Like many other Americans who had the misfortune to live under socialism, I’ve been having lots of flashbacks lately. In particular, I find that the presumptive President-elect Joe Biden gives out serious Brezhnev vibes.
The general secretary of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, Leonid Brezhnev was not a healthy man. He was a chain-smoking workaholic who’d been appointed to a series of very stressful positions — you try to rise in ranks under Joseph Stalin. He served in World War Two, when he was wounded, and suffered a concussion. Brezhnev’s mind and body took a toll; his first, minor stroke happened in 1951, when he was still in his forties.
Despite that, he was able to feign decent health up until December 1975 when he suffered another cardiac arrest. By then a nurse appointed by the KGB began administering sedatives to the communist functionary to counter his insomnia. He became dependent on drugs, and continued using them through the end of his life. In 1968, the heavy-set Soviet head of state overdosed in the plain view of the Czechoslovak delegation, and had to lie down on the negotiating table.
Ordinary Soviet people had no knowledge of this, but, watching news segments on TV, it was hard to avoid conclusion that the general secretary was unfit to rule. His speech was slurred, and his movements unsteady. His mispronunciations were notorious: ‘socialist countries’ came out his mouth as ‘sh-ty sausages’, and ‘systematically’ — as ‘booby boobs’. Towards the end of his life he required the help of an apparatchik to lift his arm to salut the troops at a parade.
Because the official Soviet sources released no medical information, rumors about Brezhnev’s health abounded. So did the jokes. For instance:
‘Brezhnev’s voice on the radio: “Comrades! Imperialist enemies are spreading false rumors that my speeches are played on a record…a record…a record…”’
‘Brezhnev asked his speech writer to write a 15-minute address to the Party Congress. The writer gave him the address, and Brezhnev went up on a podium to present it. It’s taking him 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 40, 45. When he’s finally done, he asked the writer “What did you do? I asked for a 15-minute speech!” The writer says: “I wrote you a 15 minute speech, and I gave you three copies of it.”’
This one can be easily retold about Biden who once read a chyron on live television.
That there is something wrong with Biden is dangerously close to becoming a subject of open discussion. A topic rarely brought up outside conservative media after the Democratic primary was touched upon by satirical site the Onion when it ran a piece titled: ‘Doctors Concerned As Hairline Fracture In Biden’s Foot Spreads Through Entire Skeleton’.
The story riffed on the real-life news item about Biden fracturing his foot while playing with one of his dogs. The Biden family pets had received so much media attention a few days earlier that it only makes sense the critters had a second act.
Shortly after the fracture made the news cycle, I heard a rumor that Biden broke his foot because he had a stroke. It’s just a rumor of course, but is there any wonder that it would circulate after a bizarre presidential campaign during which so few people showed up to his socially distanced rallies and his media appearances were sparse and tightly controlled?
Even under those circumstances Biden’s speech was slurred, he often appears lost, and he made too many ‘gaffes’, including forgetting the name of his former boss Barack Obama. Curiously, during one of his interviews the former vice president admitted that his cognitive ability is tested ‘constantly’.
It shouldn’t be surprising that according to a Zogby poll, 55 percent of likely voters believed Biden is in the early stages of dementia. What’s surprising is that the November 3 election revealed how 80 million Americans apparently hate Trump so much that they think Biden’s anonymous handlers will do a better job of running the country — and so they voted for the Democratic nominee.
At least nobody in the Soviet Union voted for Brezhnev — the elections were a sham with Communist party candidates running unopposed. Everything was a sham, actually. In his mumbling, robotic tones, the general secretary delivered long-winded, heavy on Marxist cliches and utterly incomprehensible televised speeches. The economy flattered, dissidents were subjected to psychiatric torture, corruption proliferated, and the rate of substance abuse skyrocketed. That period of Soviet history is known as zastoi, or stagnation. It only made sense that the man on top was some sort of sclerotic.
Like Brezhnev, Biden’s rhetoric is ridden with clichés, but of a different, folksy kind. At the time when political slogans are catchy and provocative — Make America Great Again, Black Lives Matter — Biden’s yard signs read ‘Our best days are still ahead’, and ‘Build back better’. His Twitter account is full of platitudes like ‘This is our moment — ours together — to write a newer, bolder, more compassionate chapter in the life of our nation.’ He’s just a boring ordinary guy — until he lashes out at a voter, or bites on his wife’s finger.
Is Biden the candidate of American stagnation? His cognitive and physical decline is increasingly difficult to hide and it’s highly disturbing to witness it become a subject of speculation. I’ve lived through it before and it gives me the creeps. Free citizens of a free republic shouldn’t need a Kremlinologist to decipher what’s wrong with their president.