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Does Washington Have Senioritis?

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
November 30, 2021

Shortly before pardoning the Thanksgiving turkeys at the White House, President Joe Biden temporarily transferred the power of his office to Vice President Kamala Harris while he underwent a routine colonoscopy. It was part of his annual physical, during which Biden was found to have a small, benign polyp, some acid reflux, and arthritis. These were utterly unremarkable medical findings for a 78-year-old man, except that this particular senior citizen happens to be the oldest man ever elected to the presidency, one whose age and supposed senility are often speculated about and used as a cudgel by his political enemies and regularly mocked by late-night hosts. 

The exam had the bad fortune to coincide with a poll, released just two days prior, that showed that, despite the evidence, 50 percent of Americans think Biden is not in good health, and 48 percent feel that the Commander in Chief is not mentally fit. It seemed to be why Biden’s physician made a point of declaring the president “vigorous” and “healthy” on the eve of his 79th birthday. It also made one understand why Donald Trump had been quietly spirited away from the White House for his own colonoscopies, popping up at Walter Reed Hospital without ever explaining why he was there or transferring presidential authority to Mike Pence