Forbes wonders: Should Biden have a neurological exam?

posted at 12:41 pm on August 20, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Are Joe Biden’s ever-increasing verbal missteps the result of increased media scrutiny after three years on a back burner,  a symptom of just plain old ordinary stupidity — or an indication of organic brain damage?  I’m inclined to think it’s a combination of the first two, but Dr. Henry Miller at Forbes (a physician himself) is worried about the latter.  Should the Obama administration get Sheriff Joe a neurological exam?

Are these aberrations stupidity, dementia or personality disorders?  To find out, shouldn’t there be some vetting or testing of people in, or who aspire to, governmental positions as critical as the vice-presidency?  After all, we require bus drivers and hairdressers to prove their competence before they are permitted to ply their trades, and applicants to most police forces undergo psychological testing.

Biden should submit to a thorough neurological and psychiatric examination, with special attention to whether he is experiencing “transient ischemic attacks” – marked by impaired blood flow to the brain – small strokes, seizures, or suffers from a brain tumor.  After all, we often demand to know whether a candidate has recovered from open-heart surgery, cancer or a stroke, and many states require elderly drivers to be re-licensed. …

An exam by an expert offers an assessment of cognitive abilities, memory and quality of thought processes.  It includes assessments of alertness; speech; behavior; awareness of environment; mood; affect; rationality of thought processes; appropriateness of thought content (presence of delusions, hallucinations, or phobias); memory; ability to perform simple calculations; judgement (“If you found a letter on the ground in front of a mailbox, what would you do with it?”); and abstract reasoning.

Don’t voters have a right to know whether Biden is ill or merely unlikeable, impulsive and prone to deceitfulness?

I suppose they do — and if this was a recent pattern of irrational outbursts or forgetful thinking, I’d be inclined to agree.  However, Biden didn’t get the nickname “Slow Joe” in the last three years.  He’s been a constant source of embarrassments, some of them deliberate — like plagiarizing the speeches of Neil Kinnock in the 1987-88 presidential campaign, right down to Kinnock’s family history — to more extemporaneous fumbles, such as his thoughts on Indians and 7-11, or his apparent confusion between Virginia and North Carolina last week.  The latter, though, is the kind of error many people make when traveling and speaking/performing in long campaigns.

However, unless the White House is hiding something about Biden’s medical condition, one would think that we’d already know if neurological impairment had become acute through physical damage rather than chronic due to Biden’s normal intellectual facilities.  Candidates for President get a lot of pressure to release their medical records, and incumbents usually have three years of official medical releases already on the record.  Running mates get less attention, but normally that’s because they get less attention anyway.  That’s certainly been the case with Biden, who has stayed in the background during the Obama administration, and whose forays into the spotlight have almost always made life more difficult for his boss — as it did when Biden blew the identity of the special-forces team that got Osama bin Laden, and when Biden’s sudden declaration on gay marriage forced Obama’s hand on the issue.

If anything, a medical condition would help Obama by giving him an excuse to dump his current VP from the ticket.  As it is, the increasing string of embarrassments are almost certainly the result of being forced to put Biden on the campaign trail with his chronic nonsensical thinking than any acute pathological excuse.  That makes Biden a direct reflection of Obama’s judgment in putting a fool one heartbeat away from the presidency, which is exactly where the focus should be.

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