His 15-minute speech on Thursday evening, Oct. 19 was pitch-perfect. President Joe Biden clearly—lack of lofty phrases aside—explained why our country should support Ukraine and Israel to the tune of $100 billion.
Two friends disagreed. They could talk only about his ghostlike appearance and raspy voice. One drew a pointed comparison to President Ronald Reagan, a peerless communicator.
I focused on Biden’s words, not his mien as an 80-year-old who cannot hide the ravages of aging. Irrelevant to me. He traveled to a war zone to support Israel and try to dissuade our ally from a scorched-earth ground invasion of Gaza, an exhausting trip for someone half his age.
Biden’s critics give him no quarter. If the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan said in the 1960s, to much acclaim, then Biden projects lack of effectiveness and credibility, according to this widely accepted theory. His speech was a flop to Republicans who dislike the President.
The speech was excellent, spoken by a person familiar with foreign relations, and long experience as a seasoned negotiator. He projects strength and leadership. His manner is one of an authentic, sincere person.
He is competent and savvy. Bombast is not his style. Theatrics are superficial. Inflaming an already explosive crisis accomplishes little, except childishly seeking attention.
He sees a world shaken by dispute and hatred. Terrorism is the strategy of choice for vicious disrupters. The United States is not immune.
If he had charisma as a younger U.S. senator from Delaware and vice president, he does not now. He looks his age. He is easy pickings for his Republican opponents, who refuse to jettison a person who projects lack of character and disdain for democracy.
Ageism is alive and well in our country. As a senior citizen, I totally agree that youthfulness is far more desirable than advanced age. I am not convinced, however, that cognitive acuity necessarily declines with aging. Certainly, dementia is more prevalent, evident to some degree, albeit hidden, with President Reagan during his last months in the Oval Office.
Biden-bemoaners point gleefully to what they perceive as his defects, such as slurred speech and off-the-cuff flubs. What the vitriolic critics overlook are his wisdom and experience—and a superb staff.
Drama is minimal. Staff discord seems minimal.
Back to his speech. It was on-point. It correctly described the horrific conditions in the Mideast and Ukraine. It rightly characterized Putin and Hamas as terrorists. It included empathy for victims of the Hamas attack, on both sides of the conflict. It articulated our country’s responsibility to play a role, apart from deployment of our troops.
Yes, a younger, more dynamic president might be more effective as a message carrier. Still, Joe Biden is respected among world leaders.
Listen to the words. They matter more than flash and flamboyance.
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.