It was one of those last things that President Joe Biden needed at this time — a Special Counsel investigating handling of sensitive documents putting out an unintended statement of a President who is an elderly man but with a poor memory. Prosecutor Robert Hur unwittingly stumbled on a minefield when he went on to variously describe the 81-year-old’s memory as being hazy, fuzzy, faulty, poor and with significant limitations.

In a town that is known for its paybacks, that was enough for some in the Grand Old Party to call for Vice-President Kamala Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment and “remove” the President. The amendment deals with procedures to deal with a President’s removal from office, by death, resignation, impeachment and disability. Those familiar with law are quick to argue that it is not possible to “remove” a President at the snap of a finger but a long process that eventually involves a two-thirds vote in both Chambers of Congress.

Still the political tongues started wagging especially after the Republican Attorney General in the state of West Virginia called on Harris to invoke the 25th Amendment. The  Biden White House furiously defended its boss and there is not a shred of evidence or even murmur of any Cabinet members lining up outside the Vice-President’s house to sign a petition for the removal of the President. In fact, Harris is under no obligation to even respond to a state Attorney General’s call.

So what’s all the fuss? The talk of Biden being old or somehow incapable of running America for another five years starting 2025 is a red rag to some in the Democratic party, the traditionalists and loyalists especially. But repeated polls are showing that age is indeed a thing that Democrats have to worry about, not just from the regulars of the Grand Old Party but from the Democrats and all those likely to vote by way of Independents and first timers.

Memory lane

And media highlights of the President going down memory lane by confusing Mitterrand with Macron or the President of Egypt with that of Mexico have not helped matters. The fact that President Biden has increased his use of profanity also seems to be cause of concern to some, although how age is related to this is not quite clear. In the past there have been occasions of Presidents, including Donald Trump, missing a step while boarding Air Force One or coming down a ramp; Biden is no exception.

This is an election year where everything comes under the scanner. In fact, Trump frequently taunts Biden by imitating the way he walks or talks in front of his boisterous crowds. But the fact remains that even if the 45th President is only four years younger than Biden, he is somehow seen more physically fit and mentally agile. Perhaps the only one within the Republican party who would want Trump to undergo a cognitive examination will be Nikki Haley.

A little over three years ago, on January 12, 2021, Trump, in brushing aside calls for his removal on accusations of inciting the riot on Capitol Hill, warned that all this would come to “haunt” the then President-elect Biden. “The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration. As the expression goes, be careful what you wish for,” Trump said in Alamo, Texas. The same day the House of Representatives approved a Democratic Resolution urging Vice-President Mike Pence to invoke the 1967 Amendment.

That there is a world of difference between the 25th Amendment pertaining to Presidents Biden and Trump is for all to see: to the sitting President it is one of a decline in memory pertaining to age whereas to the former President it has to do with a so-called dangerous state of mind that would incite his supporters to sedition. Whether this stands in a court of law remains to be seen. But to President Biden, the Republican calls to rid him citing the 25th Amendment is not something that the election season would have to endure for the next nine months, but for the next four years and with higher frequency should he be re-elected.

The writer is a senior journalist who has reported from Washington DC on North America and United Nations