In a recent Financial Times Weekend Festival, former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton addressed concerns about Joe Biden’s age and fitness for office. In comments following Biden’s latest stumble during the G7 summit in Japan, Clinton unambiguously stated, “his age is an issue, and people have every right to consider it.”
This unexpected affirmation of a concern often voiced by Republicans resonated across the political spectrum. Moreover, Clinton’s comment came after an incident where Biden seemed confused during his visit to Japan and narrowly avoided a fall down the stairs.
🚨 Hillary Clinton on Joe Biden: “His age is an issue and people have every right to consider it.”
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) May 22, 2023
Despite an ensuing wave of worries about the President’s physical and mental acuity, his supporters stand firmly by his side. Clinton herself, despite her acknowledgment of the concern over Biden’s age, showed a robust vote of confidence for the President. She extolled Biden’s policy record, underscoring the recognition she believes he’s yet to receive, and asserted her hope for his re-election.
Indeed, Biden’s age is poised to be a crucial talking point in the forthcoming election campaigns. As the oldest sitting U.S. president at 80, the Republican party has already started questioning his fitness for office. Dr. Kevin O’Connor, the physician to the President, recently described him as a “healthy, vigorous 80-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency.” But this report conspicuously left out any commentary on Biden’s cognitive health.
This vacuum of information regarding the President’s cognitive fitness has sparked suggestions from Republicans for age-based cognitive testing for high office aspirants. Such suggestions are not baseless: a recent poll showed that 63% of Americans don’t think Biden’s mentally sharp enough to run the nation effectively, and 62% believe he’s not in good enough physical health. Among Democrats, 59% concurred that the phrase “Joe Biden is too old to work in government” aptly described the President.
Though the White House and Biden’s doctors have persistently argued for his fitness and mental sharpness, instances like his disoriented behavior during the photo op and subsequent near-fall in Japan present contrary evidence to the public. Moreover, the fact that Biden had to “take a hard look” at his age before deciding to run again reflects a self-awareness of the potential concerns around his capacity to execute the duties of the highest office in the land.
Clinton’s candid acknowledgment of Biden’s age as a legitimate issue represents a growing unease within the Democratic ranks regarding the President’s physical and mental state. As the election looms, this topic will likely become more contentious. Therefore, public and political analysts must watch the unfolding narrative and its implications for the 2024 elections. As validated by Clinton, the public’s right to consider a candidate’s age and cognitive health as central to their voting decisions only amplifies the importance of this issue in the coming months.