Memory Lapses and Verbal Blunders: The Battle of Ageing Candidates in the Unprecedented Shift of American Politics

Amnesia and forgetfulness seems to be stalking a bitter and not-so-polite war being fought between the two ageing candidates, hitting 80 plus-minus, in the ongoing primaries being run for the American presidential polls. Indeed, more than the fight between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, it is the struggle which seems to be unfolding within the Democrats, and also within the Republicans, which marks a new shift in American politics. But, first, there have been huge questions on memory and bad language all over the media in recent times, as two old men fight it out for the world’s largest military and colonial complex, and one of the biggest financial empires in the world.

Recently special counsel Robert Hur had unleashed a bombshell by dubbing 81-year-old Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”.  His report cleared him of any criminal charge while storing the classified documents in his private home and former office during his term as the vice-president under Barack Obama. In a scathing critique questioning his mental abilities, the report described Biden’s memory as “hazy,” “fuzzy,” “faulty,” “poor” and having “significant limitations.”

Biden, in a brave gesture, called a press meet at the White House, and said: “My memory is fine,” among other statements defending his tenure as a successful president. Then, as he started to leave, he turned back, and made a blunder which became top news all over the world, especially on Republican TV channels like Fox News. He referred to Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, as the “president of Mexico”. “I think as you know initially, the president of Mexico, El-Sisi, did not want to open up the gate to humanitarian material (in Gaza) to get in. I talked to him. I convinced him to open the gate,” he said.

This gaffe resurrected a stream of similar lapses made in the past. According to reports, in a campaign rally in Las Vegas, while reciting a tale about the G7 summit in UK in June 2021, he had said, “Right after I was elected, I went to a G7 meeting in southern England. And I sat down and said, ‘America is back!’ and (Francois) Mitterand from Germany — I mean France — looked at me and said, ‘How long you back for?’”  Mitterand died in 1996 and Biden was actually referring to current French President, Emmanuel Macron.

In the same vein, he had earlier referred to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl who had actually died in 2017. Angela Merkel was then the Chancellor.

Earlier, Biden had reportedly said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “losing the war in Iraq”. He was actually referring to Ukraine. “It’s hard to tell, really. But he’s clearly losing the war in Iraq. He’s losing the war at home, and he has become a bit of a pariah around the world,” he had said.

In this ongoing slip-of-the-tongue show, Trump seems to be on a more confident wicket, with more mental and political clarity. However, he, too, recently dubbed Nikki Haley, his republican opponent, as Nancy Pelosi, who is a Democrat, and was a former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives till recently.

However, with Trump, the problem is his foul-mouthed and aggressive diatribes against opponents and immigrants, including against Haley, which has got him branded as racist, misogynist, white supremacist, bordering on being a fascist.  In a dark irony, many Right-wing Americans seem to like him precisely for these reasons.

He has now won in the crucial home turf of Haley in South Carolina, where she scored 40 per cent of the votes. However, he has been targeting her with language not fit for presidents. In a social media post recently, he said something about her which his critics called as nothing but a dog-whistle. He repeatedly referred to her as “Nimbra,” which is perceived to be a deliberate attempt to pronounce her name wrongly. Her parents moved to America in the 1960s, and she was born as Nimarata Nikki Randhawa.

Trump had allegedly implied that she was ineligible to be president or vice president because she was born to parents who were not American citizens when she was born. Clearly, this is a false statement, according to reports. Media reports say that the American Constitution categorically states that a ‘natural-born citizen’ can be president, and, therefore, Haley became a citizen in 1972, the year of her birth. Trump had reportedly also called her ‘Birdbrain’.

This use of a racist term has yet again created ripples among the sections of Republicans who consider Trump as bad news for American democracy and pluralism. Haley herself is an extremely Right-wing personality who has created much controversy earlier by asserting that slavery was not the real reason for the American civil war, and that America has never ever witnessed rampant racism. Trump seems to be going many steps forward than her understanding of history.

