Let's talk about President Biden's age

I am frustrated by the inadequate discussion about President Biden’s age as we approach the general presidential election. Often I hear people just say that he is too old without addressing how his age has or has not affected his job performance, how old his opponent is or any number of factors which could be used to try to predict the likelihood of something going wrong in the next four years with Biden as president.

If we look at the job Biden’s done, age would be a non-issue. Anyone who works with the president states that he is the dynamic force of the administration. David Brooks, a Republican columnist for the New York Times, wrote about this last October. He has been interviewing Biden for 25 years. He sees some slowing, but compared it to a pitcher who used to throw 94 miles per hour and now throws 87 miles per hour, which he calls effective. In fact, Brooks stated that he thinks that Biden has improved with age. Biden used to cram every fact into every answer; now he’s more disciplined. Brooks says that Biden is more crisp and focused on issues, inspiring more, not less, confidence. As I think about this, I remember the younger Biden with his gaffes and other verbal mistakes. This was a big problem for him in the '80s when he failed to attribute remarks to a British politician and had to drop out of the presidential race. Or some of the statements he made about candidate Barack Obama during the primaries of 2008. I am not seeing much of this anymore.

I do see is Biden negotiating single-handedly with the extreme Republicans in Congress during the last two State of the Union addresses. Last year, he negotiated them away from cutting Medicare and Social Security in the budget. This year, he took them on over taxes, Social Security and immigration. I don’t remember seeing any president doing that before, not Clinton, not Obama, and they were younger when they delivered their addresses.

Brooks noticed that Biden is steeped in knowing what life is like for working and middle-class people. Brooks is correct that this is Biden’s personal background. That story is well known. Biden combines this with his clear desire to solve problems facing traditionally excluded groups including people of color, same-gender families, immigrants. He also brings a substantial history of expertise in foreign policy, with long-standing relationships throughout the world. This is invaluable for us. I am just starting to hear about some progress in the Middle East to go back to working on a two-state solution with Israel and Palestinians. Unless both those groups can live in dignity and peace, the extreme violence which we are now seeing there will not stop. I had not seen a real effort to work on the two-state solution since the end of the Clinton Administration.

Brooks recognized Biden’s sense of decency. Brooks notes Bidens’ seemingly instinctive ability to bond with those who are hurting. Brooks mentioned his own loss of a friend to suicide. Biden called him personally to offer comfort. He let Brooks talk and, through his words and tone of voice, joined Brooks in the suffering. Brooks experienced the “solace of being seen” by Biden.

Recently, Biden made a speech about a number of topics, including the dialogue in our country today. Lamenting how people cannot simply vote against him, but they wave flags with profanity and encourage little kids to make obscene gestures toward him on the campaign trail. He exhorted people to think of how “we’ve” diminished the dialogue. He ended his speech calling our country the most unique country in the world. He was appealing to our higher values and using inclusive terms to address a problem, rather than dividing and blaming.

If one is concerned about the next four years, perhaps review Biden’s family history. His mother lived into her 90s and his father lived to be 86, both life spans would exceed the next presidential term for Biden. Or his medical condition, which, by all indications, is excellent. Trying to predict when someone is going to die seems a folly. My husband, seemingly physically fit and healthy, died when he was 65.

Is it too old to value competency, empathy, decency or inclusiveness? I think not and I think it is time to put this aside and focus on what is really at stake in this election.

— Community Columnist Marcia Meoli is a Holland attorney and resident. Contact her at Meolimarcia@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Let's talk about President Biden's age

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