Biden is about to turn 80.  Don’t expect a big birthday party.

Biden is about to turn 80

White House aides are well aware of the stories surrounding their age and are preparing for the inevitable news cycle. The issue has been met with some trepidation in the West Wing and top advisers have called on Biden’s global allies for advice on how best to handle the date that is sure to draw significant attention from both journalists and Republicans.

For now, the plan is likely to minimize birthdays and simply focus on work, according to those familiar with the discussions.

“As President Biden has said, anyone who has questions about his age should look at him: He has generated record job creation, made NATO the strongest it has ever been, and amassed the most significant legislative record since LBJ in less than half a term. said Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman.

Biden is not the first president for whom age has become a political issue. One of his predecessors, Dwight Eisenhower, famously declared that “nobody should sit in this office over 70, and I know that.”

Eisenhower left office in 1961, shortly after reaching that age. But while attitudes toward aging have changed in the decades since, White House aides know that Biden’s birthday will be inherently political, as a reminder of the choice voters could face over his fitness for office.

“We’ve never had an 80-year-old president before, but if any lesson emerges from modern history, it’s that if a president looks vigorous and well and doing the job, age has been less of a factor for voters. said presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “When a president plans to run for reelection at an age voters haven’t seen before, history suggests the onus has been on the candidate to show that age won’t be an issue.”

Though Biden insists on marking other important family days, including Thanksgiving and the anniversary of his son Beau’s death, he rarely does much for his birthday. That is unlikely to change this year, although no plans have been finalized, according to people close to him.

Biden often celebrates his birthday with his family. A year ago, she spent the day, a Saturday, at her home in Wilmington, Del., except when she ventured out to church. This year it will come because a large part of her family will already be in Washington to celebrate the wedding at the White House of her granddaughter Naomi the day before.

Talk of Biden’s age has been pervasive across the Beltway since he signaled he would launch his third presidential campaign in 2019. He had visibly aged since his time as vice president, growing thinner and with less hair. His stride had shortened and slowed as well, not helped by the broken foot he sustained while playing with one of his dogs during transition.

The talk has been fueled by surprising moments from Biden himself, such as when he spoke at a conference on the insecurity of hunger and called an Indiana congresswoman who had died in a car accident months earlier.

“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? She shouldn’t be here,” Biden said, appearing to forget, or not realize, that Rep. Jackie Walorski had died.

But White House aides dismissed the idea that such comments, and other missteps, are a sign of age or lack of mental acuity and note the extraordinary demands and pressures of the job. And Biden himself has long called himself a “mistake machine.”

Those close to Biden acknowledge that he tires more easily, and when he does, he becomes more prone to such blunders and sees his stutter become more pronounced. The president has scoffed at the idea that he is too old to run and has signaled that he intends to run for re-election.

At times, however, he has also been amused by his age, joking with his aides about how he is usually the oldest in the room.

“The first president to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner was Calvin Coolidge in 1924. I had just been elected to the United States Senate,” Biden joked at the April gala dinner. “I remember telling him, ‘Cal, be yourself. He goes up there and speaks from the heart. You’re going to be great, kid.’”

Aides both inside and outside the White House have taken steps to prepare for another campaign. They have suggested that the start of the campaign is likely to come in the first months of 2023, which would be proportional to when other presidents signaled their re-election plans.

Those closest to the president say family discussions about the candidacy, with first lady Jill Biden playing a leading role, could begin over the holidays with a final decision likely to come early in the new year. Some Democrats have quietly wondered if Biden is too old to run again, but many close to the president suspect she will, especially if Donald Trump does.

“The average voter doesn’t care about this. The average voter wants to know what Joe Biden is going to do to make their lives better,” said Jim Messina, who was campaign manager for President Barack Obama for his 2012 re-election bid. “The job of the White House will not be to talk about their age, they will sell everything they have made. This guy has done historic things.”

Before Biden, the oldest man ever elected president was Ronald Reagan at the age of 69.

Though known for his own verbal blunders, Trump already tried to make an issue out of Biden’s age in their first matchup, calling his opponent “Sleepy Joe” and claiming he was no longer with him, to little impact. But the Republican attacks have only continued, with a persistent drumbeat that Biden is not fit to hold office.

“I think we’re all concerned about President Biden’s mental health,” Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), a physician, said recently. Without concrete evidence, he added that he had seen a “deterioration” in the president.

But advisers to Biden believe the 2020 race had to do with the current president’s age — “Americans already know how old the guy is,” one recently said — and that voters are more comfortable with older people in positions of power, whether in politics or business.

To that end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is running for re-election this year, is 82 years old. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) is 71 years old. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is 89.

And Trump, the presumptive GOP favorite for 2024, is 76 years old.

Ben Oakley
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