Biden, the first octogenarian president of the United States | International

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Kansas City, October 21, 1984. United States President Ronald Reagan faces Democratic candidate Walter Mondale, 56, in the second debate of the presidential campaign. The press has published that Reagan, then 73 years old, felt tired after the first debate. Henry Trewhitt, diplomatic correspondent for the baltimore sun, One of the participating journalists dared to ask the thorny question: Do you have any doubts that you will be able to carry out your position at full capacity in the event of an international crisis? “Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt, and I want you to know that I am not using age in this campaign either. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, the youth and inexperience of my opponent." Laughter and applause, pick up the transcript.

Reagan left office in January 1989, less than a month shy of his 78th birthday. He was the oldest president in the history of the United States until the day Joe Biden took office, on January 20, 2021, aged 78 years and two months. This Sunday, Biden becomes the first octogenarian president of the United States.

Biden's birthday fuels the debate about his age. The president has not yet made the final decision, but he has said time and again that he intends to run for re-election in 2024. The elections will be when he is almost 82 years old and he would end a hypothetical second term at 86. After the death of Elizabeth II, only three heads of state in the world are older than that: the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, 89; that of Palestine, Mahmud Abbas, 87, and that of Saudi Arabia, Salmán bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 86. Pope Francis meets them in December.

During the 2020 campaign, age was already an issue to consider. When asked as a candidate if he planned to be a one-term president, he avoided committing to it: “It's legitimate for people to ask about my age. It's the same question they asked me when I was 29 years old. [fue elegido senador con esa edad], if he was old enough for the position. I hope I can show that with age comes wisdom and experience that allows us to do things much better ”, he replied.

However, Biden himself defined himself in the campaign as "a transition candidate." Due to his age, he gave more importance than usual to his choice for the vice presidency, which after a long wait fell to Kamala Harris. It was speculated that whoever held that position would run for president in 2024, once Biden had repaired the damage done by Donald Trump to the institutions and attenuated - that was his intention - the political polarization that the country was experiencing.

Polarization, however, has been increasing. Trump has not only not disappeared from the scene, but he has already launched his campaign to return to the White House. The figure of Kamala Harris, for her part, has not caught on and her popularity is not only less than that of Biden himself, but it is the lowest of all those who have held that same position in at least the last 30 years. .

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Biden, 50 years winning elections

Biden has been winning elections for 50 years. He was elected senator from Delaware in November 1972, shortly before his 30th birthday, after rallying from a 30-point lead and beating James Caleb Boggs, the Republican who was seeking re-election, by just over 3,000 votes. He nearly left politics the following month to care for his sons Beau and Hunter after his first wife and his one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident. Instead, he got used to living straddling Washington and Wilmington, Delaware, where he continues to escape whenever he can, even now as president.

He was re-elected senator six times, for six-year terms. In 2008 and 2012 he accompanied Barack Obama as vice-presidential candidate in two victories. In 2020, he launched into the running for the Democratic nomination. He met with the editorial board of the New York Times, that he did not quite see his candidacy clearly: "Everyone declares me dead and guess what: I'm not dead and I'm not going to die!", told them. The newspaper recommended two female candidates as top choices for the presidency: Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. In response, Biden he tweeted a video that went viral with the security guard who had accompanied him in the elevator on his visit to the newsroom: "Honoured to have earned Jacquelyn's support." Exactly one year after that tweet, Biden was sworn in as president of the United States after defeating his Democratic rivals, first, and Donald Trump, later.

That Trump has entered the 2024 presidential race increases the chances that Biden will too. The president presents his predecessor as a threat to democracy. He already defeated him and he sees himself with the possibility of doing it again. Also, in that case, the age difference is not that much. Trump would enter the election at over 78 years of age and, in fact, if he were elected, he would surpass Biden as the oldest president if he completed his term.

After the recent legislative elections, still savoring the good Democratic result, Biden was asked how that success influenced his plans to seek re-election. Biden pointed to his wife, Jill, present next to him at the press conference, which was unusual, and said in the plural: “Our intention is to reintroduce ourselves. That has been our intention, regardless of the outcome of these elections.” And he added: “But I am a great respecter of fate. And this is ultimately a family decision. I think everyone wants me to introduce myself, but we're going to have discussions about it. And I feel no rush one way or the other to make that decision today, tomorrow, whenever, no matter what my predecessor does." Biden assured that he plans to make the decision in early 2023 and stressed the importance he places on making sure that Trump "does not become the next president again."

Age is, without a doubt, his main ballast. In the last complete medical report published by the White House, from a year ago, it was ensured that the president was healthy, vigorous and in a position to hold office, but at the same time some ailments were indicated such as a more frequent cough, peripheral neuropathy and cervical spondylosis that contributes to stiffer and less fluid movements. The president takes several medications regularly for minor chronic problems, but he maintains a healthy life and healthy habits.

Frequent mental lapses

Biden endures days of a tight and intense schedule, he has been able to campaign with some intensity and after the elections he has traveled halfway around the world to participate in the Climate Summit, the ASEAN Summit and the G20, in Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia. However, her energy is not what it was before and her mental lapses are becoming more frequent. At a campaign rally he mistook Ukraine for Iraq, saying he did it because his son died there (he died six years later of brain cancer that Biden may think originated from him there). He recently talked about the Russian withdrawal from Fallujah (again Iraq) instead of Kherson. On his recent trip to Cambodia he thanked the Prime Minister of “Colombia”. In September, during another public event, he sought out a congresswoman who had died in August. More than once he has gone blank during public speeches, has gotten entangled with her words or has had trouble reading her speech.

The conservative media, especially Fox, revel in these mistakes and Trump projects a compilation of them at his rallies, seasoned with some trip or fall and accompanied by disrespectful operetta music. One of the most repeated is a silly mistake made in October, when he began a speech by saying: "Let me start with two words: made in America." Trump says at his rallies that Biden has "cognitive decline" and that "the next morning he doesn't even remember" what he said the day before. In one of those compilations of slips, the video concludes: “Biden can't even talk. How is he going to lead?

The Democratic Party has embarked on a generational renewal in Congress, abandoning the leadership in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, 82, and her number two, Steny Hoyer, 83. The favorite to replace Pelosi is Hakeem Jeffries, 52 years old.

As the decision on whether to run for re-election arrives, this is a weekend of celebrations at the White House. In addition to the president's birthday, this Saturday the wedding of his eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden, 28, with Peter Neal, 25, who live together on the third floor of the presidential residence, was held there. It is the 19th White House wedding in more than 200 years. The previous one was that of the presidential photographer Pete Souza, in 2013.

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