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Our own King Lear

By D. Paul Thomas
web posted July 8, 2024

Approaching "the big 80" sooner than I wish to admit, I am hesitant to cast an unsympathetic eye on the cognitive decline of our 46th President, Joe Biden. Some mornings, I wake up uncertain of where I am, let alone who I am. Perhaps there have been too many moves and noms de plume along the way (the curse of the peripatetic playwright and actor). But setting aside all sympathy, the nation now faces a decision it can no longer afford to ignore. 

No doubt, there are some mornings Joe Biden wakes up thinking he is still the agile, affable, and glib senator from the good state of Delaware. A stiff cup of coffee, a little exercise to loosen up the even stiffer joints, and a meeting with his anxious advisors bring America's "pretender to the throne" back to a fleeting reality—"I am the President!" Passing him his daily props—those ubiquitous note cards—the president's solicitous handlers cringe, wondering what faux pas another long day may bring, not unlike when Kamala Harris cringed at "Joe" during their primary debates as he blundered his way through a haze of facts and names, freely fabricating anecdotal remembrances wandering around the dim recesses of his aging mind.

Regrettably (post the debate of Thursday, June 27), it is now the nation, irrespective of political stripe, that is cringing. Since his "youthful" plagiarizing days, Joe has always had the reputation as a harmless fabulist, but his current "America is Back" spins are deluded and dangerous, from his basement-bunker promises as a "unifier," to his twisted framing of our withdrawal from Afghanistan as an "extraordinary success." And the biggest lie of all? "The war in Afghanistan is over." Except for his most myopic sycophants, the catastrophic debacle of the president's withdrawal from Afghanistan glaringly exposed a Joe Biden who no longer possesses the mental acuity, creativity, the sheer energy, and the innate judgment to lead this great nation.

With many having no appetite for seeing Vice President Kamala Harris in the Oval Office, most "centrists" are opposed to impeachment proceedings or the application of the 25th Amendment. But the choice is no longer dietary, it is, dare I say, "existential." It is not a choice between a mildly senile president and a radical-in-waiting vice president. It is the choice between a delusional, missing-in-action president and a vice president who is at least, purportedly, compos mentis. It is a painful choice, but one that the body politic must demand of itself and of its leaders.

If neither congressional impeachment nor executive removal from office are likely, we will be left with a president who is incapable of recognizing that the ghost of a man occupying the White House is not some mindless, ignoble doppelgänger, but an increasingly mindless and ignoble Joe Biden—president in name only. What we are witnessing, tragically, is Shakespearean in scope, not unlike the aging and delusional King Lear, who finally confesses, "Pray, do not mock me: I am a very foolish fond old man, fourscore and upward…. And, to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind" (King Lear, Act 4, Scene 7).

President Biden's condition will not improve. The pressures of the office will exacerbate his mental decline, with an escalating incoherency in deportment and statecraft the sad and tragic consequences for the president and for the nation. 

May God help us. And, if need be, may the president have the sense and grace to step down. ESR

D. Paul is a playwright, actor, filmmaker, and essayist. His play, Bonhoeffer 1945,was "A Best Pick" of the London Times. He publishes and podcasts, "The Church's One Foundation," on dpaulthomas.substack.com.

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