A report from Special Counsel Robert Hur gave US President Joe Biden a less-than-ideal character assessment last week, describing Biden as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” Ouch. The 345-page report investigating President Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents found no wilful or criminal wrongdoing by President Biden and significant differences in the conduct between presidents Biden and Trump in their respective documents cases (former president Trump faces at least 41 criminal charges relating to his alleged mishandling of classified documents).

But Biden’s absolution was far overshadowed by renewed concerns about the president’s mental acuity, and the report’s finding that Biden had difficulty recollecting key events during his time as vice president and when exactly his son, Beau, passed away. Republicans in Congress have been quick to capitalise on the report, seeking interview recordings and potentially bringing Hur to testify in the House. 

Eighty-six per cent of Americans think Biden is too old to serve another presidential term, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted just two days after the report’s release. Only 59 per cent say the same for President Trump, who is just four years younger than Biden. They’re numbers the president and his party would hardly welcome as their re-election bid looms in November with a campaign strategy to accentuate the president’s competence and trustworthiness in contrast to the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Trump declared that Russia should do “whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who don’t meet their two per cent quota for defence spending. The comments renewed international debate over what a potential second Trump term might mean for US commitment to its allies and US foreign policy writ large. They also complicate calculations for House Republicans who have been handed a bipartisan US$95.3 billion military aid package for Ukraine and other allies, endorsed by senior Republicans in the Senate.

All this guarantees the 2024 US presidential election will be like no other. 

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