Joe Biden is celebrating his 80th birthday, which only puts his Democrats in a party mood to a limited extent. The US President is making his party wait: will he do it again or not? And should he?
Then perhaps only humor can help, as Ronald Reagan did. Even the then oldest incumbent president in US history, who left office in 1989 at the age of 77, was repeatedly interpreted as a sore point. The sprightly Republican was not able to withdraw from the discussion, but with jovial self-mockery he often took away the fire shortage that had been conjured up – and possibly even turned an election campaign that he thought was lost in his favor.
The , in which he assured his opponent – after he was asked about his age of 73 at the time – that he would not exploit his opponent’s “youth and inexperience” for political purposes is now considered legendary. Even Mondale, 56, had to laugh heartily. Reagan’s predicament, the Democrats were spectacularly duped in the 1984 presidential election.
Now Joe Biden holds the record, and the 46th President of the United States – who is celebrating his 80th birthday today – is trying to parry the repeated finger pointing to his advanced age with punch lines. “I make a mistake every once in a while,” “well, once a speech.”
This may not have as much clout as it did with Reagan, who is of his age and , but shows a certain composure and conviction of the pragmatist Biden, who sees the results as a resilient counterargument.
“Look at me, Mr. President,” addressed Donald Trump, who then and now questioned his fitness – and in the years that followed watched as Biden pushed through several massive investment packages, swept up the mess Trump left in his wake, and most recently an import.
Can Joe Biden still do it?
Unlike Reagan, however, Biden will not be able to avoid the discussion about his age – the Republicans, who work with remarkable zeal on the allegedly “doddering” () and “diminished” () president and look forward to everyone, should be able to prevent this rhetorical lapse that Biden regularly throws at them.
There are also many among the Democrats who are not sure whether Biden is the right one front runner in the race for the 2024 White House. His , given his meager popularity ratings, three-quarters (75 percent) of the electorate voted for a non-Biden candidate in a July vote, prompting many Democrats to avoid appearing with the president in the midterm elections.
And then there was age. If Biden were actually aiming for a second term, which is already the usual health check for US presidents, he would leave office at the age of 86. It would again be a first in US history – which is apparently associated with great uncertainty,
Although 71 percent of Democratic voters considered him “mentally fit and able to deal with challenges”, 46 percent expressed doubts as to whether he would be up to the challenge of a candidacy in 2024. She even spoke to ten experts about aging “to paint a picture of what the next six years might look like for a person the president’s age,” the newspaper writes.
And last but not least, one opinion piece asked whether an elderly Biden could still face aggressive autocrats like China’s President Xi Jinping with enough bite. The newspaper delivered the answer between the lines: “If I were only 80 years old,” the newspaper quoted former US President Jimmy Carter at the age of 94, “I don’t think I could take on the tasks that I do experienced as President.”
Democrats are waiting for their President
Biden has promised a decision at the beginning of the year as to whether he will run again. “My intention is to run again,” he said. “But I have great respect for fate. And this is ultimately a family decision.”
But time is running out, which puts the Democrats under pressure when choosing candidates – and sometimes with concern: “I wish he were 30 years younger, 20 years younger, 10 years younger. But it is what it is,” said the democratic Rep. David Trone, 67, on CNN. When asked if Biden was the right candidate for 2024, Trone said, “I think it would be better if we had someone with a little more momentum.” But if Biden runs again, he will support him – other Democrats put it in a similarly reserved way.
If not Joe, then who? In the starting blocks there are some very high-profile candidates to choose from (which you can see here), but none of them want to compete against Biden. The party is waiting for its president, who wants to celebrate his milestone birthday with a brunch with the family, among other things, and probably doesn’t want to acknowledge the milestone himself.
“Someone said my birthday is coming up”, . “And I said, ‘No, that has to be someone else’.” When asked what 80-year-old Biden would say to 50-year-old Biden, he replied, “That I’m still 50!” And added that he “couldn’t even say that number”, 80.
Gregory Magarian, a constitutional lawyer at Washington University in St. Louis, says Biden is now considering the candidate question. “But the reality is he has to think about what his energy and ability will be like six years from now if he were at the end of a second term.” The job requires a high level of energy and perspicacity. “Being US President is certainly one of the toughest jobs in the world.” And certainly also at 80.
Incidentally, Reagan celebrated his birthday with a big reception at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, , and is said to have blown out the candles on his birthday cake with such enthusiasm that frosting flew onto the lapels of his tuxedo. “If only I had thought about such things years ago, I would have been twice as good at pictures,” he said. Reagan said he didn’t want to give a speech. “I’m guessing you’ve heard a thing or two over the years anyway.”
Sources: , , , , , , , , , , , , with material from the DPA news agency