The Age of Biden

joe biden
Members of the White House press corps have emphasized that the symptoms of Joe Biden’s age had become more noticeable in recent months and a frequent discussion topic at the desks behind the Brady briefing room. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
February 14, 2024

Swift fly the years, and it’s hard to believe it’s been almost two turns of the calendar since David Axelrod earned the ire of the president, the White House, and the Democratic establishment by warning, in the pages of The New York Times, that Joe Biden’s age would be a liability in 2024. In a June 2022 interview with the paper, the famed chief strategist of Obama’s victorious presidential campaigns made the rather obvious point that “the presidency is a monstrously taxing job,” and the very rational observation that Biden, “who looks his age and isn’t as agile in front of a camera as he once was,” would be “closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term, and that would be a major issue.” For his sins, White House surrogates chastised Axelrod while Biden privately called him “a prick.”

Last Thursday, after Robert Hur’s report clearing Biden of wrongdoing in the classified materials investigation was subsumed by his commentary on the president’s acuity, I texted a producer at CNN to gauge their coverage plans for the evening. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Axelrod had been booked for the majority of primetime. Of course, his attempts to underscore the political significance of the report, which he described as “a shiv” into Biden’s reelection campaign, contended with the president’s loyalists, who sought to direct attention elsewhere. These pals, true believers, and surrogates criticized Hur—a Republican with an agenda!—for cosplaying as a neurologist and reiterated the familiar Trump-inflected whataboutism—juxtaposing Biden with another elderly, misremembering man who also happens to be an aspiring fascist facing 91 felony charges. These arguments were even more audible over on MSNBC.