Philip Green
6 min readFeb 15, 2024


Memory, Lies, and Age: The Nature of Real Thought

I ran across two versions of one ongoing bit of Americana the other day. First, there is the blossoming Biden-is-doomed literature, typified by Ross Douthat in the Times over the weekend. Second, there is the Americana of the haters and destroyers who are hoping to ride Donald Trumps’ coat-tails into total power.

The Biden-is-doomed analysis is usually accompanied first, by some kind of replacement thesis about what might happen at the Democratic Convention: Gavin Newsom is the favorite in this sweepstakes (but don’t forget Robert F. Kennedy Jr.). The whole game, however, is a waste of time, in that there is not going to be some unexpected outcome any more than there was of the Super Bowl.

If for any reason Biden does not run, we know who will replace him. Simply put, it will be Kamala Harris, and the oh-my-god-Harris cabal should just drop it. It’s like wishing that Harry Truman would not replace FDR, when everyone who was anyone knew that FDR was doomed. That is why Vice-Presidents exist, and that is why they are selected; all sorts of reasons might go into that selection, but that’s beside the point; I’m not going to even bother repeating the logic here, though I might just repeat the fateful words, “South Carolina.” In any event, anyone who wants to play the Cook Reports game should start running her name through the Swing State comparisons.
And read the 25th Amendment, Section 1.

No. At the moment us the only real question is, what’s the worst that can happen if Biden loses, and the answer is “Total Disaster.” Or, to elaborate, Trump has signalled quite clearly what his version of Hitlerism will be: “’Don’t worry, I’ll only be a dictator for one day.” Laugh laugh. As William Jennings Bryan pointed out to Clarence Darrow’s skepticism during the Scopes Trial, “Yes, all of Creation was done in one day, but the scripture doesn’t say how long that Day was!”

To expand that analysis a little, what’s the worst that can happen on that one day? We know the answer to that.

First, the major promise will be fulfilled. Trump fulfilled it on his first go-round, and he won’t miss its final fulfillment. To wit: the lobby of hatred, and itsl representatives in Congress and on the Supreme Court, will enact the Nationwide Anti-abortion Act.

We are seeing their initial steps already, in the all-out attack on
the availability of the abortifacient Meprednisone. What form this will take in the end is hard to say; several governors of Democratic states are already hoarding the pill against the day, but to be effective it has to be distributed, and by whom will that be undertaken: Not in the Post Office, presumably, but then what? At best, we have to hope for a civil war, and I mean that seriously; but this is hardly a blue-ribbon solution to the totalitarian movement.

And as to that we can look at what’s happening already; to wit:
From a report in an on-line publication: “A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week says there have been more than an estimated 26,000 rape-related pregnancies in Texas since the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision….
In the states with abortion bans, researchers estimated there were more than 519,000 completed rapes and 64,565 pregnancies associated with those rapes. Ninety-one percent of the pregnancies occurred in states that have no rape exception and 26, 313, or 45 percent of them happened in Texas.”

To the extent that the two studies may be giving different results, it’s probably relevant that the JAMA study is indeed an actual study using normal research methods; the other as far as I could tell is a compilation of volunteer counts. In any event, this is the future we are looking at. Look at those figures. They would not be out of place in any nation we can think of, no matter how monstrous–with the usual exception. But in our own way, monstrous.

Now we get beyond such considerations to what some, even many, persons consider the real meat of the issue: Biden’s memory! But no, because that’s a media creation. So I’m going to put this the other way around: to look not at Biden’s mind, but rather at Trump’s three years younger mind–which is not a media creation, but his own. Like this:

Trump can say anything he wants because he knows nothing and doesn’t care what aspect of it is true or false. The fudging mass media miss what’s important for what’s “news,” so that we might never know how trivial Biden’s momentary Mexico/Egypt lapse (not, as one linguist pointed out, a failure of memory but a momentary and common mis- articulation of items on a list) was compared to Trump’s incredible ignorance about the political world. And the deep Net, devoted to slander and fantasy, its cues given by Fox News, treats the President as a stand-in for E. Jean Carroll or any of Trump’s other punching bags.

In contrast, as everyone should know by now, Trump’s attack on NATO centered around one of the most ignorant statements by a head of government in recent (or maybe any) history, when he promised not to enforce –that is to follow the NATO Treaty–to come to an allies aid, if that member hadn’t “paid their dues”–of which there are none. That grotesque know-nothing is unaware that the only “dues” member nations have is to devote a certain percentage of their national budgets to armaments–and of course the U.S., being the world’s most productive economy by far, often generates complaints about budgetary shortfalls by the others: though the War in Ukraine is on the verge of putting the US contribution to shame: entirely because of Trump-inspired Republican resistance.

This event was accompanied, we might say, by a report of which every interpretation by the special counsel was false — those who’ve actually read it have reported that there was by his own reckoning no violation of any regulation, no mistake except only trivial words: a story told by a fraud among frauds.

A relevant story of my own: Earlier in the day on which I am writing these lines, I tried to tell an ENT doctor that I no longer had heartburn, but couldn’t find that word until telling the story hours later. The entire special counsel document, to sum up, is the record of a competent man who kept personal notes in a harmless place without knowing that some of them could be considered to be “classified.”

The relationship between the intellects of Biden and Donald Trump is like the relationship between a careful thinker with an inquiring if imperfectly organized mind — –with whom I do not always agree but why should I or anyone–and a 78-year-old misogynistic imbecile, whose “critique” of his opponent, Nikki Haley, was an aggressive attack on her by way of her husband, insinuating at a rally in South Carolina that he, a National Guardsmen, left for a deployment in order to escape her. As one reporter put it, “He then paused, before adding suggestively: “He knew. He knew…” Will everyone in the weak-kneed media please stop pretending.

This is the man who gets treated as though there’s some kind of manliness contest between him and a President who was, and is still bidding to be, the most productive president of this century There is indeed a contest of appearances, between that President and one who learned how to be a TV personality without having any other capability except how to prepare to destroy the Rule of Law and the deployment of free and fair elections: in other words, the Republican form of government, dragging along with him the hackers whose contribution to political thought and action is to differentiate themselves from Mike Pence. It has to be emphasized over and over again: there is no debate going on; there’s deep Net slime versus democratic institutions: all reporters ought to decide which side they’re on. There’s nothing else to think about….



Philip Green

Emeritus Professor of Gov’t, Smith College, 40 years Editorial Board, The Nation,