WASHINGTON: People in the 80s lead countries, create majestic art and perform feats of endurance. One of them entered the record books for climbing Mount Everest.
It’s almost time for Joe Biden, 80 on Sunday, to decide if he still has a mountain to climb – that of a second term as president.
Questions are now swirling, in his own party as well as across the country, about whether he has what it takes to attend the summit again.
The oldest president in US history, Biden is celebrating his milestone birthday at a personal crossroads as he and his family must decide in the coming months whether to announce his re-election.
He would be 86 at the end of a potential second term.
Biden’s aides and allies all say he intends to run — and his team has begun quiet preparations for a campaign — but it’s often the president himself who has seemed the most equivocal.
“My intention is to race again,” he said at a press conference this month. “But I’m a big acceptor of fate.”
“We’re going to have discussions about that,” he said.
Aides expect those conversations to resume in earnest over Thanksgiving and Christmas, with a decision not until well after the New Year.
Biden planned to celebrate his birthday at a family brunch at the White House on Sunday.
To watch Biden at work is to watch a leader tap into a reservoir of knowledge accumulated over half a century in public service as he draws on deep personal connections at home and abroad, his mastery of politics and his familiarity with how Washington works or does not work. t.
In short, the wisdom of the elderly.
“There is something to be said for the experience,” said the Dartmouth College historian Matt Delmont as he noted the dozens of world leaders in the 80s.
But to observe Biden is also to see him now often walk with a jerky gait, unlike his trot on stage on election night 2020.
It is to see him having a formal dinner with other world leaders without any real explanation, as happened during his trip abroad last week, when he twice spoke of visiting Colombia. while he was talking about Cambodia.
Some supporters wince when he speaks, hoping he will get his words across.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision at 82 to step back from leadership and let a new generation rise may ripple through Biden’s thinking and that of her party as Democrats ponder whether they want to go with a proven winner or look to youthful energy.
Among the questions raised by Pelosi’s decision, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, an authority on political communications at the University of Pennsylvania: “Even if one is very competent and successful, is there a time when the ‘one should step aside to give others the opportunity to lead just as others have stepped aside to allow you to do so?
“Pelosi’s decision makes these questions more important in the context of Biden’s declaration in 2020 that he was the bridge to a new generation of leaders.”
Biden’s verbal flubs have been legendary throughout his five-decade political career, so determining the impact of age on his acuity is a guessing game for “living room gerontologists”, as Dr S puts it. Jay Olshansky, an aging expert. this.
In the distorted mirrors of social media commentary, every slip is amplified into supposed evidence of senility.
A moment of Biden’s silent reflection in a meeting is featured as the president falls asleep.
All of this entered Donald Trump’s quiver of lies when he announced on Tuesday that he would run for president again.
Some allies see Biden’s mistakes as growing vulnerability in the eyes of voters as he ages.
In an AP VoteCast survey of the electorate this month, 58% of voters said he lacked the mental capacity to serve effectively as president.
It was a grim picture of his current situation, not just in view of another potential term. Only 34% said he is a strong leader.
These findings come with particularly low approval ratings in league with Trump’s at this point in their presidencies.
Two months before the 2020 election, Olshansky of the University of Illinois at Chicago published a paper that predicted that Biden and Trump should maintain good health beyond the end of this presidential term.
Based on a scientific team’s assessment of available medical records, family history and other information, the document further concluded that the two men are likely “super-old,” a subset of people who maintain their mental and physical functioning and tend to live longer than others. average person of his age.
Nothing changed Olshansky’s opinion on either.
“While President Biden may chronologically be 80, biologically he probably isn’t,” he said. “And biological age is far more important than chronological age.” He calls Biden a “classic example of all that is good about aging…and so his age, I think, should be almost completely irrelevant.”
Biden is already in the top performers club for people his age. Unlike 92% of people 75 and older in the United States, he still has a job, not to mention an extremely demanding job.
And he has the wind in his sails. November’s election produced the best result for a Democratic midterm president’s party in decades – despite the poison pill of high inflation – as Democrats retained control of the Senate, narrowly lost the House in defiance of expectations of a rout and won several competitive governors. ‘ races in key states.
The president also sealed a string of back-to-back legislative victories in recent months, on climate, infrastructure, health care expansion, military aid to Ukraine and more.
Biden says he starts most days with an 8 a.m. workout, when he’s usually joined by his personal trainer and physical therapist, Drew Contreras, if he’s not riding his Peloton bike.
“If I give up for a week, I feel it,” he recently told the “Smartless” podcast. “Before, I could go there for a week and nothing would change.”
White House aides say Biden reads his briefing book late into the night, holds intensive evening meetings with advisers and has never shied away from their scheduling requests that can get him out late, though rarely up early.
Yet his aides are deeply protective of the president, especially with his public schedule, which is lighter than those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both much younger in office. They shielded him from official interviews and, until recently, press conferences.
To his doubters, he says, “Watch me.
Biden was diagnosed with several very common age-related health conditions, none of which caused him any serious problems.
In his November 2021 summary of Biden’s health after the president’s first full medical examination, Dr. Kevin O’Connor noted that Biden’s gait has become a little stiffer, something doctors watch for in older patients. as this may indicate a fall hazard.
But after the tests, the doctor concluded that this was mainly due to continued “wear and tear” arthritis of the spine, as well as compensation for a broken foot suffered a year earlier and the development of “ mild peripheral neuropathy” or subtle damage to certain sensory nerves in the feet.
Experts say age is not fate; what matters is good health, fitness and functioning.
Japanese mountaineer Yuichiro Miura had enough of those attributes to summit Mount Everest in 2013 at the age of 80, setting a record that an 85-year-old Nepalese man died trying to break in 2017.
Aging is inexorable – at any rate.

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