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Fate of Nation Rests on Old Man's Ability to Not Fall Over in Public
The Biden administration is taking proactive steps to stop the president tripping over himself.
Joe Biden has always been the gaffe guy. There are many reasons for this—his stammer (which is obviously not something you can blame him for), his relatively laid-back and shoot-from-the-hip communication style, the fact that he is definitely the type of guy who swears a lot in private and sometimes gets caught on hot mics, et cetera. These gaffes, coupled with his lack of a distinct narrative or political message, are part of what stopped him from actually becoming president until very late in his career. And that late start has exposed the now-veteran Biden administration to a new realm of hazards: keeping a guy who’s old as hell from falling apart.
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Axios reported yesterday that the Biden administration is taking the task of keeping the president on his feet very, very seriously:
With a physical therapist, Biden has been doing exercises to improve his balance as far back as November 2021.
Since his stumble in June, he has been wearing tennis shoes more often to avoid slipping — and using the short stairs on Air Force One, entering the plane on a lower deck than before.
Why it matters: Democrats, including some in the administration, are terrified that Biden will have a bad fall — with a nightmare scenario of it happening in the weeks before the November 2024 election.
Biden's balance difficulties are likely the result of what his physician has diagnosed as "a combination of significant spinal arthritis" and "mild post-fracture foot arthritis."
In and of itself, this isn’t particularly scandalous. Biden is old, he’s dealing with the lingering effects of an injury and it’s pretty easy to trip on shit when you’re getting into and out of planes and helicopters all the time. I’m a adequately coordinated, able-bodied 33-year-old and I almost eat shit going up the single flight of stairs to my apartment at least twice a month. It happens.
Sure, many of these faults are tied to Biden’s advanced, borderline-ludicrous age, but that’s just another symptom of the terminal gerontocracy that rules us. I’ve written about it before and I’m not going to waste space on it now: old guys, do not, rule. (I will say, as an aside, that I’ve heard a completely anecdotal rumor that Biden is sharper than he appears mentally and more fragile than he appears physically, which tracks.)
The problem is that, at least as far as the immediate and perhaps not-so-immediate future of the country is concerned, keeping Biden both alive and electable is in essentially everyone’s best interest unless you are running a major company and/ or a white supremacist militia. In that context, at least, Axios’s story is somewhat reassuring. It suggests that the Biden administration is taking adequate measures to ensure that the most important part of the 2020 campaign—Biden’s personal image as someone who is stable and healthy enough to continue to be president—is addressed.
This sounds like a simplistic and reductive view of politics, sure: we’ve had presidents with disabilities before, and mental stability has never been particularly correlated with the office. But what I think many of us who spend day after day thinking about this stuff forget sometimes is that politics on a national level are simplistic and reductive.
I’ve given up trying to predict or forecast the results of elections—it’s a surefire way to make yourself look like a dumbass—but if I were in the business I would probably look more at incredibly mundane things like the price of gas and the president’s ability to walk in a straight line rather than any sophisticated polls or prediction models. Yes, Biden’s overarching political strategy comes into play too: the administration’s understated tactics when it comes to legislative accomplishments and selective support for high-profile causes like the current UAW strike are certainly things to consider. But at the end of the day if we go into the general election with gas prices below $4 a gallon and Biden still fully mobile, he’s got a pretty good shot—and seeing as he’s the best possible candidate the Democrats seem likely to put forward, that’s all you can hope for. If it takes a lot of tennis shoes and a dedicated No Slip Don’t Trip Right This Way Sir task force, so be it. If there’s one thing the first Trump presidency taught us, it’s how far and how fast the country can fall.