Tell me if you’ve heard this: Two senior citizens run for president 

November 1, 2023 5:15 am
President Biden in Wisconsin

Surrounded by security and photographers, President Joe Biden wades into the crowd and shakes hands at the Laborers Union apprenticeship training center in DeForest after addressing supporters during a visit to Wisconsin in February 2023. (Erik Gunn | Wisconsin Examiner)

At 70, I’ve slowed down some. Well, a lot. 

And, yet, I could be president. 

This is not hubris. Not “could” as in there is any remote possibility that I will ever be president or want to be. But, “could” in the sense that saddled with that job, it would not be beyond my physical and mental abilities if I had the necessary political and policy chops (I don’t!) and a platoon of expert help and advice.

By now, you’ve all heard the but-he’s-senile! argument against President Joe Biden.

Biden will be 82 if reelected in 2024 – 86 at the end of his second term. He is now 80. 

Right – 70 is not 82 and I recognize that past a certain age, the aging process takes greater hold with each passing year. That doesn’t mean, however, that the elderly are all mentally and physically dysfunctional.

But folks of that certain age and beyond certainly understand how perceptions of their abilities change. Ageism appears to be one of the last acceptable isms remaining.

No? Try applying for jobs at 70 or, for that matter, 55 or 60 or 62 or 65 or 68.

According to Biden’s health checkups and the empirical evidence of what has been a pretty successful first term, he is mentally and physically fit.

He has the kind of awareness and skills that helped engineer an international coalition against Putin’s tyranny in Ukraine, given vigorous support for Israel following a devastating Hamas attack (while cautioning against over-reaction), helped steer a nation through a pandemic, created major infrastructure investments and set the stage for what is likely going to be a soft landing following serious economic distress.

Gen. Mark Milley, who Trump appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and who also served under Biden, said this of Biden’s age on 60 Minutes recently: “How people interpret that is up to them, but I engage with him frequently and (he is) alert, sound, does his homework, reads the papers, reads all the read-ahead material. And he’s very, very engaging in issues of very serious matters of war and peace and life and death.”

“So,” Miley added, “if the American people are worried about an individual who is, you know, someone who’s making decisions of war and peace and has access to, you know, makes the decisions of nuclear weapons and that sort of thing, I think they can rest easy.”

Biden’s record is so good that his GOP opponents are pretty much reduced to waging culture war and trying to tie him to son Hunter Biden’s misdeeds to bring him down. Plus citing his age.

This occurs even though Republicans have their own 77-year-old candidate, one, by the way, who does not appear as physically fit as Biden and whose antics do not indicate a mental light bulb that burns ever bright. 

 Let us concede that many Democrats are longing for more youth in their own presumptive nominee. Let’s also concede that through the lens of our youth-obsessed culture, Biden looks his age and moves that way, too.  

I nonetheless look at him and say, “Heck, I hope I’m that fit at 80.”

The best I can do with Trump is, “Heck, I want to be able to eat non-stop McDonald’s at that age, golf when I want and be that, um, tanned.”

During a trip to Vietnam in September, Biden emerged with concrete accomplishments, chiefly in garnering support against Chinese hegemony in that part of the world. Nonetheless, a rambling press conference there that had to be cut short had conservative media again trying to score points against “Sleepy Joe,” the slam Trump has leveled at the president.

But, c’mon, if rambling and incoherence are signs of unfitness for office due to age, Trump is champ. 

Trump is the king of  incoherence.  In September, Trump gave a speech in which he confused Biden with Barack Obama and warned that Biden was leading us into WWII.

By any measure, if Biden is senile, so is Trump, who also seems to be simultaneously suffering from Benjamin-Button regression, consistently displaying the petulance and immaturity of an adolescent.  

Like it or not, the  presumptive party nominees for 2024 are an 80-year-old guy and a 77-year-old guy.

Which is to say that, if it is a Trump-Biden rematch, a debate about their respective ages is moot.

We can all wish that both were younger or that younger alternatives were running. But we will in all likelihood have two older guys running for president at ages that prompt retirement to the Lay-Z-Boy for many of us. This will likely occur despite Minnesota congressman Dean Phillips’ entry into the Democratic race. Biden’s age seems to be his primary motivation.

Let’s admit that both presumptive nominees look and mostly act their ages. But Biden is old and stable. That’s a far cry from old, crazy and an existential threat to democracy — Trump.

And let’s say Biden succumbs to infirmity or worse in a second term. I’m perfectly okay with Vice President Kamala Harris as president. No one should be OK with Trump no matter his vice-presidential pick.

So, if age is your deal-breaker, arguing about Biden’s unfitness for office is like arguing about what’s better: Lemonade or lemonade.

You choose the better lemonade even if you really prefer a Dr. Pepper. 


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O. Ricardo Pimentel
O. Ricardo Pimentel

O. Ricardo Pimentel has been a journalist for about 40 years. He was most recently the managing editor at Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, was editorial page editor for the San Antonio Express-News in Texas and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before that. He has also worked in various editing and reporting positions in newspapers in California, Arizona, Texas and Washington D.C., where he covered Congress, federal agencies and the Supreme Court for McClatchy Newspapers. He is the author of two novels and lives in Wisconsin.