Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Biden’s allies are stepping forward to vouch for him amid age questions

By 37ci3 Feb18,2024

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s approach to deflecting questions about his age has shifted from “follow me” to warrant me.

Days after special counsel Robert Hurr released a report describing Biden’s memo “significantly limited” presidential appointees and friendly lawmakers step forward one by one to prove his acuity.

Biden asks “relevant questions” and pays attention to “precise details,” they told news outlets. He is “very engaging” and detail-oriented. The White House went so far as to release a memo that name-checked senior officials from both parties who said Biden was mentally sharp.

For all the people vouching for Biden, some prominent Democrats don’t believe the approach will ease concerns about his cognitive abilities. They worry that the White House’s protective staff has bubble-wrapped Biden in a way that tends to distance him from people who appreciate his humanity, flaws and all.

“You have to let Joe Biden be Joe Biden,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich.ThChuck ToddCast“,” taped on Tuesday.

Biden has nine months until the election — plenty of time to refine his strategy and see Huron’s report fade into people’s minds. For now, the special counsel has highlighted Biden’s biggest electoral weakness — his age — and opened a high-level debate about his chances.

“The special counsel spoke the silent part loudly,” said a former Democratic House member who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to anger allies.

The former lawmaker recalled that in meetings with Biden, including a bicameral meeting at the White House three years ago, he drifted off topic and seemed lost in nostalgia for his time in Congress.

“I think I share some of the concerns of the American people,” said the former lawmaker, using the plot of a 1980s movie to drive home a point. “Because if it really is ‘Weekend at Bernie’s,’ who are the two guys running it?”

The former lawmaker said the special counsel’s report was disturbing enough that it should be grounds for Biden to drop out of the race. (Biden has given no indication that he’s dropping out; at this point, Democrats face a chaotic fight if they replace him.)

“It’s a great ‘coming out’ moment,” he said. “But I don’t think arrogance and ego will allow it.”

A White House official denied that Hur’s report led to a change in strategy.

“We have always encouraged people around the president to debunk these false narratives that Republicans are promoting by sharing their experiences working for him,” the official said in a statement. “If we’re doing it more, it’s because the media spent so much time on the gratuitous and bogus attacks Hur made last week.”

‘He grills you’

Seeking to deny the report last week, the White House held a hasty press conference in which Biden, 81, insisted that “my memory is not good — my memory is good.” The incident did little to quell the furor, with reporters peppering him with questions and Biden squinting at the lights.

Since then, presidential appointees have been eager to offer anecdotes that show he is fully in charge.

Perhaps no official spends more time with Biden than chief of staff Jeff Zients. Press assistants did not let him in for an interview. Instead, they released a statement from Zients that compared Biden favorably to younger presidents, including Barack Obama, with whom Biden served as vice president.

“President Biden has accomplished more in three years than any other president in recent history,” Zients said. “How? No one works harder. No one asks tougher questions. No one is better at making decisions.”

Gene Sperling, an economic adviser to each of the last three Democratic presidents and currently overseeing the implementation of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, said the president’s advisers are used to asking him detailed questions about policy details.

“Like a good student, you over-prepare,” Sperling said of the homework leading up to the meeting with Biden. “When he grills you, you’re glad you did.”

“Just Reality”

One reason Hur’s report resonated is because voters confirmed his arbitrary conclusion.

The Democratic congressman said that when he talks to his constituents about Biden, their comments focus on his age.

“They never bring up his achievements, which were quite incredible,” the MP said. “The only thing they talk to you about is his age. It’s just reality.”

When asked about Biden’s age, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is challenging Biden in the 2020 Democratic presidential election, brought up the policies adopted during the Biden administration and urged the public to compare him to Donald Trump.

“I think that we should evaluate what is happening now by what he did to get us out of this pandemic. [This is the] “It’s the first time we’re finally seeing a negotiation on prescription drug prices and focus on what’s important to the American people and compare what he’s doing to what we have as an alternative on the Republican side, which is Donald Trump.” He said about this on Sunday at NBC News “Meet the Press”.

Polls show that age is one of the biggest obstacles to Biden’s re-election and Republicans are already abandoning Huron’s savings Biden declined. In a potential trial, the report said: “Mr. Biden would likely present himself to the jury as a sympathetic, well-intentioned old man with a failing memory, as he did during our interview with him.

The consensus of those who have met Biden is that he looks and sounds old, his weaknesses well known. As for its capabilities, the perspectives are different.

The Republican senator, who spent time with Biden early in his term, said he had to stifle the instinct to take Biden’s arm as he walked from room to room with him in the West Wing.

“He got up and walked away very, very slowly — just crawling,” said the senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s health. “I almost reached out to grab his arm and caught myself. It would be rude.”

“He was perfectly clear,” the senator said. “That was my impression [Biden] at this stage of his life, he is a gentleman who likes to talk about the old days, to sit and tell stories.

When Biden offered to show the senator the White House movie theater, aides stepped in to wrap up the tour, the lawmaker recalled.

(White House physician Kevin O’Connor wrote a report last year discussing Biden’s condition. “Hard Walk” associated with arthritis of the spinal joints. Biden should take another physical soon. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters this week that she did not believe O’Connor needed a cognitive test.)

One current House Democrat questioned whether Biden really ran his own White House.

“I’m concerned that there are other people, especially his advisers inside and outside the White House, who have a lot of influence on key decisions, and someone else could be calling the shots,” the lawmaker said.

But on Sunday, Klobuchar defended Biden’s ability to manage a second term, describing him as “distracted.”

“I was on Air Force One going from Washington to Wisconsin with the president for an infrastructure project. I was with the president for over an hour and talked about a lot of things, domestically, internationally,” he said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.” “He was the center of attention. It was good that he remembered. It was the same experience of my colleagues who met for hours with Democrats and Republicans on the Middle East just a few weeks ago.

‘Old Man Doing Things’

no”time machine” says a White House adviser to make Biden look younger. But the president can at least demonstrate that he is a more articulate and credible figure than his likely rival, Trump, as some of the president’s allies have argued.

They would like Biden to see the case for himself. In a podcast interview, Dingell said the president is to blame.

“He’s so driven that his compassion and empathy” doesn’t come through all the time, Dingell said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, another White House ally, said Biden’s age was a potential asset if presented differently. Sharpton argued that Biden appointed a new Supreme Court justice at age 79 and passed a landmark infrastructure bill at age 78.

The bottom line would be clear: the other presidents, decades younger, had no less impressive records.

“They have to have it,” Sharpton said of the age issue.

Biden’s message should be: “I’m an old man who gets things done. Now compare me to the old man I’m running against,” Sharpton said.

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