THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Age continues to be an issue for Biden

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Contributing Columnist
The raging age debate that has swirled around President Joe Biden ironically has been further compounded by Biden himself It is nothing he did, said or any action of his.
It is the incessant focus of the media on a real or alleged Biden gaffe, a slip of the tongue, a mixed up date or fact. Even worse, there is the continued lookout for a trip, stumble or his seeming to have a problem walking that is magnified, blown up and relentlessly pointed out by many in the media. 

This is the second of a three-part series examining the issue and controversy over the age question and President Joe Biden. It is an excerpt from Hutchinson’s forthcoming book “Is Biden Really Too Old? The Politics of Age and Ageism in America” (Middle Passage Press).

A near textbook example of this was Biden’s trip on stage while handing out diplomas at the Air Force Academy graduation last June. That was the hot topic all day long on nearly all the network channels at the time. It came complete with a generous rerun of the trip. 
A partly chagrined, partly amused Biden had to quickly respond to the standard inference that the trip was due to age.
“I got sandbagged,” he said.
He meant that literally. There were two sandbags placed inconspicuously on the stage and Biden stumbled over them. A White House spokesperson quickly assured, “he’s fine.” That assurance was far from convincing to a legion of nervous Democrats.
No matter how much energy and vigor Biden displays in public appearances, it does not cancel out the gaffe or stumble that Biden foes, and much of the media, are obsessed with harping on. Last September, a Forbes Magazine report meticulously itemized Biden’s missteps for that month alone.
The magazine listed these fumbles:

  • Biden slipped as he deboarded Air Force One on a jaunt to Michigan.
  • Biden’s staff revealed that it was taking measures to prevent his tripping and falling.
  • Biden now wore tennis shoes and had been working with a physical therapist for over two years to better control his balance.
  • Biden had a memory lapse during an address about where he was during the 9/11 terror attack
  • Biden joked at a press conference during a visit to Hanoi that he was going to bed. He made the joke after he gave a convoluted, jumbled answer to a press question.
  • Biden walked out of the East Room of the White House during a ceremony to honor a Vietnam War veteran. When questioned about it, a White House spokesperson said that he left to limit his possible exposure to COVID.
    Forbes went on to tick off a litany of Biden stumbles, literally and figuratively that stretched back through 2023.
    Another point to the question of Biden’s age and his ability to do the presidential job is given almost no attention. Ironically, that point came from an unlikely source, Donald Trump. When asked in an interview about Biden’s age, Trump didn’t hesitate “He’s not too old.” That was not altruism or political generosity on Trump’s part. 
    He had an ulterior motive. He quickly added it’s not his age, but his competency.
    “He’s grossly incompetent,” Trump said, noting that there were many instances of aged world leaders who performed ably and even superbly as national and world leaders.  
    Trump had yet another ulterior motive in downplaying Biden’s age as an issue. He is only three years younger than him, and he didn’t want to look over his shoulder and worry that someone just might start slapping the “he’s too old” label on him. More than a few Republican insiders and some of the public continue to do just that. 
    From the moment he took office in 2020, the talk was that Biden was too old for a second term. Biden partially fed into this notion in reported comments he made about a second term during the campaign. The source for this was several Biden campaign advisors who gave an interview in December 2019. They gave the impression allegedly based on conversations with Biden that he would only serve one term. The reason was his advancing age. 
    At the National Governor’s Association’s winter meeting in February 2023, the talk was incessant about Biden’s age as a possible political liability. More than one top Democrat governor worried that Biden would not be able to do much campaigning.
    Why, again? Because of his age. That was tantamount to saying he was an old broken-down mule ready to be put out to pasture.
    U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, firmly put that notion to rest.
    “He’s the president,” she said. “And right now, he says he’s going to be our candidate. And people will fall in line because he can win the general election.”
    She punctuated the point by saying, “Biden is the guy that can beat Trump.”
    She spoke what was a realistic truth to some. But to others, it was a bitter truth.
    Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the host of the weekly Earl Ofari Hutchinson Show from 9 to 10 a.m. Saturday on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.