A Case of Cognitive Dire Straits

Jim Woods

Jim Woods has over 20 years of experience in the markets from working as a stockbroker, financial journalist, and money manager.

After watching the recent debate between President Biden and former President Trump, I was left truly dumbfounded. First, Donald Trump managed to be relatively calm and collected, traits not usually associated with the former president. Yet for Mr. Biden, well, I found myself astonished by the man’s obvious mental meltdown.

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Anyone who viewed that debate with even a scintilla of objectivity was compelled by reality to conclude that President Biden lacks the mental acuity and corresponding verbal facility to be the leader of the free world. Indeed, the Biden debate performance was more like witnessing a failed neurological exam than it was an exposition of policy positions.

Now, I do not make this observation with any pleasure. And while I am not a supporter of the president, it actually pained me to see a man clearly in cognitive dire straits. Because, at the very low-bar minimum, you would think that having intact cognition is a requirement of what can easily be argued is the most important job in the world.

Sadly, this case of cognitive dire straits is one of Father Time’s cruelest jokes. Physical decline (and particularly cognitive decline) will befall us all, if we’re lucky enough to live that long. Yet, be that as it may, it is painfully obvious that President Biden is not up to the job the American people elected him to do nearly four years ago.

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At one point, however, Joe Biden was a different man. I know this, because in August 2008, I spent some five hours sitting next to the man on a flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. He was then Senator Biden, and even back then, he did display a few signs of, shall we say, unusual behavior. And while that behavior didn’t resemble anything near the kind of cognitive decline America witnessed at the debate, it was, I think, quite revealing as to his approach to life.

Given the recent headlines regarding the president, I thought I would republish my reflections on this 2008 plane ride, so that you can read about what I witnessed on that memorable flight.

So, please enjoy my reflections in the following 2008 article, titled:

‘We All Scream for Ice Scream: A Joe Biden Tale’

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You can tell a lot about a man by the way he eats.

Some men like to sit down to a meal, take their time and savor each and every morsel of food and drink. People like this tend to be thoughtful, meticulous, confident and in many cases, hedonistic. How do I know this? Well, I’ve been known to spend more time than most getting through a multi-course, wine-paired meal.

Still, other men like to dig right into their prize, attacking the meal with fervor and a literal hunger for life that reveals their carpe-diem approach to the world. This type of person tends to be decisive, purposeful, driven and a born leader. My favorite example of this type of eater is my good friend and fellow investment guru Doug Fabian.

But what do you say about a man who eats his meal in reverse order?

That thought has plagued me ever since I sat next to Sen. Joe Biden on a flight from Washington, D.C. to my hometown of Los Angeles, California. Sen. Biden was on his way to L.A. for an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” while I was returning home from my annual pilgrimage to the nation’s capital for a meeting with friends, publishers and people from some of my favorite think tanks.

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After exchanging pleasantries with the senior senator from Delaware, Biden wasted no time in digging right into his criticisms of the war in Iraq, and what he perceived to be the folly of the Bush administration. I expected nothing less from the senator, as he’s known for his outspoken critiques and his shoot-from-the-hip commentary.

What I didn’t expect was a lesson in how to eat a meal backwards.

Now, since I had the benefit of first-class seating accommodation during this journey, the flight attendants were very conscientious when it came to serving what was a surprisingly tasty meal. The first course was a salad with Italian dressing, which was followed by a main course of a plump, well-seasoned chicken breast and a side of rice. The best part of the meal for me was the dessert, which was a generous scoop of gourmet chocolate ice cream.

I ate my meal with my usual casualness, and in the aforementioned order. Sen. Biden, however, took a different path. Biden accepted the salad, but he put it aside and saved it for later. When the main course came, he politely rejected it. But when the ice cream came, Biden’s fervent personality really came out. He emphatically asked for a serving, although he had not yet eaten any food.

Biden ate his ice cream while we discussed Kevin Phillips’ book “American Theocracy,” the then-latest critique of the Bush administration’s religious overtones. After eating the ice cream, Biden pulled out a hefty ham sandwich from his briefcase and consumed it in a deliberate and determined fashion. Once the sandwich disappeared, the senator turned to the only remaining bit of food left on his tray table, the salad.

As I watched this reverse-order meal consumption, a thought occurred to me: Is this why the federal government is so screwed up? Is Sen. Biden’s backwards approach to a meal indicative of what’s wrong with Washington? Does this backwards eating pattern explain why the government does everything less efficiently and less effectively than the private sector?

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Given my theories on discerning knowledge of a person based on how they eat, what was I to make of Sen. Biden’s meal habits? The only logical conclusion is that Biden looks at the world — shall we say — differently from the rest of us. And while there is nothing wrong with a little different perspective on things, I don’t think I want someone a heartbeat away from the presidency who eats his ice cream first.

The next thing you know is that person will advocate raising taxes to stimulate the economy, negotiating with our ideological enemies as a means of portraying strength and railing against judges who think interpreting the Constitution is the only proper function of the courts.

Wait a second… that’s what Biden wants?

I knew there was a reason why he ate the ice cream first.

*****************************************************************

Be Like the Savage

“But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

–Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World”

This year’s FreedomFest theme is “Brave New World,” a reference to the 1932 dystopian classic by Aldous Huxley. In a pivotal scene in the novel, “John the Savage” rejects the taking of the placating drug “soma,” which keeps citizens mentally “stable” and that essentially eliminates all real pleasure and all real pain and suffering.

It is this state of humanity that John, hitherto an outsider to this Brave New World, rejects. You see, the “Savage” doesn’t want mere comfort. He wants the sublime. He wants poetry, he wants to live in a world where failure and achievement are both possible. He doesn’t want stability, he wants freedom. He wants a life of adventure — a life that is in direct contradiction to a goal of stability.

Be like the Savage.

Wisdom about money, investing and life can be found anywhere. If you have a good quote that you’d like me to share with your fellow readers, send it to me, along with any comments, questions and suggestions you have about my newsletters, seminars or anything else. Click here to ask Jim.

In the name of the best within us,

Jim Woods

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