World

Sleep is Joe Biden’s superpower

2 November 2021

2:01 PM

2 November 2021

2:01 PM

As usual, P.G. Wodehouse put it best. “What is it Shakespeare calls sleep, Jeeves?,” Bertie Wooster inquires of his faithful manservant. “Tired Nature’s sweet restorer sir.” “Exactly. Well there you are, then,” Bertie complacently concurs.

Perhaps it was this exchange that President Biden was pondering during the opening speeches at the COP26 when he apparently dozed off.

A variety of interpretations of Biden’s behavior are possible. A charitable one is that he was behaving like any rational human being listening to a bunch of self-important gasbags would and simply tuned out. Another one, assiduously touted by his detractors, is that the old duffer simply can’t hack it any longer. Take him out in public for a few hours and it isn’t sleepy but somnolent Joe.


This is presumably what former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was driving at this past September when he suggested on Facebook that Biden had nodded off during a meeting with him. It’s always possible, of course, that Biden could think of no better way to signal his contempt for Netanyahu than to feign falling asleep in his presence. If you buy this line of argument, then Biden has actually developed a kind of subtle presidential superpower in dealing with nettlesome, or merely tedious, foreign leaders.

Then there is the Reagan example. “Afternoon is still nap time,” he confided to his diaries. His critics liked to say that the Gipper wasn’t up to the job. All he did was win the Cold War. He joked that his chair in the cabinet room should be inscribed, “Ronald Reagan slept here.”

Perhaps even more compelling is the case of Winston Churchill. A strong argument can be made that World War Two was partly won on the basis of the power nap. He would take up to a two-hour siesta and kept a bed in the Houses of Parliament. The great man’s credo: “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”

Who could disagree? Not Biden, that’s for sure.

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