2020 Election

‘Not The Same Joe Biden’: White House Stenographer Says Former VP’s ‘Mental Acuity’ Has Deteriorated

Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden Speaks In Wilmington, Delaware
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Joe Biden’s former White House stenographer said the vice president’s public speaking ability has deteriorated significantly since leaving office to the point where he’s "not the same Joe Biden."

"It is a complete difference from what he was in 2017," Mike McCormick, who worked as a White House stenographer for 15 years and with Biden from 2011 to 2017, told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview. "He’s lost a step and he doesn’t seem to have the same mental acuity as he did four years ago."

"He doesn’t have the energy, he doesn’t have the pace of his speaking," McCormick said. "He’s a different guy."

McCormick’s recent book Joe Biden Unauthorized recounts his time working with Biden and takes a critical look at the former vice president, including the time he says Biden was "humiliated"  by Russia's Vladimir Putin in 2011.

McCormick—who often traveled with Biden and transcribed his speeches, public conversations with foreign leaders, and off-the-record media briefings for the official White House record—said the vice president had a talent for connecting with audiences when he was in office and almost always veered off script from his pre-written speeches. Biden’s physical stamina and cognitive health have come under scrutiny during the 2020 election, due to a series of speaking appearances in which the 77-year-old has appeared to lose his train of thought, struggled to finish a sentence, or forgotten where he is.

"He’d just make a big joke out of it, and go straight from the hip. And notice, he’s not doing that anymore," he said. "He read that [Democratic National Committee speech] verbatim … it’s not Joe Biden anymore."

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

McCormick said Biden also seems to get "lost" during interviews now, a problem he said seems more pronounced since leaving the White House.

In recent interviews, Biden seems to have been reading directly from a teleprompter when answering questions, including instructions from his staff, such as "END QUOTE" and "TOPLINE MESSAGE."

He has also made odd statements, telling one online audience that when he was a patient at Walter Reed Hospital, the nurses would "breathe in my nostrils to make me move."

President Trump has nicknamed him "Sleepy Joe," and the Trump campaign released a video ad last month suggesting that he is suffering from cognitive decline.

While McCormick says Biden was a more articulate speaker in the White House, his tendency to ramble sometimes caused him problems with foreign adversaries.

During Biden’s first visit with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in March 2011, McCormick said the former KGB leader "publicly humiliated" the vice president by cutting off his microphone during their press conference—an incident that McCormick said never made it into media coverage of the trip.

Biden’s staffers at the time "made a big deal about how Putin really dominated the conversation [with] Obama" in a prior meeting, said McCormick. They indicated that Biden, with his decades of Senate foreign policy experience, wasn’t going to let Putin get the upper hand.

But during the public portion of the meeting in Moscow—as Biden launched into a soliloquy about his visits to Russia during the Cold War—his microphone was abruptly cut off mid-sentence, the press lighting was switched off, and Putin’s aides ushered the media out of the room, said McCormick.

"[Putin’s] message was unmistakable: I’m in charge of the room, I’m in charge of my country, and I’m in charge of the reset," wrote McCormick in his book. "As you might imagine, the vice president’s staffers were furious with the Russians. I was instructed to have the transcript reflect how the vice president had been cut off in mid sentence."

The official White House transcript of the meeting includes the sudden ending: "VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: There’s a reason, Mr. Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, I’ve been around a long time. The first time I was here—the second time I was here, I was meeting with President Brezhnev. We were trying to pass SALT II—END"

"He basically got body slammed by Putin, really. I mean, I don’t know how else to describe it," McCormick told the Free Beacon. "To me it was like, here’s our great foreign policy expert and he just got punk’d. And Vladimir Putin just had no fear or respect for him."