By John Ruberry
Unless you tuned in at the right time and you get your news only from MSNBC or CNN you probably didn’t know that President Joe Biden, while climbing the stairs up to Air Force One, fell not once, not twice–but three times. Apparently he was not injured.
Biden, 78, is the oldest man to serve as US president. How old? The prior oldest commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan was 77 years-old when he completed his second term.
Biden has been president for 60 days–he has gone longer than any president without holding a press conference since Calvin Coolidge. But Biden will end that silence by holding an afternoon presser on Thursday.
Many conservative commentators have made a similar observation. Joe Biden’s fastball, if he ever had one, has lost its spin. Biden’s tightly controlled appearances have gone beyond gaffes. In one appearance he clearly forgot the name of his Defense secretary and where he worked, referring to him as “the guy who runs that outfit over there.” Oh, his name is Lloyd Austin, “that outfit” is the US military and “over there” is the Pentagon.
He referred to his vice president as “President Harris.” Was Biden dropping a hint?
In Texas while discussing relief from the winter storm there Biden uttered, “What am I doing here?” He also botched the some names of dignitaries at that appearance.
An unsure Biden during a video feed said, “I’m happy to take questions if that’s what I’m supposed to do, Nance [Nancy Pelosi], whatever you want me to do.” But then the White House abruptly cut off that feed.
While Biden has been president for a brief time, I’m not cherry-picking these embarrasments. They have one thing in common. All occurred in the last four weeks.
Everyone knows of an elderly relative who one day just didn’t mentally have it anymore. There’s an unsteadiness in speech, in steps of too, the eyes aren’t focused, names are forgotten, or they are confused with others.
It gets worse for America. Lots of other people in government leadership are really old. There’s speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who turns 81 this week, House majority whip James Clyburn, the kingmaker who arguably paved the way for Biden winning the Democratic nomination, is 80, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is 70, his second-in-command, Dick Durbin, is 76, and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is 74. Ah, but liberals cry out as they do about so many other political discussions. “What about Trump?”
Well, what about him?
True, until Biden’s win Trump was the oldest person elected to the presidency. But Trump regularly engaged the media in impromptu question-and-answer sessions. His energetic campaign rallies usually lasted more than an hour–where he spoke without notes–or a teleprompter.
Contrast Trump with Biden, with his shoulders slumped, squinting into a teleprompter as he struggles through his speeches. Yes, medical technology and healthier living habits have allowed people to live longer than ever. Age was a major issue for Reagan, who was 68 when he won his first presidential election in 1980 as it was for him four years later. But science–which of course we must follow at all times–has had less success battling cognitive decline and dementia.
Being old should not be a disqualifier to be president. Konrad Adenauer, 74, became chancellor of West Germany in 1949, a key reason he was chosen is that he was seen as a transitional leader for the new nation because of his age. But he served capably until he was 87. In 2003, German television viewers selected Adenauer as the greatest German of all time.
Coincidentally last spring, when he had clinched the Democratic nomination, Biden declared himself a “transition” candidate. Sorry, Joe, but you are no Konrad Adenauer.
Biden is the head of state of the American Gerontocracy. That’s not a good thing.
In the 1970s and early 1980s the Soviet politburo was dominated by old men. After the long-ailing Leonid Brezhnev died in 1981, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, then Konstantin Chernenko, two sick old men. Finally a vigorous and relatively young Mikhail Gorbachev took the helm at the Kremlin in 1985. But by 1991 the Soviet Union was no more.
Back to Germany.
Paul von Hindenburg, a World War I hero, wanted to retire as president of Germany in 1932. He reluctantly ran for reelection after being warned that if he didn’t to so then Adolf Hitler would win the presidency. Hindenburg prevailed, but the next year he appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg died in 1934 at the age of 86; historians disagree whether he suffered from cognitive decline late in his life.
Hold on! I’m not saying, or even hinting, that because of Biden and the Gerontacracy that the United States faces imminent dissolution or a dictatorship. American democracy is still very robust. But a weaker America is already here. Whether by choice, inacation, or by incompetence, our southern border is no longer secure. At last week’s disastrous summit with China in Anchorage, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was lectured by our adversary over our human rights record. Yep, this is the same China that has concentration camps for Uyghurs and is stifling democracy in Hong Kong. Biden’s sole legislative achievement, the $1.9 billion stimulus, may bring back 1970s-style inflation. As I wrote last week there are winners and losers with inflation. The latter won’t keep quiet.
Biden is already the weakest American president since Jimmy Carter, who was just 56 when he left office. Yes, age isn’t everything.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ill man in the last year of his life. Shortly before his death he was duped by Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, eastern Europe was gift-wrapped for the communists.
A weaker America means a more unstable world.
Right now the symbol of America to the rest of the world is a frail Biden falling on a set of stairs.
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.