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President Joe Biden is the oldest president ever to take office. As the 80-year-old is led into the 2024 election in more ways than one, the Democratic front-runner faces mounting concerns from critics and voters alike about his competency.
Since the clock cannot be turned back, Biden's team appears keen to embrace what cannot be remedied or corrected — chiefly, Biden's apparent mental deterioration and advanced age.
According to the Associated Press' White House correspondent Seung Min Kim, Biden is more and more cracking wise about his advanced age and making self-deprecating remarks about his long career in Washington, "hoping to convince voters his age is an asset rather than a vulnerability. In short, he's trying to own it."
"The octogenarian president's comments about his age can be serious, woven into broader remarks and often used to underscore a broader point," claimed Kim.
The broader point Biden endeavors to get across is that time served is experience gained.
Kim cited the president's statement to the Irish parliament last month as an example of Biden turning to humor to drive home this theme.
"The only thing I bring to this career after my age — as you can see how old I am — but is a little bit of wisdom," said Biden. "I come to the job with more experience than any president in American history. It doesn’t make me better or worse, but it gives me few excuses."
While actively engaging with the issue of his age on his trip to Dublin, Biden appeared to passively reveal the issue of his age just weeks later when he had trouble recalling the Irish trip altogether.
At the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner on April 29, Biden pre-empted shallow digs at his age, quipping, "I believe in the First Amendment, not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it," referencing the founding father who died in 1836.
Biden continued, "Look, I get that age is a completely reasonable issue. It’s in everybody’s mind, and by everyone, I mean the New York Times. Headline: 'Biden’s advanced age is a big issue.'"
The New York Times editorial board took up the trouble of Biden's advanced years with voters in an April article, acknowledging that there's more to the concern about his capacities than mere politics and conspiracy theories.
"Concerns about age — both in terms of fitness for office and being out of touch with the moment — are legitimate," wrote the Times editorial board. "If he runs again, Mr. Biden will need to provide explicit reassurance to voters; many of them have seen family members decline rapidly in their 80s."
Biden has gone so far as to admit in October, "I could drop dead tomorrow."
The Times previously indicated that Biden may not be up to the task of various duties of the president, including international travel.
Current and former senior officials and advisers told the Times that Biden's energy level "is not what it was, and some aides quietly watch out for him. He often shuffles when he walks, and aides worry he will trip on a wire. He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe."
Many of Biden's gaffes are innocuous. Here are a few previously reported by TheBlaze:
- In a December speech to U.S. veterans in New Castle, Delaware, Biden confused his wife's father for her grandfather, made an implausible claim about how his uncle was awarded the Purple Heart, and told tall tales about how many trips he had made to Iraq and Afghanistan, all before saying, "I may be Irish, but I'm not stupid."
- In a November stump speech, Biden confused the Russian war with Ukraine with the U.S. war in Iraq and then falsely claimed his son died in the Iraq War.
- During a July speech in Massachusetts on the theme of throwing taxpayer money at the specter of global warming, Biden suggested he had cancer — a claim the White House later had to walk back.
- Biden also bungled his words while giving a July speech in Israel, saying we must "keep alive the truth and honor of the Holocaust."
- In another instance, Biden got the facts right, but handled them poorly. He offered condolences to the family of Matt Susz, the former chief financial officer of Joann Fabric and Craft Stores, in June thusly: "By the way, my sympathies to your – the family of your CFO, who dropped dead very unexpectedly."
The trouble is that not all of the 80-year-old president's gaffes have been inconsequential, some even risking diplomatic relations and international peace.
For instance, on Nov. 3, 2022, amid a discussion about how his administration might improve care for veterans, particularly those who recently fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Joe Biden told Democrat supporters at a rally that "we're gonna free Iran."
Biden's comment reportedly negated weeks of work by U.S. officials to carefully counter the Iranian regime's narrative that America was steering Persian protests.
Biden similarly risked an international provocation in March 2022, when he implied in remarks to U.S. soldiers in Poland that they were headed into Ukraine.
As tensions continue to rise with nuclear powers China and Russia, a similar slip-up could prove ruinous.
The Associated Press noted that an AP VoteCast survey of the 2022 electorate indicated that 57% of voters in last year's midterm elections do not think Biden "has the mental capacity to serve effectively as president."
A recent NBC News survey of 1,000 adults, conducted April 14-18, found that 70% of respondents, including 51% of Democrats, don't think Biden should run again, with the majority citing age as a key reason behind their opposition.
These doubts notwithstanding, Biden appears committed to running, and Democrats are not meaningfully standing in his way.
CNN recently bolstered Kim's suggestion, reporting that the Biden team's concerted effort to use humor to defuse the age issue is a sound strategy previously adopted by President Ronald Reagan ahead of the 1984 election.
While the strategy may be the same, Reagan was still significantly younger at the time, having ended his second term at 77, three years younger than Biden was when the 46th president first took office. Reagan also had a bullet he could — but never did — blame for the moments of apparent slowdown that never came while he was in office.
Michael LaRosa, a former spokesman for first lady Jilly Biden and an element of Biden's 2020 campaign, told the Associated Press that the president is "doing exactly what he should be doing. He’s embracing it, he’s having fun with it, he’s doing exactly what Ronald Reagan did — injecting humor and self-deprecation into it."
"By saying the quiet part out loud, everyone is in on the joke. He knows his age, and he’s not pretending to be somebody he’s not. And that’s the most important quality in a candidate," added LaRosa.
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.