Is Joe Biden nonetheless too outdated to run in 2024?
Was I the one journalist in America who thought President Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday was exhausting to observe? At least till he departed from his script and started sparring with the nation’s rudest Republicans?
Sometimes when Biden begins to talk, I involuntarily maintain my breath, ready for him to stumble over his phrases, or slur them or in any other case mangle his textual content in a manner that may present up in clips on Fox News or MAGA Twitter. See, he’s incompetent!
Worrying about this detracts from the pleasure of getting a stable Democratic president after 4 years of Trumpian chaos and bluster. Biden’s halting supply could also be partially as a result of his lifelong stutter, nevertheless it’s extra probably as a result of his superior age.
At 80, in any case, he’s our oldest president, a proven fact that Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the nation’s youngest governor, callowly identified in her weird State of the Union rebuttal.
Three years in the past, when Biden was vying for the Democratic presidential nomination in opposition to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris et al, I stood in a jam-packed highschool fitness center in Des Moines, surrounded by a who’s who of American political journalists, watching what many people believed was the swan track of the well-regarded former vp.
It was type of unhappy, however hey, he’d had a superb future, and who may begrudge him one final romp on the path?
I had final seen him campaigning in particular person in 2007, when he was operating in opposition to Barack Obama. I roamed round Iowa with him then, and he was garrulous, to say the least. I didn’t learn about his childhood stutter, and I by no means noticed proof of it.
In 2020, it appeared as if Biden’s years enjoying second fiddle to Obama for 2 phrases, throughout which he suffered the lack of his elder son, Beau, to most cancers, had taken their toll.
“Watching him onstage was jarring,” I wrote at the start of that main season. “He was not the smooth orator of the past. He relied on notes, hesitated and often raised his voice to a shout, as if mistaking volume for passion.”
Biden completed a dismal fourth within the 2020 Iowa caucuses. Many of us had been prepared to write down him off as yesterday’s information. All the cool Ray-Ban aviators on the earth weren’t going to assist.
And then got here South Carolina, the place his standing as second-in-command to the nation’s first Black president persuaded Black voters to revive his marketing campaign. He swamped the competitors, received his very first presidential main and headed into Super Tuesday with cash in his coffers and the wind at his again. His marketing campaign message — the election was a battle for the soul of America — resonated with Democratic and unbiased voters who had watched President Trump courtroom and praise white nationalists and name African nations “shithole countries.”
When it got here proper all the way down to it, voters in 2020 didn’t appear to care about his age. After all, American politics is probably the one area the place senescence is just not an obstacle to success.
I imply, the previous House speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), simply stepped down from her management position at 82. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell clocks in at 80. California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein, will have fun her ninetieth birthday later this yr, God prepared. She additionally occurs to be the oldest sitting U.S. senator. (Will I make a joke about how she is sitting fairly than standing? I cannot.)
And now right here we’re on the verge of one other presidential marketing campaign that, at the least at this level, might pit Biden in opposition to the previous man, regardless of a majority of Democrats telling pollsters they suppose he’s too outdated to run.
By most measures, Biden has been a profitable president. As my colleague Jackie Calmes famous final week, many historians and nonpartisan analysts say he has achieved extra legislatively in his first two years “than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson.”
Running in opposition to Trump once more can be a Democratic dream come true. Can we even think about a situation the place the 7 million-plus voters who gave Biden his very comfy margin of success over Trump would change their minds?
He might not all the time sound sharp, however Biden proved Tuesday that he hasn’t misplaced his edge. He accused “some Republicans” of wanting to make use of Social Security and Medicare as negotiating factors in discussions about elevating the debt ceiling.
From the incredulous expressions and boos of so many on the proper facet of the chamber, you’ll have thought that Biden had accused them of drowning puppies when, actually, it’s a cherished tenet of Republican ideology that so-called “entitlements” are uncontrolled and must be ratcheted again — by elevating age limits, by decreasing advantages or, worse, by privatization.
The president was quick on his toes. Sensing a chance to extemporize, he regarded across the chamber, happy.
“So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?” he mentioned. “We’ve got unanimity. So tonight … let’s stand up for seniors. Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare.”
OK, sure, Biden ought to have mentioned “off the table” not “off the books.” It was a slip of the tongue.
But all of us knew precisely what he meant.
And so did the Republicans he so cleverly backed right into a nook.
Is Biden too outdated to run once more? Hardly. Like whiskey, wine and cast-iron skillets, some issues simply get higher with age.