Despite jokes and bravado, Biden chafes at age check
WASHINGTON — As voters and opponents raise concerns about Joe Biden’s advanced age as he launches a still-unofficial 2024 campaign, the 80-year-old president often parries such jabs with uneasy humor.
“All the years I was a senator — that was 270…” he joked about his decades-long political career during a speech earlier this month, making a racket at his own expense.
Given what voters see as his greatest handicap, the US president, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, has relied heavily on bragging rights.
“Look at me!” he says every time he is asked by journalists about this topic, underscoring his staying power after two years in one of the toughest political jobs in the world.
Often the Democratic leader, who hasn’t officially declared his plans to run but is widely expected to take a few jogs before ducking into his helicopter or plane while photographers snap their pictures.
After a speech, whether before Congress or on a foreign visit, he now often lingers to shake hands, chat and take selfies, as if to show he’s not intimidated by a new presidential campaign, a grueling exercise if there ever was one.
“Do you think I need it?” he joked to the press last fall when asked the date of his annual medical.
After the physical exam in February, the president’s physician assured Biden that he was in good health and “fit for duty.”
In a recent interview with CNN, First Lady Jill Biden made it clear that her husband would not consider taking the mental competency tests required by Republicans for candidates over 75 in hopes of winning her party’s nomination.
“We would never discuss something like that,” she said dryly.
Despite the uproar, however, the president knows the problem couldn’t be more serious: According to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted in late February, 65 percent of Americans think he is “too old” for a second term.
But Biden isn’t afraid to occasionally joke about what has long been a taboo subject for his supporters.
– ‘Bit of hair’ –
In the March speech at the International Association of Fire Fighters Legislative Conference, Biden joked that when he was first elected to the Senate in 1972, he “had a bit of hair.”
He even dared a joke on Monday about a sensitive subject: the surgery he underwent in 1988 for brain aneurysms.
“They had to take my head off a few times to see if I had a brain,” said the president, who is notorious for slip-ups and has been called senile by some Republicans.
Former President Ronald Reagan was also attacked for his age as he campaigned for a second term.
The Republican, who was 73 years old, making him the oldest sitting president in U.S. history, also relied on humor during a televised debate in 1984.
“I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I will not exploit my opponent’s youth and inexperience for political ends,” he said in a still-famous joke.
For the current president, a key challenge in the re-election campaign would be to find the right tone in relation to his age – a question of numbers but also of perception.
According to the Yahoo News/YouGov poll, just 45 percent of Americans believe ex-President Donald Trump is too old to serve for a second term, even though at 76 he’s not much younger than Biden.
However, Biden will likely want to make sure he’s the only one making jokes about his age.
The Wall Street Journal recently noted in an article that well-known TV comedians, who had largely spared Biden, had begun throwing more jabs at the president.
Jimmy Kimmel, host of a late-night ABC show of the same name, poked fun at the recent discovery of classified documents in the president’s garage next to his sports car.
“What’s more dangerous, Joe Biden having classified documents in his garage or Joe Biden having the keys to a Corvette?”
Source: Crypto News Deutsch