Biden tries to lay to rest age concerns, but may have exacerbated them
A probe that spared President Joe Biden from criminal charges paradoxically dealt him a threatening political blow.
Special counsel Robert Hur’s report released Thursday on Biden’s handling of classified documents effectively ended the matter. But his assertions that Biden was elderly and forgetful ignited a political firestorm that cut directly to the heart of the president’s chief vulnerability in the 2024 election.
The White House knew it had a huge political problem on its hands.
After hours of Republican claims that the report showed he wasn’t capable of serving as president, Biden appeared at a hastily scheduled news conference Thursday evening, apparently seeking to turn the page on what turned into a disastrous day.
“I know what the hell I am doing,” Biden fumed in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, as he defended his faculties and bristled with anger. Biden also pointed out that Hur’s report drew distinctions between his handling of classified material and Donald Trump’s allegedly criminal and obstructive conduct on the same issue over which the ex-president faces a future criminal trial.
Biden appeared fired up and passionate. But at the same time, his angry demeanor and an event which appeared to quickly spin out of his control, with reporters shouting questions as he struggled to interrupt, may have ended up exacerbating the very questions about his age that it was meant to dispel.
When CNN’s MJ Lee pointed out that many voters have questions about his age, Biden pointed his finger and forcibly said, “That’s your judgment.”
The press event also raised new questions about his sharpness in a week in which he has twice confused the names of a serving and recent European leader with those with whom he interacted in the 1980s. At one point in his Thursday night appearance, Biden was referring to the president of Egypt in a comment about the Middle East crisis but mistakenly said “the president of Mexico.” This is the kind of mistake any overworked politician might make. And even when he was much younger, Biden had a reputation as a gaffe machine and for verbal slips. But in the context of Biden’s declaration that his “memory is fine” his political liability over his age and coming as it did during an event meant to demonstrate vitality and accurate recall, it was an unwelcome trip-up, to say the least.