Conservative media and leftist media both using Trump’s playbook to smear Joe Biden

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There is one thing that the conservative media entertainment complex and the leftist media share in common: they both are using the same playbook to smear Joe Biden with baseless claims of dementia or senility to support their candidate: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, respectively. We have seen this baseless smear shamelessly repeated by partisan supporters in recent comments to this blog (you know who you are).

Politico recently reported, Trump and GOP mount coordinated campaign to paint Biden as senile:

With Joe Biden emerging as the likely Democratic nominee, Trump has launched a concerted, near-daily campaign to raise doubts about the 77-year-old’s mental acuity. The president has been bolstered by a conservative echo chamber flooding social media with video clips highlighting Biden’s gaffes.

The effort provides a window into how Trump — who’s been dogged by questions about his own mental fitness — regularly picks apart his political opponents. He has an unmatched ability to zero in on his foe’s biggest vulnerability or insecurity, and through sheer repetition bake it into the public consciousness. Unfortunately for Biden, his performance on the campaign trail has given Trump plenty to work with.

It’s similar to the tack Trump used in 2016 against Hillary Clinton, whom he tagged as “low energy.” He also suggested she “doesn’t have the stamina” to be president.

Former Clinton advisers see a replay of that campaign, and warn that Biden needs to take the attacks seriously.

“He’s not responding to the threat strong enough, because it is absolutely a problem now and [is] going to be a problem” going forward, said Philippe Reines, a former top Hillary Clinton adviser who prepped her for the debates with Trump. “You have to defend yourself, because that stuff absolutely sticks.”

[I]n the week following Biden’s win in the South Carolina Democratic primary, Trump has taken it a step further by questioning the former vice president’s mental faculties. The president took to Twitter to say that Biden “doesn’t know where he is, or what he’s doing,” and said Biden would destroy entitlement programs “and he won’t even know he’s doing it!”

The president went at Biden again during a rally in Charlotte, N.C. last week, saying that once elected, Biden would be put “into a home and other people are going to be running the country.”

Then, during a Fox News town hall Thursday evening, Trump pointed to a string of recent Biden gaffes, including the former vice president’s remark that Super Tuesday was taking place on “Super Thursday.”

“There’s something going on there,” Trump said.

Seriously? Has this 2016 classic already disappeared down the memory hole? Trump urges supporters to vote on wrong day: In the opening moments of a rally Tuesday night in Panama City, Florida, Trump told the crowd to “make sure you get out and vote, Nov. 28.” (It’s on video).

Note: Anyone who has the stomach to read Donald Trump’s daily Twitter rants and watch him speak could easily put together a long highlight reel of his gaffes and, quite frankly, his borderline insanity in his comments. (Many media sources have done so).  Donald Trump is a practitioner of psychological projection, denying the existence of qualities in himself and projecting them on to others. He has the intellectual capacity of a five year old playground bully whose favorite taunt is “I’m rubber, you’re glue / Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!” Or the similar playground taunt, “I know you are but what am I?

We have seen this repeated ad nauseam by Trump over the years. The clearest expression of this playground taunt was in his debate with Hillary Clinton, when she accurately accused him of being “Putin’s puppet.” Trump responded “NO PUPPET! NO PUPPET! YOU’RE THE PUPPET!” The media has an obligation to point out what Trump is actually doing with the smears of his political opponents: he is admitting to his own weaknesses and insecurities. He is telling you exactly who he is by projecting this onto his opponents.

And then there is the GOPropaganda machine at Fox NEWs aka Trump TV:

Trump is getting backup from his sprawling political apparatus. The Republican National Committee last week circulated a clip showing Biden appearing to confuse his wife and his sister, distributed social media posts making fun of the former vice president for his Super Thursday remark, and cut a video depicting Biden botching a line from the Declaration of Independence.

Some of the president’s conservative allies are taking the attack even further. During a Saturday appearance on Fox News, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said Biden is showing “obvious signs of dementia.”

Just to be clear: Rudy Giuliani is the last person on Earth who should be commenting on anyone’s mental state. Even Republicans agree that Giuliani is “Cuckoo for Coca Puffs” nuts.

Fox News host Sean Hannity, meanwhile, devoted an entire segment of his show to documenting how Biden has “a very questionable grip on reality.”

Given the financial resources and production assistance from professionals, I could easily do a multi-episode series on how Sean Hannity has a “questionable grip on reality.” His whole shtick is to present “alternative facts” and conspiracy theories that are entirely divorced from reality.

