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Harrop: Clickbait fuels obsession on Biden’s age

By Froma Harrop
Published: February 22, 2024, 6:01am

The special counsel report claiming that Joe Biden’s memory had seriously declined stinks to high political heaven. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe saw “nauseating similarities” to the agency’s investigation of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

To recap, 11 days before the 2016 election, then-FBI Director James Comey said the investigation of Clinton’s handling of classified emails — previously settled as careless, not criminal — was back on. Then two days before the election, Comey says, never mind. Nothing criminal after all.

Yes, Biden sometimes mixes things up. But I don’t recall the “liberal media” turning Donald Trump’s far more serious confusions into their lead stories, much less call them “politically devastating” — as The New York Times branded this highly suspect report even before the ink dried.

Believe me, I’d rather not be having this conversation.

But Trump thought that he ran against Barack Obama. He confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi. And he expressed fears that Biden would lead us into World War II, now nearly 80 years in the past. That shows, cognitively speaking, a far more desperate situation.

The counsel’s report noted that Biden identified the leader of Egypt as the president of Mexico. But The Times couldn’t even get that right. It said Biden “mixed up Mexico and the Middle East.” He didn’t mix up the places, which would have been more worrisome. He mixed up the leaders’ names.

There’s long been a grading curve that protects Trump from his ignorance and troubled thought processes. And yes, Trump confused the leaders of Turkey and Hungary.

Most concerning about Trump’s firehose of fabrications and malice is what they say about his underlying mental health. Psychologists say Trump checks the boxes for “malignant narcissist,” a severe personality disorder.

Malignant narcissists are known for their aggression, pleasure in hurting others, antisocial behavior, easy lying and, above all, a sick need to be the center of attention all the time. They habitually accuse others of what they are accused of.

The psychologist Erich Fromm coined the term “malignant narcissist” in 1964. It’s destructiveness, he said, made it “the quintessence of evil.”

A smart friend challenged my notion that media erred in making Biden’s mistakes a leading story while looking calmly on evidence of Trump’s cracked psyche. Trump’s bizarre jabbering is not as newsworthy, he said, because his followers don’t care.

That may be so, but it says volumes about his ability to run the most powerful country on Earth.

As for the politics of it, fence-sitting independents should be taking note. Wonder how they feel about Trump’s latest horrifying brag that he would encourage Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to our NATO allies if they didn’t spend enough on defense.

What ultimately matters is what our leaders do.

Biden just got Democrats to go along with a very strong border control deal that made virtually no concessions to his party’s left flank. Trump, for all his hollering about chaos at the border, bullied Republicans to kill the bipartisan agreement precisely because it would have ended the chaos. He needs America to fail as a campaign strategy.

Biden is leading the West through several international crises. He’s rebuilding the country’s crumbling roads and bridges. He’s bringing back factory jobs. The economy sparkles. So what if he walks stiffly and can’t remember a date from nine years ago?

My theory is that some media deemed “liberal” see a business model in whipping up the anxieties of their audiences. You can see it in the hysterical coverage of errors Democratic presidents make whereas gross memory lapses from Trump get filed as “Well, that’s just Donald.”

Fearmongering does work as clickbait, you know.

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