ESTRICH: A false and unfair confusion

One of them confused Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi — both are, after all, women, whose first initial begins with an “N.” One of them confused the president of Mexico with the president of Egypt, while the other confused the leaders of Hungary and Turkey. What does it prove? Basically, nothing. Certainly nothing about who should be the next president of the United States, although today’s headlines might suggest otherwise. Both candidates are, chronologically speaking, old — 77 and 81, respectively. In this respect, if none other, they have more in common than they do that differentiates them. To quote Haley, and certainly not Pelosi, “The first party to retire its 80-year-old candidate is going to be the one who wins this election.” And if neither party does, as seems more than likely, we should settle for the one whose memory doesn’t lead to a 91-count indictment, as Trump’s does.

Last week, the Republicans were making hay out of the fact that the special counsel investigating Biden’s handling of classified documents chose not to indict him for criminal wrongdoing, unlike the collection of special counsels investigating Trump has done. That is a difference that should very much matter, although the tone of the stories suggests a false and unfair equivalence between a faulty memory and probable cause to believe in criminal wrongdoing. And that’s not only from journalists recounting the flubs but also from members of the Democratic chattering class.

The special counsel in Biden’s case, for reasons having very little to do with Biden’s guilt or innocence, took it upon himself to refer to Biden as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” This was a Trump-appointed lawyer, not a medically trained doctor, being fact-checked by the news accounts according to the president’s performance at a hastily called news conference. What is this supposed to prove? According to whom? What about the jobs numbers? What about the cooling of inflation or the avoidance of a recession? Shouldn’t the performance of the economy have more to do with the election than the performance arc of the president in a news conference? Is this what we are going to keep track of between now and November — who looks better, who seems younger or who does better in keeping their presidents straight?

And then there are the various conspiracy theories generating more controversy than the candidates themselves. Has Taylor Swift eclipsed both Trump and Biden? Has the silly season taken over attention from the Supreme Court? Coverage of the election seems to be lurching from the ridiculous to the absurd.

If it didn’t matter so much, it might be funny. As it is, it is terrifying. Donald Trump literally makes jokes about ruling as a dictator, at least in his first days in office, which is as inappropriate as a special counsel branding the president as an old man with a bad memory. Biden is supposedly reminded of when his son died, as if he could not remember, which is just not so.

“Damning and defining” is how Trump strategist Chris LaCivita characterized the special counsel’s description of Biden to The New York Times, a description that Democrat James Carville echoed as “confirming an existing suspicion.” The two are not the same, nor should they be fairly compared, unless age is blindly equated with incompetence, as the Republicans are blindly seeking to do.