Tucker Carlson, another Trump-friendly Fox News host, said Biden is “clearly losing it.”

Says the host of “White Supremacist Hour” on Fox. Tucker Carlson’s descent into white supremacy: A timeline.

Trump allies say the president’s attacks are damaging because he homes in on vulnerabilities in a way that sticks with voters.

The president is expert at indelibly tagging his opponents with nicknames that resonate in flyover country. He is similarly adept at identifying and highlighting his opponents’ shortcomings in unavoidable and ubiquitous commentary,” said Michael Caputo, a Trump 2016 campaign aide.

Remember when Republicans criticized Democrats for referring to Red States as “flyover country”?

With Trump’s “constant reminders,” Caputo added, “voters won’t be able to look away from Biden’s guaranteed gaffes, and this will amplify existing concerns to weigh down the former vice president.”

For those who waste their lives watching Trump TV GOPropaganda all day, no candidate is going to win over their votes. They are part of the mindless personality cult of Donald Trump. They are a lost cause.

Those close to the Democratic frontrunner dismiss the attacks, saying that voters see Biden’s verbal hiccups as part of his charm. The assault, they argue, reflects the profound degree to which Trump is threatened by the former vice president.

“With the Democratic Party galvanized by the best candidate to win crucial battleground states, it’s not surprising that Trump’s reelection campaign is resorting to more disinformation about the vice president — after all, Trump himself is so panicked about Joe Biden that he got himself impeached by trying to force a foreign country to lie about him,” said Andrew Bates, a Biden campaign spokesman.

“The Trump campaign has been hitting Biden and his family for over a year and the attacks don’t seem to weaken him with voters,” Jennifer Palmieri said. “He just gets stronger.”

One might be able to make a case that some Democratic voters have been voting for Joe Biden because “Trump himself is so panicked about Joe Biden that he got himself impeached by trying to force a foreign country to lie about him.”

And then there are the dead-ender leftists who cannot accept the fact that Bernie Sanders’ socialist “revolution” has been soundly rejected by voters for a second time in the Democratic primaries. While Bernie Sanders is likely to play nice and exit the race soon (probably after losing the delegate rich states in the March 17 primaries) and  endorse Joe Biden and call for unity, and he will actively campaign for him throughout the fall (they have been friends for many years), some of his leftist supporters are smearing Joe Biden out of mean-spirited spite, using Donald Trump’s playbook.

The Daily Beast reported, Leftists Use the Trump Playbook to Paint Biden as Senile:

With little time to reverse the course of the Democratic primary, leftist and independent-minded critics of Joe Biden have ramped up insinuations about the former vice president’s mental state, going so far as to insist that the matter will doom the party in the general election.

The attacks are remarkable not just for the degree they copy the current Republican playbook against Biden but for how they take a topic that was taboo in past cycles and—without any verification—make it a centerpiece of efforts to blunt his momentum. Coming after the former VP wrested the lead from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) following the primaries on Super Tuesday, it suggests that the closing chapter of the Democratic primary could turn into a deeply personal and politically nasty affair.

Indeed, some Sanders supporters have been blunt about their desire to gin up chatter about Biden’s mental state to derail him.

See, A Former Sanders Employee Is Calling Voters And Lying About Biden Having Dementia. “The actions of some Sanders supporters are why his campaign has been isolated from the Democratic Party and is withering on the vine.”

In an episode of the popular leftist podcast Chapo Traphouse released Thursday, the hosts openly discussed how best to use the “senility” attack against the former vice president.

“I’m sorry, he’s senile… his brain is not all there,” Chapo co-host Will Menaker said.

Fellow co-host Amber A’Lee Frost urged Sanders supporters to use questions about Biden’s mental state selectively, raising questions about Biden’s support for Social Security when dealing with older voters instead.

“Now we go negative, but I think there’s going to have to be a two-front thing,” she said. “Because the ‘Biden is crackers’ thing isn’t going to work on his base, who are themselves also crackers.”

Oh, so now all Democratic voters who did not vote for Bernie Sanders are “crackers”? And you wonder why Sanders is failing to attract new voters in 2020?

On Sunday, Sanders himself was asked if he felt Biden was “up to the task in terms of the rigors of being either the Democratic nominee or being the president.” The Vermont senator didn’t endorse the idea that Biden was physically incapable of the job. But he didn’t aggressively beat down the chatter either. “Joe Biden is a friend of mine,” said Sanders, in an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union. “And Joe and I have disagreements on the issue. I do not make personal attacks on Joe.”

