Special counsel Robert Hur’s report on President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents, which described the president as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” has led some to question how he may react in a future crisis.
Speaking to Fox News Digital, several national security experts shared their thoughts on whether Biden has the ability to serve strongly and decisively as president should a threat to the nation arise during his tenure in the White House.
Staking the claim that “Biden’s dementia is plain for all to see, but especially for foreign leaders,” former Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland suggested the “dangerous” reality surrounding Biden’s “irreversible decline” and ability to lead the nation is projecting weakness on the world stage.
“That’s dangerous for two reasons. First, if amplifies the claim that America is a spent power. Chinese leaders have been telling the world for years that America is in irreversible decline, that the future belongs to China. Biden is the embodiment of irreversible decline, giving credence to the idea that America’s supremacy on the world stage is over,” said McFarland, who served during former President Donald Trump’s administration.
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“Second, because foreign leaders know now is the time to press the U.S., to take advantage of a leader who is not only weak but confused,” McFarland said.
Asked about Biden’s ability to lead the nation amid his purported memory problems, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg took aim at the Biden administration as a whole, suggesting the president has always taken “a long time to make decisions or to do something” when dealing with adversaries.
“When it comes to national security, you know, it all really comes down to the commander in chief, the president of the United States,” said Kellogg, a Fox News contributor. “You always want your commander in chief to be, obviously, very informed, which the advisers are supposed to do, but able to make very quick, rational, understandable decisions.”
Kellogg noted that short delays are typical, but insisted that long delays in dealing with national security issues usually lead to problems.
“Frankly, in this administration, you see the latter, not the former,” he said. “They take a long time to make decisions or to do something, and that always lets your adversary get inside your ability to do something.
“Years ago, in the military, there was a term that was actually used that was called the OODA loop. The OODA loop [stood for] observe, orient, decide, act. What that meant is, frankly, get inside your opponent’s decision cycle. That’s what presidents need to do.
“So, if you’ve got a diminished capacity, your ability to make rapid decisions is, of course, questionable. And that’s where you get into trouble with national security.”
Recognizing that the Biden administration is “very risk-averse,” Kellogg said, “When you look at the Middle East, look how long it took us to react to the attack on the Americans or what we’ve done to try to reestablish deterrence. It’s slow decision-making.
“The reason that’s important is because you force the adversary to do something different,” Kellogg added. “And the one that makes those decisions is always, ultimately, the president of the United States, who is commander in chief. Is it an issue? Of course it is, but it’s an issue that has just lived with this administration since day one. That is a concern that you have to have when it comes to decision-making and mental acuity.”
Splintering from comments made by McFarland and Kellogg, Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, said he’s more concerned with Biden’s “intellectual flexibility and the ability to take in new information.” He pointed to past events related to Afghanistan referenced in the special counsel report.
“On the one hand, much of the discussion seems to focus on Afghanistan, and then-Vice President Biden’s role in the debate about what to do in Afghanistan during the Obama administration. There, Biden lost out to advocates of a large surge and probably felt vindicated when that surge did not achieve the desired results,” O’Hanlon said. “That said, in my view, he remained a bit stuck in his vision of where Afghanistan was when he mistakenly ordered our withdrawal in the opening months of his presidency.
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“That was a mistake he shared with former President Trump. Both failed to take stock of more recent information — that, in fact, even with all the flaws and mistakes, Afghanistan was still on its feet as late as 2020. And only a very modest U.S. military presence was needed (along with small forces from American allies) to help its government retain control at least of the cities. So, I’m less concerned about memory, per se, and more concerned about intellectual flexibility and the ability to take in new information.”
On Ukraine, however, O’Hanlon insisted Biden “did well with a rapidly changing and demanding situation” as the country defended itself from Russian aggression.
“He helped Ukraine survive the original Russian attack. He publicized to the world that the attack was imminent so that Putin couldn’t blame it on us or the Ukrainians. He continued to provide more weaponry to Ukraine yet did so without triggering a war with Russia. These are no mean feats, and they took intellectual flexibility and adaptability,” O’Hanlon said.
“Bottom line is that while I wish an 81-year old man weren’t running for president again, I think Biden’s memory and brain are stronger than the recent report alleges.”
Biden told Americans from the White House Thursday evening his memory is “fine” and defended his re-election campaign, saying he is the “most qualified person in this country to be president.”
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Biden’s address to the nation came just hours after Hur released his report, which did not recommend criminal charges against the president for mishandling classified documents. Those records included classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, among other records related to national security and foreign policy Hur said implicated “sensitive intelligence sources and methods.”
A Monmouth University poll released in October found 76% of voters agreed Biden, who was 80 at the time, was “too old” to serve another term, compared to just 48% who said the same about Trump, 77.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman contributed to this report.