Edith Wilson Redux In Biden Cognitive Issues?
Edith Wilson Redux In Biden Cognitive Issues?
One hundred years ago, a president was felled by a stroke. The American public was never fully informed of President Woodrow Wilson’s illness, and leading the charge on the misinformation was his second wife, Edith Wilson.
The lesson of Edith Wilson a century later seems quite relevant, given the ongoing questions regarding the cognitive decline of Joe Biden. It is obvious to anyone who can use “the YouTube” (as Bernie Sanders likes to call it) that Joe Biden’s mental sharpness has dulled over the course of his decades of public service. The contrast between Biden’s debate performances in 2012 to now is startling.
There’s no shame in losing a step or two with age. The problem is that what could have been forgiven four years ago, when Biden declined to run in 2016 due to his son’s death from cancer and Hillary Clinton’s cutthroat campaign tactics, cannot be ignored in 2020. Except, apparently, by the Biden family, who have lived off of Joe’s public persona for so long that they no longer have a concept of working on their own merits (Hunter is only the tip of the iceberg). Joe’s extended family is acting like they need to keep him in the spotlight in order to keep the grift going for themselves. And one gets the uncomfortable impression that if only Beau Biden had lived, he would have taken up the mantle of continuing to be the Biden in public office, allowing Dad to retire and the rest of the family to mooch off the Biden name.
There are open questions about Joe Biden’s cognitive state. We have had instances in American history before where a president’s health and mental fitness were covered up by the people around them and a compliant media. If Biden is elected, at age 77, can anyone reasonably assume that he will run for reelection at 81? What will Biden sound like and behave like in another four years?
This brings us back to Edith Wilson. President Wilson was widowed during his first term as president. He met widow Edith Galt and within nine months, married her on December 18, 1915. It is interesting that the official White House First Ladies’ biography glosses over the role that Edith Wilson played when her husband was struck down by a stroke. Historians agree that Edith was a devoted wife who wanted to protect her husband from scrutiny after the stroke. The problem was, of course, that her husband was president of the United States, and Edith Wilson was running the show in his name.
Edith Wilson firmly stepped in and began making decisions. Consulting with physicians, she would not even consider making her husband resign and have the Vice President take over. That would only depress her Woodrow. Her loving dedication to protect him by whatever means were necessary might have been admirable for a love story, but in declaring that she only cared about him as a person, not as a president, Mrs. Wilson revealed a selfish ignorance leading her to decide that she and the President came before the normal functioning of the executive branch of government.”
The first move in establishing what she called her “stewardship” was to mislead the entire nation, from the Cabinet to Congress to the press and the people. Vetting the carefully crafted medical bulletins that were publicly released, she would only permit an acknowledgement that Wilson badly needed rest and would be working from his bedroom suite. When individual Cabinet members came to confer the President, they went no further than the First Lady. If they had policy papers or pending decisions for him to review, edit or approve, she would first look over the material herself. If she deemed the matter pressing enough, she took the paperwork into her husband’s room where she claimed she would read all the necessary documents to him.”
And while people within government complained, there was no official action taken, either.
While she admittedly took over many day-to-day presidential duties, Edith contended she never initiated any programs, made major decisions, sign or veto legislation, or otherwise try to control the executive branch through the issuance of executive orders.”
Not everybody was happy with the first lady’s “administration.” One Republican Senator bitterly called her “the ‘Presidentress’ who had fulfilled the dream of the suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man.”
In “My Memoir,” Mrs. Wilson strongly contended that she had assumed her pseudo-presidential role at the recommendations of the president’s doctors.”
After studying the proceedings of the Wilson administration over the years, historians have concluded that Edith Wilson’s role during her husband’s illness went beyond mere “stewardship.” Instead, she essentially served as President of the United States until Woodrow Wilson’s second term concluded in March of 1921.”
There is no way on earth that such an arrangment would fly in today’s media age, especially after the passing of the 25th Amendment. The Edith Wilson of the day would not end up being Jill Biden, who by all accounts is a loving and devoted wife, mother, and grandmother. Jill Biden might be managing Joe now, but if an actual medical issue like a stroke took a hypothetical Biden presidency down, Jill Biden would not be able to pull an Edith Wilson. No, that role would fall, constitutionally, to the female vice president that Joe Biden has now committed to pick. Between age and cognitive questions, it is little wonder that the choice of Biden’s vice president will be closely scrutinized. This woman might have a real chance of being president by the time four years have passed.
But let’s say nothing catastrophic happens health-wise, and we just continue to see the wheels come looser on Joe’s mental cart. At what point does it stop? When should the American public insist that something be said or done? We know the Biden family has no interest in letting Joe retire gracefully, and now he is certain to be the Democrat nominee. And fair warning: when Joe Biden steps onto that debate stage with Donald Trump, there will be no Edith Wilson to run interference for him.
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Featured image: Joe Biden, official White House portrait, August 13, 2009, public domain