In writing this column, I feel as if I am confronting an odd conflict of interest. Three years younger than President Biden, I am torn about whether his octogenarian status renders him too old to seek a second term and serve as a physically and mentally capable president.
His performance at his recent state of the union speech was strong and energetic. He seemed to enjoy the repartee resulting from disrespectful comments voiced by a few outrageous Republicans. He was agile rhetorically during the unusually spirited exchanges. And his sudden trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, with its exhausting logistics, exhibited admirable energy and perseverance
The next evening, I watched him during an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff. While he appeared relaxed and confident, his voice was faint. His gait was labored as he walked toward the interview venue. He tossed aside concerns about his age with his typical refrain, “Watch me.”
My 22-year-old grandson, a Democrat, told me during Thanksgiving that the president’s age would be an absolute barrier to his support of Biden. A 79-year-old longtime state politician hesitated when I asked her if she could vote for Joe Biden. She asked for my opinion. I said I was “torn.” She responded by saying she too was conflicted.
I referred at the outset to my “conflict of interest.” I feel confident about my brainpower, however one judges that component of our state of being. I love to learn. New, creative concepts enthuse me. I savor thoughtful competition of ideas and perspectives.
But I tire more easily. I deal with gnawing medical challenges. I look in the mirror and see obvious signs of aging. I am more prone to accept physical problems. Optimism and persistence continue, however, to be strong defenses.
So, when I think about President Biden and the relentless pace and demands of his job at the churning White House, I fret about its impact on its 80-year-old occupant. The decision-making pressure is ceaseless. The overriding need to concentrate on complicated, fraught crises, both domestic and foreign, is constant. Political machinations are stressful.
Whether you are 40 or 80, the power and potency of the highest office in the land is intoxicating. Legislative victories in a poisonous political environment produce prideful euphoria. Buoyed by these hard-fought triumphs, Biden naturally wants to do more, create more opportunities for success.
Should he seek a second term, an exhausting grind challenging someone half his age? Should he step away from political combat after 50 years and return to a pleasant life in Wilmington, Del. and a vacation house that beckons him to Rehoboth Beach, Del.?
If he is the only Democrat who can win the presidency, fending off notable Republicans with frightening agendas, then I would urge him to go for it despite his discouraging polls. If I could feel comfortable that someone else in the Democratic camp could beat tough GOP opponents, I would argue for Biden to retire and enjoy his twilight years–without pundits and political foes questioning his cognitive and physical abilities.
I want to believe that President Biden is fully equipped to serve as an effective and vibrant chief executive. I want to think that his advanced age is irrelevant. I strive to consider his wisdom and common sense as more crucial than his chronological benchmark.
Some will assert that age is a state of mind. That might be true. I hope that Joe Biden and his family approach the impending decision about running or not for a second term personally and politically. I would recommend an objective analysis, if possible.
Public service, while fulfilling at times, is tiresome and frustrating. Your days are overcome by crises.
If he seeks a second term, this senior citizen will support him wholeheartedly despite my doubts about the adverse effects of aging. His steady leadership, devoid of unnecessary drama and disruptive behavior, is appealing.
Charisma is not his strong suit. I wonder if it matters. His sincerity does.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. After 44 years in Easton, Howard and his wife, Liz, moved in November 2020 to Annapolis, where they live with Toby, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel who has no regal bearing, just a mellow, enticing disposition.