Questions about President Biden’s age and mental fitness have continued to surface amid signs he will seek a second term – with some staffers pointing to his verbal stumbles and the noticeable hitch in his step, according to a new report.
While aides say Biden’s energy levels are remarkable for a 79-year-old, The New York Times reported on Sunday, they still fear he’s “tripping over a wire” because of the way he walks. walking, and fear he won’t finish his talk without a blunder.
The report says Biden — the longest-serving commander-in-chief — is “testing the limits of age and the presidency.”
The president is already a year older than Ronald Reagan at the end of his second administration. He would be 86 at the end of his second term if re-elected.
“I think it’s inappropriate to apply for this position after reaching the age of 80 or in your 80s,” said David Gergen, a presidential aide dating back to the Nixon era. “I’ve just turned 80 and I’ve discovered over the past two or three years that it would have been unwise for me to try to run an organization. You’re not as sharp as you once were. .
The president says questions about his mental and physical fitness for the office are fair game, but some question whether he can keep up the demanding pace for another six years, even pointing out simply that he looks older than when he entered the White House in 2021. .
While Biden’s age is a hot topic in the White House, current and former top officials and advisers have described him as intellectually engaged, grilling staffers in meetings, quizzing them on specific points in memos. on duty and rewriting speeches up to moments before he delivers them.
Some experts see Biden, who regularly rides a bike — despite falling during a commute last month — and exercises five days a week, as exceptionally fit for his age.
“At this time, there is no evidence that Biden’s age should count an ounce,” S. Jay Olshansky, a longevity expert at the University of Illinois at Chicago who has studied the age of people, told The Times. candidates in 2020. “If people don’t like his politics, they don’t like what he says, that’s fine, they can vote for someone else. But that has nothing to do with his age. »
But that may not be the case when Biden hits 86.
“That’s the right question to ask,” Olshansky said. “You can’t sugarcoat aging. Things go wrong as we get older and the risks increase as we get older.
White House aides say they’re not booking Biden accommodations, but privately they’re trying to protect his weekends in Delaware, The Times reported.
Biden leaves Tuesday for a four-day trip to the Middle East, which was originally scheduled immediately after his trip last month to the NATO and G7 summits. The trip was split for fear of unnecessarily taxing the president, according to the report.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the president’s physician, declared Biden “fit to successfully perform the duties of the presidency” after a checkup last fall.
O’Connor said the president still has a cough caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease and a stiffer gait when he walks due to his age.
But the Times report noted that in public, Biden sometimes loses his train of thought or has trouble remembering a name.
He has repeatedly referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as “President Harris” and still stumbles over his words, despite overcoming a childhood stutter.
This winter, a group of Republican lawmakers called on Biden to take a cognitive test in a letter that cited several examples of what they called “mental decline” and polls showing Americans questioning his mental fitness.
GOP lawmakers insisted their request was nonpartisan and pointed out that former President Donald Trump also submitted one.
Aides said Biden typically works a five- or five-and-a-half-day week, but could be called in at any hour, according to the Times.
His evening hours, however, are limited and he has given less than half the number of press conferences or interviews as some of his predecessors.
Biden gave 38 interviews, compared to 116 for Trump, 198 for Barack Obama, 71 for George W. Bush and 75 for Bill Clinton, according to the Times.
But Biden answered questions more often after a speech or other event — 290 times, compared to 213 for Trump and 64 for Obama.
The White House has insisted that Biden is available 24/7.
“President Biden works every day and because CEOs can perform their duties from anywhere in the world, it has long been common for them to spend weekends away from the White House,” said Andrew Bates, deputy press secretary, told the newspaper after the article was published online.