Bernie Sanders has an obligation to condemn the malicious attacks his supporters are making in his name, which can only aid the reelection of Donald Trump.

“Biden is either near senile or actually senile,” Cenk Uygur, the founder of left-wing online news outlet The Young Turks, said in a video after Biden upended the race on Super Tuesday (and as Uygur reeled from his own loss in a House primary). “Watch any of the tapes! His mental faculties are under question.”

Intercept Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim highlighted a clip of Fox News host Sean Hannity calling Biden “completely incapable of remembering basic fundamental facts” and asked how Biden would handle questions about his mental stability if he wins the nomination. Outspoken Biden critic and pugnacious economic populist Matt Stoller claimed that Biden’s mental decline is an open secret in Washington.

“They joke about it,” Stoller wrote of Washington insiders. “They don’t care.”

And as the weekend progressed, several others got in on the act, including The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Jill Stein, “Putin’s Other Puppet” in 2016. The Russian effort to divert votes to Jill Stein was more extensive than previously thought. And Glenn Greenwald, defender of Julian Assange of Wikileaks, “a non‐​state hostile intelligence service” that assisted the Russian intelligence agencies and the Trump campaign with disseminating the stolen DNC emails in 2016. Yeah, that’s who you want to be taking advice from. How much of this is just amplification of Russian intelligence propaganda to interfere in the 2020 election?

Prior to the 2016 election, speculation about the mental health of a presidential candidate was frowned upon, as anyone doing so would be operating without primary knowledge of the subject matter. [This was known as the Goldwater Rule: Section 7 in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, which states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements]. That changed when Donald Trump began having success on the campaign trail, prompting his opponents, and some medical professionals, to abandon the informal rule against such speculation. [See, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President].

The Biden campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment. But there is no documentation that Biden’s critics can point to to base their accusations of a diminished mental state. In December, the campaign released medical records that described Biden as “fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” The medical records didn’t describe Biden as suffering from any mental issues.

But Sanders’ supporters have keyed in Biden’s seemingly limitless capacity for producing embarrassing moments on the campaign trail as a sign that Biden faces a unique liability in the general election and may not even be physically capable of running. Just last week, Biden garbled a quotation from the Declaration of Independence and botched the introductions of his sister and wife in his Super Tuesday victory speech. Ahead of his South Carolina win, Biden told a crowd, wrongly, that he was running for the Senate.

It has not been uncommon for Fox News and other pro-Trump media outlets, as well as Trump and his family members too, to jump on these often uncomfortable clips. But now they’ve been joined by more left-leaning critics of the former VP, the more direct of whom use them to question Biden’s capacity for the job, the less direct of whom argue that they will be used against him in the same way that video of Hillary Clinton falling at a 9/11 event was used against her in the 2016 campaign.

The debate about Biden’s mental state recalls the years-long discussion about Trump’s own mental state, which has been fueled by his own garbled remarks at rallies and insiders’ bizarre descriptions of his behavior. Those discussions brought renewed attention to the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which discourages members from publicly speculating about the health conditions of public figures from afar.

Still, not everyone is willing to follow the Goldwater Rule. Psychologist John Gartner, who founded a PAC calling for Trump’s removal via the 25th Amendment on grounds of mental unfitness, said he doesn’t think Biden is suffering from mental deterioration. Instead, Gartner attributes Biden’s gaffes on the debate stage to Biden’s struggle with stuttering.

“He knew that the clock’s ticking and he’s not completing the sentence, he’s not completing the thought,” Gartner said.

Because Biden has struggled with public appearances for decades, Gartner said, his most recent round of embarrassing clips don’t necessarily signify mental decline. 

“I’m not seeing any dramatic, clinical signs,” Gartner said. 

Complicating the leftist attacks against Biden’s health is that Sanders faces a round of health-related questions and speculation of his own. The senator survived a heart attack in October. And despite once committing to releasing comprehensive medical records, the Sanders campaign still hasn’t disclosed all of the senator’s medical information. Instead, the campaign released three letters from doctors who examined Sanders after his heart attack, with one doctor writing that Sanders has “the mental and physical stamina” to be president.

This is reminiscent of Harold Bornstein, who was Donald Trump’s personal doctor for decades, whose over-the-top letter about Trump’s health in 2015 was not written by him — but by the then-presidential candidate. Trump, not his doctor, wrote glowing 2015 letter on his health, physician now says.

