Biden’s age becomes ‘issue’ for White House – NYT
President Joe Biden’s age is increasingly becoming an issue for the White House, The New York Times (NYT) reported on Saturday, citing a host of unnamed officials, who admitted that the US leader’s “energy level” is not what it once was and they “quietly watch out” for him.
The president’s age is already affecting his routine, the NYT admits, adding that in particular it has prompted the White House to change his foreign trip schedule. Biden, who is about to start his four-day trip to the Middle East next week, was initially expected to do that right after his trip to Europe last month. Yet, the endeavor was reportedly deemed “crazy” for the 79-year-old, as one unnamed official put it in a conversation with the NYT.
A dozen current and former senior US officials insisted the president “remained intellectually engaged” throughout his presidency as he was asking “smart questions at meetings,” grilling his aides on various points of discussion and rewriting his speeches “right up until the last minute,” NYT chief White House correspondent Peter Baker wrote.
Yet, officials have also admitted that they were “quietly” watching out for him in case of possible issues. The list of potential incidents of concern included the president possibly tripping on a wire or stumbling over words during public speeches. The White House officials “hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe,” the NYT reported.
Biden’s administration also admitted they try to “guard” his weekends in Delaware “as much as possible,” adding that he is mostly a “five- or five-and-a-half-day-a-week president,” even though he can be called “at any hour” if the need arises. At an official level, though, the White House insists Biden remains a seven-day commander in chief.
“President Biden works every day and because chief executives can perform their duties from anywhere in the world,” Andrew Bates, a deputy press secretary, said, commenting on the NYT piece. Earlier, Biden has repeatedly stated he intends to run for a second term in two years. In June, the White House confirmed that Biden does plan “to run in 2024.”
Such a prospect has prompted some former US officials and ageing specialists to voice their concerns. David Gergen, a top adviser to four presidents – Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton – who has himself recently turned 80, has called such plans “inappropriate.”
S. Jay Olshansky, a longevity specialist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, argued that, although Biden’s age itself should not be an issue for anyone, the right question would be whether he could keep it up at 86. “Things go wrong as we get older and the risks rise the older we get,” he told the NYT.
Biden, 79, is America’s oldest president since he is now one year older than Ronald Reagan was when his second term ended.
According to the NYT, Biden would ask Americans in 2024 to elect a man who would turn 86 by the end of his tenure. A survey conducted in late June by the Harvard CAPS–Harris Poll showed that some 64% of voters believe he is already too old to be president and over 70% would oppose him running for a second term.