Apparently awakening to the absurdity of his initial plan to forego campaigning in the days remaining before the election, Joe Biden summoned up the energy to make his way to Warm Springs, Georgia today, the home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House. In keeping with his gloomy portrait of a country ravaged by pandemic and hopelessly afflicted with institutional racism, in the course of his speech Biden inspiringly noted: “It was here on April 12, 1945 that President Roosevelt died.” That made it a perfect setting for a speech by an elderly, low-energy candidate that many assume will not live long into his presidential term if elected.
Biden tried to mix his doomsaying about the virus that is going to get all of us whose lives haven’t already been destroyed by The White Man with some positive notes: “It is hard when you drive in here,” he observed, “not to think of the circumstances President Roosevelt faithed [sic] and how he overcame so much for so many.” Biden played up the hopeful aspects of Roosevelt’s history in Warm Springs, asserting that it was “a good place to talk about hope and healing,” since it was to that “Franklin Roosevelt came to use the therapeutic waters to rebuild himself” after he contracted polio.
Yes, that’s all true. In an uncomfortable parallel with the Biden campaign, not only did FDR die in Warm Springs; he did so after deceiving the American people for many months about the seriousness of his condition. Despite Joe’s numerous verbal slip-ups and increasingly obvious signs of dementia, the Biden campaign continues to insist that their man is just fine, and in fact more vigorous and in the pink of health than the president who is traversing the country holding three rallies a day.
Yet Nancy Pelosi’s recent introduction of legislation that would make it easier for Congressional Democrats to implement the 25th Amendment (which discusses the removal of a president who is incapacitated and unable to perform his duties) was not, she said, directed at President Trump, but rather at his successors. It was easy to see who she had in mind: Speculation is rife that if Biden wins, he will quickly step aside or be pushed aside to make way for Kamala Harris, who is more palatable than old Joe to the party’s increasingly strong far-Left wing.
In that scenario, Hale and Hearty Joe is being sold to the American people in a classic bait-and-switch operation, reminiscent of the snow job the Democrats pulled off on the electorate back when FDR was running for his fourth term in 1944. Photographs of Roosevelt made it obvious that he was gravely ill: he had lost a considerable amount of weight and looked sallow and haggard. Yet as Republicans began to charge that Roosevelt was too ill to serve yet another four years as President, FDR’s physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, stepped up with an outright lie: “The President’s health is perfectly OK.”
Many remained unconvinced, to the extent that the battle for the Democratic Vice Presidential nomination between Henry Wallace and Harry Truman was widely seen as a contest over who would be the next President. Finally Roosevelt decided that he had to make a major public appearance, which he had been avoiding with the excuse that he was entirely consumed with the war effort. “There has been this constant rumor that I’ll not live if I am elected,” he explained to his cabinet. “You all know that it is not so but apparently ‘Papa has to tell them.’”
On October 21, 1944, Papa rode around New York City to tell them, riding around in an open car for five hours in the rain, making a magnificent impression and reassuring many Americans that he was just fine. However, an impression was all it was. Roosevelt was duly re-elected, delivered a notably brief Fourth Inaugural Address, and once again, in February 1945, proved he was fit as a fiddle by traveling halfway around the world in order to meet Stalin and Churchill at Yalta in the Crimea and hand the Soviets Eastern Europe on a platter. Once again, photographs taken there made a ghastly impression, showing all the world that Roosevelt was desperately ill. Nonetheless, the denial continued.
Some knew. After a meeting with Roosevelt in March 1945, General Lucius Clay told James F. Byrnes, the Director of the Office of War Mobilization, “We’ve been talking to a dying man.” Byrnes replied: “He’s been like this for a long time.” Roosevelt began confusing names frequently and had to rest for ever longer periods every day: During the closing months of World War II, the United States had a president who only worked two or three hours a day.
Franklin D. Roosevelt died in Warm Springs eighty-two days into his fourth term. Biden’s choice of Warm Springs for a speech today projected not so much hope and resilience as it pointed up the parallels between Joe today and FDR in his final months: the confused speech, the need for long periods of rest, and the suspicions that have dogged the campaign. Will President Biden, should he shuffle into the Oval Office as most polls continue to insist he will, last longer than eighty-two days?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.