Age Before Wisdom? The White House Claps Back at Media's Fixation on Biden’s Age
The White House has had enough of the media's preoccupation with President Joe Biden's age and stamina as he moves toward a re-election campaign. A series of public retorts by White House aides on social media platforms have sought to flip the narrative, taking aim at stories and headlines that have increasingly revolved around the 80-year-old president’s so-called vulnerabilities.
Herbie Ziskend, the deputy communications director, launched a counter-offensive against an Axios story that compared Biden's campaign approach to that of former President Donald Trump in 2020, branding both as "basement-esque" for their limited public appearances. Ziskend highlighted Biden’s jam-packed schedule involving a trip from Vietnam to Alaska, then back to Washington, to argue that the President is far from confined to his basement.
"Every presidency exists within a media ecosystem that shapes narratives and opinions, and it's clear that the Biden White House is trying to wrest back control over how the President is perceived, particularly on the issue of his age," says Patricia Williams, a political analyst.
It wasn't just conservative publications that felt the ire of the White House. Left-leaning outlets like CNN and The Daily Beast were also targeted. Communications Director Ben LaBolt responded to a Daily Beast headline that underscored Biden ending a press conference at 9:30 p.m. local time in Vietnam to go to bed. "Presidents shall never sleep. Not even at night after days of marathon meetings overseas," he mocked.
Even Fox News’s Peter Doocy, often a contentious figure at White House briefings, received a compliment from press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for his acknowledgment that the President had effectively pulled an all-nighter during his travels. This reflects a broader frustration in the administration: if even friendly or neutral media sources are not willing to counter the 'age and stamina' narrative, then who will?
For allies of Biden, the President’s recent overseas trip stands as a testament to his stamina. A whirlwind schedule took him from the G20 summit in India to Vietnam and finally Alaska, for a 9/11 memorial ceremony, before returning to Washington. Along the way, Biden met with leaders of India, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Australia, among others, and announced a comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam.
Yet, despite such a robust display of energy and diplomacy, the media’s age-focused lens has seemed, in the eyes of the White House, to filter out these achievements.
It's worth noting that the media's focus on Biden's age isn't unfounded; it's an issue that has resonated with the public. According to a recent CNN poll, a staggering 76% of Americans expressed serious concerns that Biden's age might affect his ability to serve a full second term. A Wall Street Journal poll also indicated that 73% of registered voters consider Biden "too old to run for President."
Biden and his aides have not ignored these statistics. While the President himself acknowledges that questions about his age are "fair game," he has asked voters to judge him based on his performance and track record. But with the polls starkly against him on this issue, can the White House successfully shift the narrative?
Political analysts have pointed out that while Biden’s age can be seen as a potential liability, it also brings with it a wealth of experience that few other candidates can match.
"His age gives him decades of policy-making and diplomatic relationships that are invaluable in governing, especially in a global landscape fraught with complex challenges," remarks Donna Brazile, a seasoned Democratic strategist. "While age may be an X factor for Biden, his experience and commitment should not be discounted."
As we approach the election, scheduled for some 420 days from now, the durability of Biden's stamina and the public's perception of his capabilities will undoubtedly be rigorously tested. Whether age becomes an albatross around the President’s neck or a feather in his cap remains to be seen.
The White House, for its part, has shown that it will not let age-focused narratives go uncontested. And while the administration may not be able to control every headline, by going on the offensive, it's sending a clear message: Biden is not to be underestimated, either in stamina or in political savvy.
Questions around age and vitality are a part of American political discourse, often raising valid concerns about a candidate’s ability to perform under the weight of the highest office in the land. But as the debate rages on, one can't help but wonder if this intense scrutiny on age masks the more substantive discussions we should be having: about policy, leadership qualities, and the track record of a president who — regardless of his age — continues to navigate a nation through some of its most complex challenges yet.
One thing is for sure: the issue of age in the context of presidential capability is as old as the office itself, and it isn't going away anytime soon. But as the Biden administration seeks to reset the narrative, it's clear they are ready to fight this battle head-on. And if the President’s recent marathon trip and the White House's spirited defense are any indications, they're off to a running start.