These are not ordinary slips of the tongue. They are signs of cognitive decline that will be familiar to anyone who, like me, spends a good deal of time in the company of people who are roughly Biden’s age. As far as I am aware, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the only prominent Democrat who has actually come out and said this, even though it must be painfully obvious to millions of Americans who have friends and relatives in their eighth or ninth — or even 10th — decade of life.
First, there is the low-level verbal infelicity, which is especially pronounced among those who were never silver-tongued to begin with. The affect is there — strong, assertive — but the syntax is garbled; the clauses don’t add up; the rhetorical space is reserved for crucial fact or reference but it doesn’t appear somehow. Then there are the issues with chronology. It’s not that they have totally forgotten what they did or when or with whom, but facts end up in the wrong place on the timeline — you did buy that truck from that guy but it was three years after you sold the old house. There is also the endless nostalgia, the sunny insistence that if only we could get back to how everything used to be when — insert the names of old cronies and pals of yore — everything would improve, as if by magic.