“The mental and physical condition of the Commander in Chief cannot be ignored,” wrote Flag Officers 4 America, an organisation of former generals and admirals. “He must be able to quickly make accurate national security decisions involving life and limb anywhere, day or night.”
The ex-officers did not go into further detail, and listed no specific ailments as possibilities. As evidence, the letter only cites “recent Democrat leadership’s inquiries about nuclear code procedures”, which it interprets as “raising the question about who is in charge”.
Doubts about Mr Biden’s health – and about Ms Clinton’s in 2016 – have long been a talking point of right-wing pundits. Fox News’ Sean Hannity, in particular, has insisted for months that Mr Biden is “struggling cognitively.”
On Thursday, Ms Clinton lashed out at the letter on Twitter, calling it “bizarre, shameful, and untrue”.
Ms Clinton wasn’t the only one to object.
Military experts, including some currently in service, denounced the letter in a report by Politico. One serving Navy officer, who did not wish to be named, called it “disturbing and reckless.” Marybeth Ulrich, a retired Air Force colonel, called the letter “anti-democratic.”
“That was way worse than I was expecting,” Ms Ulrich told Politico. ““They are absolutely violating the norm to be apolitical. They are being used for partisan purposes.”
A medical summary released in 2019 by Mr Biden’s doctor described him as a “healthy, vigorous, 77-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” The White House says it will release another assessment after the president’s checkup later this year.
In the Flag Officers’ letter, a four-sentence discussion of Mr Biden’s health is last in a long list of points, many of which echo the grievances of former president Donald Trump. At the top is an accusation – which has been thoroughly debunked – that the 2020 election was fraudulent.
“Without fair and honest elections that accurately reflect the ‘will of the people’ our Constitutional Republic is lost,” the letter says. “The FBI and Supreme Court must act swiftly when election irregularities are surfaced and not ignore them as was done in 2020.”
The letter also complains that “illegals are flooding our Country [sic],” troops at the US Capitol are “guarding against a non-existent threat,” and “Politically Correct policies like the divisive critical race theory” are being pushed on the military.
Many of these charges are common talking points on Fox News and other conservative media. The letter even mimics the random capitalization and syntax of Mr Trump’s tweets, railing about “Socialism and Marxism” and “the Democrat Party.”
Retired Army Major General Joe Arbuckle, who organized the letter, insisted that the dangers the US is facing are too great to remain silent.
“Retired generals and admirals normally do not engage in political actions,” the Vietnam veteran told Politico, “but the situation facing our nation today is dire and we must speak out in order to be faithful to our oath to support and defend the Constitution of the US against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”