DANIEL VAUGHAN: Growing Democratic Distress Over Biden's Age

 June 5, 2023

President Joe Biden had a major fall this past week, tripping over a sandbag and hitting the stage hard. He was there speaking at an Air Force graduation ceremony. As with every previous instance of Biden falling in pictures or video, this one stirred up intense debate over Biden's health and age. On the left, he's the pinnacle of health and vitality for an octogenarian. For the right and a growing number of Americans, it's a concerning sign of Biden's growing fragility.

The whole news cycle might have ended right there, but The New York Times decided to chime in too. The Times publishes the latest in what is becoming an ongoing series for them, questioning the White House's official narrative over Biden's health and age. If Fox News or random people on Twitter talk about it, it's just a right-wing plot.

However, The New York Times is not a bastion of conservatism. In fact, they tend to employ "conservative" columnists who spend their time attacking conservatism. When the Times is writing pieces questioning the president's age and health, with the lightest possible touch, red flags should be up for everyone else.

NYT: Biden has lost a step.

The Times summed up the Democratic quandary well: "Anyone can trip at any age, but for an 80-year-old president, it inevitably raises unwelcome questions. If it were anyone else, the signs of age might not be notable. But Mr. Biden is the chief executive of the world's most powerful nation and has just embarked on a campaign asking voters to keep him in the White House until age 86, drawing more attention to an issue that polls show troubles most Americans and is the source of enormous anxiety among party leaders."

After describing everyone they talked to, the Times described Father Time's impact on Biden as "a man who has slowed with age in ways that are more pronounced than just the graying hair common to most recent presidents during their time in office. Mr. Biden sometimes mangles his words and looks older than he used to because of his stiff gait and thinning voice."

What stood out from the Times reporting was this paragraph:

In private, officials acknowledge that they make what they consider reasonable accommodations not to physically tax an aging president. His staff schedules most of his public appearances between noon and 4 p.m. and leave him alone on weekends as much as possible.

As Jim Geraghty noted of this section, the window for Joe Biden's public appearances is getting smaller and smaller. "When the Times reports, 'his staff schedules most of his public appearances between noon and 4 p.m. and leave him alone on weekends as much as possible,' what they are saying is that the president is currently a safe bet to have about 20 good hours a week. Anything beyond that is an open question. Maybe Biden will be sharp, maybe he won't."

Biden's age is an issue and it's only 2023.

And remember, it's 2023. We're barely two-and-a-half years into Joe Biden's presidency. Everyone worries about his fading capacity to perform the job right now, and he's barely halfway through his first term. He's running to do this job for an additional four years, when he'd be 86 when the next president would take over in January 2029.

NPR released a poll showing that 62% of Americans believed Biden's age and health were major concerns for them. A whopping 40% of Democrats are worried about it. If you look at the stories from places like the New York Times and other partisan outlets, that number would be higher in elite Democratic circles.

The same poll showed 69% of independents are worried about Biden's age and health, with 84% of Republicans saying the same. In other words, if you're willing to get out of the partisan echo bubble on the left, you see the obvious: Biden's age, health, and fragility concern everyone.

The Times does its best to talk up the best attributes of Biden, pointing out where he negotiated with Congressional leaders, took the lead on foreign trips, and more. But while those things are notable, the Times also describes the bare minimum standards for a President to fulfill.

Reagan was a spring chicken compared to Biden.

A popular tactic of Biden and the Democrats is to compare Biden to Reagan regarding age. I get why they're doing that, and it makes a lot of sense to use Reagan's quips and deflections on age. But Reagan was 69 when he got elected in 1980 and 73 when he ran for re-election in 1984. Ronald Reagan was 77 when he left office in 1989, a year younger than Joe Biden when he entered the Oval Office at 78.

Donald Trump was 70 years old when he entered office. Biden is pushing the limits on what Americans have come to expect of the elderly. Democrats lampooned Reagan, George H. W. Bush, John McCain, and Donald Trump as too old for office when they ran. Joe Biden has them all beat by a mile.

This all reveals that Democrats are growing increasingly worried ahead of 2024. For the New York Times to continue to run these stories indicates growing distress on the left. And I don't mean the rank and file; it's those who work with the White House who are growing more concerned by the day.

Red flags are all over the White House.

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