 2012 4:48:30 PM | Permalink

Joe Biden is proof that people don't pick a President based on who the VP is.

(2) Beldar made the following comment | Aug 20, 2012 5:55:38 PM | Permalink

I think Biden's proof that in 2008, the American people didn't. I don't think he's proof that Veeps don't matter, or don't affect the results, more generally and at the margins.

And 2008 also stands as a data-point in support of the proposition that a Veep choice can fairly directly affect fundraising and voter turn-out — in Gov. Palin's case, both positively and negatively. She turned out a bunch of Republicans who weren't thrilled with McCain, but she also probably motivated some Dems to go to the polls and donate who might otherwise have stayed home and kept their checkbooks closed.

I'm much taken with InstaPundit's observation that choosing Biden was Obama's first presidential-level decision, and choosing Paul Ryan was Romney's.

(3) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Aug 21, 2012 1:48:12 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: Good for you. I'd go even farther.

Let's start with a wise observation from Walter Lippmann: "When bad means are used to further supposedly good ends, they will be used far more viciously in support of bad ends."

If we let Hank Miller set up his Board to Certify That Candidates Ain't Nuts, staffed only by medicoes of the highest Superior Wisdom and it knocks out ol' Joe, how long do you think it would be before the GOP got a taste of it? Do you think Ronald Reagan's presidency could have survived such a board? How about Eisenhower's, especially after his 1958 stroke? Conversely when a serious case comes up, do you think such a board could make its decisions stick? Take Lyndon Johnson in 1967-68, or Richard Nixon in 1973-74? Both were cases that a board could judge to be unfit. But do you think either Nixon or Johnson would go quietly at such a board's verdict? Not hardly; they'd howl coup d'etat and the Army would be out in the streets. What would Hank's precious Board do then? Run for any country without an extradition treaty, no doubt, all the while howling that they were acting from the highest motives, and anyway the laity is too dumb to question their expert knowledge.

Hank does not give any concrete guidelines for when a board would be called in. That's because to outside observation, the guidelines would have to be vague enough that the laity wouldn't buy them. Suppose The Won was at a rally and suddenly howled that his enemies were out to get him, and ordered his Secret Service goons to drop their whores and shoot everyone, even grabbing a pistol before being restrained. Would Hank's board be needed? No, not really. The laity could see that The Won had gone round the bend. Take a different case: When The Won made his "57 states" remark, should the board be called in? Again no, as the context of the speech makes it evident that he meant to say "47 states" and had a slip of the tongue.

So when does this Board come into play? Perhaps a law should be passed requiring the Prez to undergo an annual neurological exam. This might do better. Even then, I would worry. I would always be thinking about Andrei Sakharov, the great Brezhnev era dissident who was locked up and shot full of dope by Soviet medicoes who said he was nuts. Nor was he the only one. That's the path that Hank's Board would likely tread.

Hank might whine that this is America, it can't happen here. If it doesn't happen here it will be because the laity views Superior Wisdom from such as Hank with a beady eye.

Do I think Biden is qualified to be Prez as the 25th Amendment specifies? Yes. I don't think he has a neural disorder. I think his awfulness comes from believing the wrong ideas. I do think that if he had succeeded The Won at any time since 2008, that his Presidency would be one long trail of blunders that I would laugh at heartily, just as if Ted Baxter of MARY TYLER MOORE fame had become Prez. I'd laugh because there wouldn't be a dam thing I could do about it except wait for an election.

That's what freedom and checks and balances are all about. Not Hank's Board of Platonic Guardians.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

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