Biden faces a profound and growing problem: Age isn’t just a number

Special counsel Robert Hur made a significant impact on the presidential campaign on Thursday by delivering a scathing evaluation of Joe Biden’s mental sharpness. This has brought the president’s greatest political weakness into the forefront of public discourse.

Voters have expressed concerns about Biden’s age in polling, and while top Democrats have kept their worries mostly private, they have not addressed the issue directly. However, with Hur’s official report describing Biden, who is 81 years old, as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” it may now prompt a fresh evaluation of the president.

According to investigators, there was not enough evidence to charge Biden for mishandling classified documents while he served as vice president. However, they did note that his memory seemed to have significant limitations. For example, Biden could not recall the exact timeline of his son Beau’s death in 2015, and he also struggled to remember his time as vice president or the specifics of a debate regarding sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Just as Biden’s aides were attempting to excuse the president’s recent verbal slip-ups, where he confused heads of state and recounted conversations with world leaders who have long passed, this scathing description emerged.

During two fundraisers in New York on Wednesday night, Biden recounted his conversations with European leaders during the 2021 G7 meeting in the U.K. This meeting took place just months after the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Biden shared that former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who passed away in 2017, had inquired about the January 6 riot and Biden’s response if a similar incident occurred in the British Parliament, resulting in the death of officers, with the intention to prevent the election of a prime minister.

During a recent campaign event near Las Vegas, Biden accidentally confused François Mitterrand, the late former French president, with current French President Emmanuel Macron.

Democrats have come to Biden’s defense, while also raising concerns about the age and fitness of Donald Trump, who is expected to be his Republican opponent. Trump himself is facing an indictment for his handling of classified materials.

In addition to his recent well-known mistake of confusing Nikki Haley with Nancy Pelosi, Trump, 77, has consistently stated that he is running against Barack Obama rather than Biden. He has also expressed concerns about the potential outbreak of World War II, a conflict that ended nearly 80 years ago.

Critics argue that Biden’s mistakes highlight two major concerns that pose a significant threat to his chances of being reelected: his age and the worry among voters regarding his mental fitness to serve another term in office.

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According to a Democratic donor adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the portrayal of Joe Biden as a bumbling and fumbling figure is widespread on platforms like Fox News, TikTok, and Instagram. This constant exposure to such content only serves to amplify the perception of his age and incompetence.

The special counsel report, released on Thursday, addressed the issue of President Biden’s alleged mishandling of classified documents during his time as vice president. The report concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge the president. However, it did raise concerns about Biden’s memory, stating that it appeared to have significant limitations. For instance, the report noted that Biden was unable to recall the exact timing of his son Beau’s death in 2015, even within several years. Additionally, the report highlighted Biden’s inability to remember key details about his tenure as vice president, including a debate about sending additional troops to Afghanistan.

White House lawyers challenged Hur’s account of Biden’s memory, asserting that he had exceeded his jurisdiction and made unnecessary emphasis on the president’s recollection. Republican leaders, including Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, GOP Whip Tom Emmer, and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, expressed their concerns about the report, particularly highlighting the remarks about Biden’s memory as particularly troubling.

“They added that someone who is incapable of being held accountable for mishandling classified information is certainly unfit for the Oval Office.”

Polls consistently indicate that voters have significant concerns about Biden’s age. In a recent NBC poll, a staggering 76 percent of voters expressed either major (62 percent) or moderate (14 percent) concerns about Biden’s mental and physical health, questioning his ability to serve a second term as president. What is particularly alarming for the president is that 81 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats share these concerns regarding his fitness for a second term.

48 percent of voters expressed similar concerns about Donald Trump, the likely GOP opponent of Biden.

The former president has recently made a series of gaffes, including mistakenly confusing Haley for Pelosi. This mistake led Haley, his only remaining GOP primary rival, to suggest that Trump may be “in decline” and no longer fit for the job.