He had earlier questioned Barack Obama’s identity as an American citizen, punning on his middle name ‘Hussein’.  He had claimed that Obama was not born in the US. Trump’s mother reportedly migrated to the US from Scotland, but he has a knack of digging the past of his opponents with false claims of identity – a clear sign of a racist attack.

In response, the American media quoted Haley:  “He’s clearly insecure. If he goes and does these temper tantrums, if he’s going and spending millions of dollars on TV, he’s insecure, he knows that something’s wrong… I don’t sit there and worry about whether it’s personal or what he means by it.”

Besides, Trump has rejected all the charges against him as “Stalinist show trials” organized by the Biden regime. He has even claimed that the Afro-Americans actually love him because he is being hounded and discriminated against, like them.

However, Biden seems to be running into a problem on Gaza. His unconditional support to the bombing of Gaza which has now killed around 30,000 civilians, including thousands of women and children, and his willful and relentless campaign to weaponise and fund Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme Right-wing, ultra-orthodox and apartheid regime, might cost him and Kamala Harris very dear in the run-up to the American polls.

Not a single rally or public meeting held by Democrats can now happen without him being booed at with slogans of ‘Genocide Joe’ and “baby-killer”. Protesters even smeared the outside premises of the home and the security cars of Secretary of State with the colour red, signifying human blood. Indeed, he has a new problem on his hand and this seems difficult to resolve.

Among the Democrats, there are powerful sections which are opposed to Biden’s ‘Zionist’ support of Netanyahu. This includes Bernie Sanders and his socialist-Left ‘Squad’, including Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocassia Cortez, Ilhan Omer, among others. A big population of millennials and large number of educated-liberal women hate him for the way he has allowed and backed the bombing of women and children in Gaza. Now, these Democrat-supporters have initiated a campaign called ‘uncommitted’ voters to send him a message and teach him a lesson – this might be real bad news for him if not handled with immediate urgency.

For instance, Michigan is a crucial state where Biden might find the going tough. It has about a quarter million citizens with their origins in the Middle-East and North Africa, and strong family and traditional ties. This population includes a large number of very active Palestinians who have been in the forefront of a series of massive demonstrations held all over America since the bombing started. In Washington DC itself, around 300,000 protesters have marched.

Media reports in the US are reporting that ‘Uncommitted’ voters are saying that they will  not support Trump at any cost, but Biden should act, and act fast for a ceasefire, go for a two-state solution in Palestine, and stop backing the genocidal regime in Tel Aviv by weaponising it, and vetoing a ceasefire in the United Nations Security Council.

This week, a US airmen self-immolated himself protesting against the genocide with the slogan of ‘Free Palestine’.  Biden just can’t shut his eyes from all this turmoil, even while Palestinian flags are flying in the rallies of Democrats, and even Kamala Harris has not been spared by protesting citizens holding her accountable for the killings.

If Biden loses Michigan, and which he can, observers feel, it will be indeed difficult for him to go the whole hog in the polls. That will lead to a huge question mark on his prospects.

With Rafah at the crossroads of conflict now, and 1.5 million refugees trapped in an area which is just about the size of Heathrow Airport in London, Biden is now trying to find some kind of quick solution so that his election prospects are not ruined. “My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet,” he said. “My hope is by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire.” ‘The Guardian’ of London reports Biden made the comments in New York after taping an appearance on NBC’s Late Night Show.

The newspaper reports: “Israel’s war cabinet has approved the broad terms of a deal to pause fighting for several weeks in exchange for the release of hostages held in Gaza. In a protracted bid to bring about a truce – Egypt, Qatar, the United States, France and others have acted as go-betweens for Israel and Hamas, with negotiations ongoing. A deal could include the release of several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel, media reports suggest, according to Agence France-Presse. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani – whose country hosts Hamas leaders and helped broker a one-week truce in November – is due in Paris this week, according to the French presidency. A weeks-long pause would allow hundreds of trucks to deliver aid to Gaza where nearly 30,000 have been killed according to the Hamas-run health ministry, and disease and hunger have gripped much of the population.”

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