(CNN)Well, I guess the kidding around is pretty much over.
In a blistering statement released Tuesday morning, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said this of President Joe Biden:
“Let’s be honest here. Joe Biden is unwell. He’s unfit for office. He’s incoherent, incapacitated and confused. He doesn’t know where he is half the time. He’s incapable of leading and he’s incapable of carrying out his duties. Period. Everyone knows it. No one is willing to say it. But we have to, for the sake of the country. Joe Biden can’t do the job.”
This unproven notion — that Biden is somehow enfeebled — has been kicking around conservative media and Trump-allied circles for some time now. The evidence usually revolves around clips of Biden misspeaking or stumbling over his words — and the fact that, at age 79, he is the oldest person ever to serve as president.
Let’s take a step back here to understand why Scott went absolutely nuclear on Biden. He went on to say in the same statement that Biden needs to resign for the good of the country.
Back in February, Scott, who is the chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, released an 11-point plan designed “to rescue America.”
“If Republicans return to Washington’s business as usual, if we have no bigger plan than to be a speed bump on the road to America’s collapse, we don’t deserve to govern,” he wrote of the plan.
Among its many proposals were requiring all Americans to pay some income tax — roughly half of Americans do not pay taxes because their taxable income doesn’t meet a minimum threshold — and to sunset programs like Social Security and Medicare unless Congress re-approves them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made clear that a) he did not authorize Scott’s plan b) he did not think it was good politics and c) he had no plans to implement pieces of it if Republicans retook the Senate majority this fall.
“Let me tell you what would not be a part of our agenda,” McConnell said soon after the release of Scott’s plan. “We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people, and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
What McConnell clearly feared was that Scott had handed Democrats a way to make the election about something other than their full control of Congress and the White House. It gave Democrats a target to shoot at — which they promptly did.
Biden, struggling in polls and clearly concerned about the possibility of losing the House and Senate this fall, has aggressively seized on Scott’s plan as a way to suggest that putting Republicans in charge of Congress would be lead to extremism.
During a speech Tuesday focused on inflation, Biden criticized the “ultra-MAGA agenda” Scott proposed. Asked by a reporter about Scott’s resignation call, Biden responded: “I think the man has a problem.”
Scott’s statement may seem over the top — I mean, McConnell basically warned Democrats would do exactly what they are trying to do with his plan! — but you have to consider his audience. Scott seems like he wants to run for president — maybe as soon as 2024 — and he knows that chatter about Biden’s mental capacity has been populating the likes of Donald Trump Jr.’s Instagram feed for months and months now.
Why not throw himself into that crowd? Scott likely relished being in a perceived one-on-one fight with the sitting Democratic President and knows that there is literally nothing at all that he can say about Biden that would be seen as taking things too far by the MAGA crowd.
Now, is it a good thing for our democracy to have a Republican senator publicly suggesting that the President is “incoherent, incapacitated and confused”? Um, no. Does Scott care about that? Also no.
This story has been updated with additional developments.