The White House was questioned about the president’s inaccurate statements regarding foreign leaders prior to the publication of the special counsel report. In response, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed these statements as mere slips, stating that elected officials and other individuals can sometimes misspeak when it comes to names and their intended message.

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According to Kevin Munoz, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, it is evident that what will hold the most importance for voters in the upcoming November election.

In a statement, Munoz expressed that the focus will remain on the issues that are important to families, just as it was in 2020. He emphasized that Democrats are able to run on a historic and popular agenda because of President Biden’s extensive experience.

In the past, Biden has made several mistakes involving individuals who have passed away. One notable incident occurred in September 2022, when he mistakenly called out for Rep. Jackie Walorski at an event, unaware that the Indiana Republican had tragically died in a car crash the previous month. Another instance took place last year when Biden confused Chinese President Xi Jinping with Deng Xiaoping, the former Chinese leader who passed away in 1997. These errors have drawn attention and raised concerns about Biden’s accuracy and attention to detail.

According to Dan Sena, a Democratic consultant who previously led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, both Biden and Trump are susceptible to age-related mistakes. However, Sena does not entirely subscribe to the ageism argument against either of them. He believes that the outcome of the election will be determined by the broader narrative of those who are focused on the past versus those who are focused on the future.

“I don’t envy the constant pressure that comes with being in a management position,” Sena commented. She emphasized that Biden’s exceptional talent for connecting with people is undeniably one of his greatest assets, but it also exposes certain vulnerabilities.

Democrats make the case that most voters are well aware of the president’s advanced age and consider it a fixed factor. They highlight Biden’s victory in 2020 at the age of 77 as proof that he has already successfully addressed this concern.

According to Kevin McKeon, a Democratic consultant, spending a significant amount of money to portray Joe Biden as old and out-of-touch may not be effective in persuading voters. McKeon suggests that people have already formed their opinions on Biden’s age, so this strategy may not sway undecided voters.

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The Biden campaign has occasionally employed humor as a means to address the issue, a tactic that Democratic donors have encouraged him to embrace. For instance, on his 81st birthday, Biden’s campaign shared a picture of the president standing in front of a grand birthday cake, playfully quipping about his “146th birthday.”

According to Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh, it is crucial for the president to continue demonstrating his capability and energy in his role. Longabaugh acknowledges that occasional mistakes may occur as a result, but it is essential for the president to maintain a strong and authoritative presence.

According to reports, President Joe Biden’s campaign strategy in 2020 centered around the idea that he was the most viable candidate to defeat then-President Trump. It is said that Biden still holds this belief as he gears up for the upcoming November election.

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) has launched a presidential primary challenge against Biden, focusing solely on how the president’s age diminishes Democrats’ prospects of defeating Trump.

“I face criticism for my honesty and for speaking the unspoken truths that only insiders in Washington, DC, dare to discuss behind closed doors,” Phillips shared on X, along with a video clip of Biden from earlier this week. In the clip, Biden seems to forget the name of Hamas while responding to a question about the Israel-Hamas conflict.”

“You should be ashamed of yourselves for pretending that everything is alright. Your actions are leading us, and him, into a disastrous situation, and deep down, you are fully aware of it,” stated Phillips.

Biden’s close associates acknowledge that his fatigue often leads to him exerting more energy in managing his lifelong stutter, which can sometimes result in verbal slips.

But despite the concerns surrounding Biden’s age, his team is confident they can overcome this narrative. They firmly believe that voters prioritize a candidate’s values and accomplishments over their age when making decisions about whom to support.

Biden’s advisers argue that he faced harsh criticism from Trump and his Republican allies during the 2020 campaign regarding his age and mental fitness. However, they were able to overcome these attacks by highlighting his experience. They now have the opportunity to showcase significant legislative achievements as part of an updated plan, along with an extensive travel schedule that is comparable to that of previous presidents. Notably, Biden has recently visited war zones, further bolstering his credentials.

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