Now and then, even in his unscripted remarks, President Biden blurts out a complete, coherent sentence. He did so on Saturday in a brief, largely unintelligible exchange with media during a 9/11 commemoration event.
“If Robert E. Lee had been in Afghanistan he would’ve won.” pic.twitter.com/zLHDFsuqjL
— Ian Miles Cheong @ stillgray.substack.com (@stillgray) September 12, 2021
Lurking in the string of random words and unfinished thoughts is the sentence excerpted by Ian Miles Cheong: “If Robert E. Lee had been in Afghanistan he would’ve won.”
Although most of the Twitter replies came from users who didn’t know the provenance of that quote, LU Nation will recognize it.
It’s from Donald Trump’s statement about the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia on 8 September.
The statement contained this passage: “If only we had Robert E. Lee to command our troops in Afghanistan, that disaster would have ended in a complete and total victory many years ago.”
One tweep’s reply edged kind of close to the mark:
Its out of context.. He's taking a stab at FL incoherently trying to say "ppl in FL are saying if Robert E Lee.."
— Dr. Got Freedom? (@Christo07331781) September 12, 2021
But unless there’s been an outbreak of general Floridian sentiment on this topic that has gone wholly unreported, Biden wasn’t referring to “people in Florida,” but to one highly notable person in Florida; i.e., former President Trump.
I operate from a theory that Biden, like many sufferers from geriatric dementia, makes his strongest, most coherent showing when he’s expressing either thoughts from the events of his own life from which he carries powerful impressions, or ideas that have been particularly stressed to him more recently, especially ideas that resonate with his baseline mindset and attitude.
That was the basis, in my view, for Biden’s very few focused and articulate points on the rationale for pulling out of Afghanistan. He struggled in August to state the uninteresting policy boilerplate teed up by his current handling staff, even though it was word for word on a teleprompter right in front of him. But when it came to the views he himself had espoused as vice president back in the 2009-2011 period, he had no trouble spitting them out.
That was a case of strong earlier memories and impressions. On Lee and Afghanistan, I’m betting Biden’s coherent, fully-formed, and politically uncharacteristic thought burble sprang not from the brow of Zeus, but from a bull session with his handlers in which there was a loud chorus of guffawing disdain about the Trump statement on Lee.
The gist of Biden’s meaning would be something like, “Here we are, 20 years on from 9/11 and the weeks just before we invaded Afghanistan, and that idiot predecessor of mine, who’s connected in my mind with the inexcusable State of Florida, is saying dumb stuff like ‘Robert E. Lee would have won in Afghanistan.’ That’s just how hosed things are right now.”
I could rest my case right here on the engageability of Trump’s communications. The one cogent, affirmative thought Joe Biden was able to complete in an unscripted exchange on Saturday came from a Trump statement.
But the main point is that Trump continues to live rent-free in their heads. It’s quite possible that even most of the mainstream media didn’t read Trump’s statement on the Lee statue – but evidently, Biden’s handlers did.