When I was interviewed forty years ago for the deanship of Amherst College, I was asked what changes I would institute if I were Dean. I said I would make public everyone’s salary, as was routinely done at UMass, where I was then teaching. When I said that, the temperature in the room dropped ten degrees and I lost any chance at the deanship.
That was a gaffe.
This morning, as I planned today’s post during my morning walk, I could not recall the name of the great American soprano Kathleen Battle.
That was a senior moment.
When I wonder whether Joe Biden, almost certainly the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, has suffered sufficient cognitive decline not to be able to handle the campaign without disastrously imploding, I am not concerned about gaffes or senior moments.
I live in a community of senior citizens, many of whom are mentally sharp but some of whom exhibit signs of cognitive decline. This decline takes many forms. Sometimes it is a loss of short term memory. Sometimes it is becoming confused when trying to follow a series of instructions, such as a recipe or directions for finding a building. Sometimes it is repeating stories one has already told [hem, hem, cough, cough], or conflating several stories confusedly, or being unable to complete a thought or a sentence. And sometimes it is growing defensive or belligerent when challenged.
Biden has exhibited all of these in recent months.