WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden‘s every stammer and every stumble is coming under increasing scrutiny in a social media driven political arena replete with taunts and trolling.
While concern over the health and mental acuity of the oldest President in U.S history has featured in public discourse from the time he declared his third run for the White House, the 78-year old veteran has given critics and observers plenty of fodder for chatter with his characteristics gaffes, tripping over not just words but over himself.
A day after he mistakenly referred to his vice-president Kamala Harris as “President Harris,” Biden stumbled thrice on the stairway to Air Force One on Friday, igniting caustic comments on social media, particularly from right-wing critics and conservative Republicans still smarting over losing power.
“If #Biden can’t stand on his own two feet then how can he stand up for America?” trolled one Trump supporter as defenders of the President took a more sympathetic view: It could happen to anyone. Rightwing media channels and outlets played the footage on loop to speculate about his health, which physicians have said is fine for his age.
More intriguing though was his gaffe on Thursday when he said “When President Harris and I took (pause) … a virtual tour of a vaccination site in Arizona not long ago, one of the nurses on that tour injecting people, giving vax each shot, was like administering a dose of hope.” Kamala Harris was present during the remarks but her reaction was not captured on camera.
The flub ignited another round of handwringing from Trump supporters who have long believed their idols theory that Kamala Harris is a “socialist Trojan Horse” who will replace Biden in the Oval Office without being directly elected to the Presidency.
This is not the first time Biden has made such a gaffe.
In December, also during a speech about Covid-19 vaccines, he mistakenly referred to Harris as “president elect,” saying, “I took it to instill public confidence in the vaccine. President-elect Harris took hers today for the same reason.”
Another time, Kamala Harris herself referred to a “Harris administration.” In fact, it appears to have become a norm now to refer to the current dispensation as the “Biden-Harris administration” — an unusual formulation considering previous dispensations were not called “Trump-Pence administration” or “Obama-Biden administration” or “Bush-Cheney administration.”
But there is little doubt that Kamala Harris is turning out to be one of the most visible, high-profile, and consequential vice-presidents in US history, appearing alongside Biden on many important occasions and sharing the limelight, evidently with the President’s concurrence.
On Friday, they both Biden and visited Atlanta in separate planes to offer solace to Asian Americans reeling from the blood carnage earlier this week when a young white gunman shot dead eight people, including six Asian-American women working in three spas and massage parlors.
White authorities painted a sympathetic portrait of the perpetrator, saying he was having a “bad day” and resorted to his murderous spree because of sex addiction issues, inviting withering criticism from liberals who believe white extremists get kid glove treatment from authorities for hate crimes. But Harris was unsparing in her critique of America. “Racism is real in America and it has always been, xenophobia is real in America and always has been. Sexism too,” she said.