Biden needs a dose of compassion right now. But so does America. What is the first family thinking?

Biden needs a dose of compassion right now. But so does America. What is the first family thinking?

Compassion and empathy are key parts of any doctor’s armamentarium. This is because all people facing illness do so with a combination of trepidation, courage, denial, even absolute terror. 

It is my job to navigate among the various responses and provide not just treatment, but also succor. When it comes to this role, no patient is more difficult than one who is losing their mental faculties. 

This is frequently accompanied by denial, as appears to be the case with the president of the United States. And to the extent to which he may be aware of the reality, it must be painful. Joe Biden certainly must recognize the huge diminishment of support (on Wednesday alone, George Clooney, one of Biden’s biggest backers, urged him to leave the race in a New York Times op-ed). Indeed, at this time, the president is particularly vulnerable to associated anxiety and depression (which could easily make his cognitive problems worse – known as pseudodementia).

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I feel compassion for the president, and for the embarrassment and bewilderment he must be feeling along with not wanting to believe that he is markedly diminished. Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas’s most famous line of poetry, “rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” unfortunately does not apply here.

Unfortunately, I feel even more compassion and empathy for the country, for us, for the American people. I saw many signs four years ago that this was happening. Neurodegenerative processes do not occur overnight and the president has shown many signs of cognitive slippage since 2020 that are getting progressively worse. 

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For me, Biden’s so-called gaffes were never “gaffes” but lapses. It was completely inappropriate for the White House to cover this up, for the staff along with first lady Jill Biden to “manage” the problem, hiding the president as much as possible from public exposure. 

Keep in mind that all this was occurring simultaneously with the war in Ukraine, the war in Gaza, soaring food prices, and a mental health crisis especially among America’s teens. We needed and need a strong leader to fight these problems.

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In this country, a president is far from a figurehead, and the American public deserves to know who is actually making the decisions. The current lack of transparency is a huge disservice to our citizenry and at any time a major crisis could occur that could challenge any president’s cognitive abilities, let alone someone who is completely addled. 

Compare our oldest president (Biden) with our country’s youngest president, John F. Kennedy. Before he was assassinated at the age of 46, he had already solved the Cuban Missile Crisis, introduced major civil rights legislation, founded the Peace Corps, etc. I don’t think age should be a formal criterion for being president, but fitness should.

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This country does best when each party in the two-party system is able to challenge the other. A presidential campaign where one party doesn’t have a suitable or fit candidate undermines the system. 

It is a sad time for America right now, where Democrats lack a leader to properly represent their ideas. We got to this point because of obfuscation and dishonesty. I feel compassion for the president but also for every American who was badly fooled.

My prescription starts with Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the White House physician, coming forward and telling us whatever he knows, with the permission of Biden and his family. Above all, I would like to see an MRI of the president’s brain to look for areas of damage or insufficient blood flow.

After that, then we need the first lady to take a step back. It is unsuitable for her to be operating in his stead or speaking on his behalf. As a country, we saw how badly that went with Edith Wilson, the second wife of Woodrow, who basically managed the country after he sustained a severe stroke in his second term. 

The last thing we need is a repeat performance, especially since the current president’s condition is likely to worsen from here.

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