You will recall that we had commenters on this blog in 2016 who encouraged readers to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein (some of whom we suspect were Russian trolls). The number of votes cast for Jill Stein in the three states that proved to be pivotal (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) exceeded Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton. Did Jill Stein voters deliver Donald Trump the presidency?

In Michigan, Clinton lost by less than a percentage point, a deficit she could have recovered from with half of Stein’s votes. Again in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Clinton lost by one point, Jill Stein’s votes would have covered her loss.

And according to the analysis of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, 12 percent of those who backed Sanders in the Democratic primary actually cast a vote for Trump. Bernie Sanders Voters Helped Trump Win And Here’s Proof:

The impact of those votes was significant. In each of the three states that ultimately swung the election for Trump—Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton was smaller than the number of Sanders voters who gave him their vote.

So left-leaning voters who voted against Hillary Clinton out of spite were as much to blame for Donald Trump winning the Electoral College in 2016 as any other contributing factor. They were complicit enablers of Donald Trump.

The stakes are much higher this year. The survival of American democracy itself is on the ballot. Donald Trump is an existential threat to our country and the world, and childish acting out of spite because your preferred candidate did not win a primary is intolerable, and unforgivable.



  1. Joe Biden is his own worst enemy: remember his arrogant interchange with Anita Hill; his voting for every war and foreign intervention; his constant feeding the banks’ greed and penalizing workers; his advocacy for cuts to medicare and social security; support for rewarding billionaires; his opposition to environmental action. He is a corporate democrat who works for corporations.

    You don’t need to focus on ad hominiem attacks or harvest internet quotes from leftists. Look at his record.

    Regrettably, the apologists still need to go after progressive change activists even when they are winning. They need to stamp out the ideas. In your case, this article.

    Tim Lennon

    • I agree with everything Tim and Sandra said, and I voted for Bernie in the PPE.

      But in November, I’ll vote for whoever is not Trump, and I’ll do it while whistling a happy tune.

      Then, on November 4th, we’ll have to fire Tom Perez and start repairing the Democratic party.

    • There you go making assumptions, without any basis or foundation in fact. You think that I’m trying to “stamp out the ideas” of progressive activists just because I posted credible reporting about the campaign? I’ve been getting progressive legislation passed across the country for over 30 years, and defending voting rights for even longer. It’s this kind of unhinged nonsense that pisses people off.

    • Tim, here’s what I fail to understand. Or maybe I do.

      Bernie Sanders wins California despite this:

      Joe Biden won the red state of South Carolina (population 5.1 million), the first primary he has ever won in his entire life, and the whole election changes. Pete and Amy, the darlings of NH that Bernie won, couldn’t get out of the way fast enough to clear the path for smokin’ hot Joe. That’s all we heard about in MSM and Joe did indeed get the momentum.

      But Bernie wins California, a state with 40 million people and the world’s fifth largest economy. And no one, absolutely ever talked about this except maybe Greg Palast who has been investigating voter suppression in CA.

      I have been seeing vitriolic attacks on Bernie Sanders and his supporters since he challenged Hillary Clinton’s coronation in 2016. Needless to point this out, but so many Hillary fans still blame him for her devastating loss or should I say OUR devastating loss. And the vitriol never stops.

      The Democratic party should not be confused with an actual democracy. The leadership mostly gets their way and they were never going to allow Bernie Sanders to be the nominee.

      And, finally, the current situation in this country is highly volatile. I’m terrible at predictions but the trajectory we’re on doesn’t look good for Trump. And we should not be required or shamed into supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee in the interest of defeating Trump.

      And OF COURSE we have to defeat Trump and turnout in November for the Democratic opponent. There is absolutely no power in not voting or throwing a vote away on a fringe candidate. But we can’t stop talking about and demanding action on progressive issues. I hope Bernie stays in as long as possible, he’s just about the only progressive voice left standing right now.

      • Clarification:

        “…we should not be required or shamed into supporting the presumptive Democratic nominee in the interest of defeating Trump.”

        Defeating Trump should not be the only issue. We should not accept that from the corporate Democrats. They like it because it’s simple and allows everything else to get sidelined.

        We don’t know if Trump even makes it to November.

  2. I really don’t think it’s baseless. And if it is let a neutral recognized authority administer cognition tests to all candidates on behalf of the nation. We deserve to know before we put in office another demented person. THANK YOU!

    • Is it the candidate who needs the mental evaluation? Or the voters who knowingly voted for Donald Trump, knowing full well what they were voting for, and willfully put this country at risk who need to pass a mental evaluation? Some 63 million Americans.

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