Axios: 'The President Has Lost All Independence'

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Alternate headline: The Silence of the Dems. Literally, in this case (via Twitchy):

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Democrats began doing a lot of throat clearing after the presidential debate about whether Joe Biden should run for office. They have remained steadfastly silent, however, on whether he's currently fit for duty as the leader of the free world. And a new report from Axios' Alex Thompson raises serious questions about who is actually the leader of the free world these days.

Thompson hears from his White House sources that three Biden aides have essentially cut him off from any real responsibilities, emphasis mine:

Many White House, Biden campaign and Democratic officials are increasingly worried that President Biden isn't up to continuing his campaign or finishing a second term, despite his insistence that he won't be pushed out. ...

  • Those close aides have many duties. But officials recall instances of them helping Biden make up for mental lapses, including prompting him to remember people he has known for a long time.
  • Such moments could be dismissed as normal lapses. But many Biden aides now wonder whether they were signs of something deeper.
  • One former Biden aide told Axios: "Annie, Ashley and Anthony create a protective bubble around POTUS. He's staffed so closely that he's lost all independence. POTUS relies on staff to nudge him with reminders of who he's meeting, including former staffers and advisers who Biden should easily remember without a reminder from Annie."

Have readers ever heard of Annie Tomasini, Anthony Bernal, or Ashley Williams? I've worked in politics for over 20 years now, and only Williams' name seems vaguely familiar. Only Bernal's name comes up in our archives, once almost exactly two years ago and only as brief mention in someone else's statement. Presidents hire aides to help and support their work, but those aides are supposed to work for the president, not run him. 

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It almost makes the sudden appearance of Hunter Biden in policy meetings look explicable. Why else would Biden have "a convicted felon" in meetings with officials? Is it to break through a cabal of aides desperately trying to keep Biden's incapacitation under wraps?

The White House pushed back furiously on this report, but former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson practically turned this bug into a feature earlier in the week. Johnson tried to pooh-pooh any concern about Biden's fitness at the moment or for the next four years by basically arguing that voters elect bureaucrats to run things for presidents, or something:

JOHNSON: A presidency is more than just one man, it's an administration. I would take Joe Biden's worst day at age 86, so long as he has people around him like Avril Haines, Samantha Powers, or Gina Raimondo supporting him than over Donald Trump any day.

Is that how the Constitution works? Does Article II divide executive authority between a number of bureaus and bureaucrats, or does it invest its authority in one person -- the person that states elect to the presidency?

And furthermore, the Constitution has something to say about fitness, too. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment got ratified because of the nearly disastrous fourth term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the necessity of formalizing the vice-presidential succession after John F. Kennedy's assassination. (Previous to ratification of this amendment in 1967, VPs succeeding after a death were technically only acting presidents.) The Twenty-Fifth Amendment does not treat presidential disability or unfitness as a no-biggie because of the bureaucrats and White House staffers. In fact, it demands action to resolve presidential incapacity:

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4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office
unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

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If Biden has "lost all independence" to the point where his aides and his family are making decisions and using the executive power and authority of the office of President, then the president is functionally incapacitated. That's a much bigger deal than whether Biden runs for a second term; the question then becomes who's running Biden's current term.

And Congress had better start finding out. 

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