Joe Biden's critics supercharged with particularly troubling verdict on president's 'limited' memory

We got less than an hour's notice that the president would be addressing the nation.

It had been just a few hours since a Justice Department special counsel had released a startling report questioning Joe Biden's mental state.

The special counsel had assessed that President Biden - the most powerful man in the world - has a memory so "hazy" and "poor" that he couldn't remember when he was vice president or when his own son had died.

The president was angry and clearly recognised that the report puts his future in huge jeopardy.

At 8pm he took to the podium for what was supposed to be his moment to regain control. A president being presidential.

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Instead, it was chaos. Over shouts from the gathered media, he repeatedly insisted he was fit, able, in control and that there was nothing wrong with his mind or his memory.

The questions kept coming. After a couple of minutes, he called a conclusion to the melee and began to walk away.

But then, inexplicably he felt compelled to return to the podium to answer a question on Gaza.

And that's when it all went very wrong.

Undermining all he had just said and underlining all the concerns about him, he confused the presidents of Egypt and Mexico.

"The President of Mexico, Al Sisi, did not want to open up the gate (to Gaza) to allow humanitarian material to get in…"

It surely was a head-in-hands moment for his aides watching behind the scenes.

'He did not remember when he was vice president'

The report which precipitated this awful day for President Biden was startling.

Over more than 200 pages, Robert Hur explained why the president will not face charges for holding classified documents after leaving office as vice president.

Essentially the report concludes that a conviction would be unlikely because a jury would see him as "a well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory… someone for whom many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt".

"Mr Biden's memory was significantly limited, both during his recorded interviews with the ghost-writer in 2017, and in his interview with our office in 2023… He did not remember when he was vice president…

"He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died. And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him."

Report acutely troubling after recent mishaps

For any sitting president, this would be a damning portrayal. But for President Biden it's acutely troubling.

Just yesterday, his spokesperson said: "Many people, elected officials…they can misspeak sometimes," after three slip-ups over the past few days.

He confused French President Emmanuel Macron with his predecessor of three decades ago, Francois Mitterrand.

On Tuesday he couldn't remember the name Hamas when discussing the war in Gaza and yesterday he confused former German Chancellor Merkel with her predecessor Helmut Kohl.

All this will put Biden and those closest to him under intense personal pressure about the decision to run again.

But it is about now too; about his fitness to lead America at a time of such huge global uncertainty.

He has never shown any doubt about his capability or his health. It is a self-assurance, some would say hubris, which will now be tested like never before.