CSotD: You are old, Joseph Biden

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
    That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
    What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
    Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
    Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”

A bit of nonsense from Lewis Carroll, illustrated by John Tenniel, and we could use them both today, but we’ll make do with what we’ve got as we ponder age as a factor in eel-balancing and governing.

Kal Kallaugher frames the upcoming election, at least within the current spin. It’s undeniable that both men are old: They’re 3 years, 6 months, 25 days apart, at an age when that gap is meaningless. It’s a measure of their unpopularity that they appear all but unchallenged for the nomination.

It is, admittedly, beyond debate that, as RJ Matson notes, both likely candidates for president in November, 2024, are old. But is it fair, beyond metaphor, to depict them both as depending on walkers? Perhaps by the end of 2028 — which is a reasonable concern — but not at the start of the race.

I’ve railed against AARP for promoting the idea that how nimble you are is an element of character and that age is simply a matter of attitude. It’s optimistic, it’s positive, it’s encouraging and it’s malarkey (We’ll get back to that.)

Some people in their seventies can, indeed, jog regularly and ride a bike, but some are lucky to be able to shuffle down a ramp or drink with one hand. Biden has a lifelong stammer, but is physically active, while even Trump gets out regularly for a round of golf, though he uses a cart and appears obese.

Which reminds me of an old Soviet joke: The Politburo noticed that, for once, the Soviet head of state, was much younger than the American president, so they had Gorbachev challenge Reagan to a race. However, to their dismay, Reagan put on a burst of speed and beat Gorbachev to the finish line.

The next day, the headlines in Pravda read “Gorbachev wins second prize in race, but Reagan finishes next to last.”

We’re already knee deep in that sort of coverage, as seen in this

Juxtaposition of the Day

Neither cartoonist makes a defensible point, claiming that Biden is old to the point of disability more as a cheap shot than a documented accusation. Varvel does sneak in a criticism of Biden for continuing trade with China, ignoring his growing restrictions on that.

But both cartoons are simply declarations that Biden is too old, offering nothing to back up their accusations, nor any indication of why a man less than four years younger might be any more fit.

Mia Farrow offers an interesting point:

Still, the Murdoch empire, after a brief flirtation with Ron DeSantis (44) is lining up behind Trump, and perhaps Rupert Murdoch (92) would agree that Biden is too old to be in charge of anything.

Prickly City (AMS) depicts Biden as a sloth, emphasizing not his age so much as his perceived lack of mental acuity, as noted by Republicans and cartoonists. To reference Lewis Carroll again, this seems like Bellman’s logic: What I tell you three times is true.

As for “malarkey,” it is an old, home-style expression, and I was surprised when Biden’s use first drew public comment because I’d certainly heard it all my life.

I thought it was funny to substitute an innocent, old-fashioned euphemism in his vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan instead of saying “bullshit,” which certainly would have drawn criticism.

I certainly knew what he meant, and I’d note that cultural literacy is more than being able to quote Shakespeare. It’s also being able to quote the Lone Ranger and Jeff Lebowski.

And it includes knowing that “malarkey” is a real word and that “covfefe” is not, though, to be fair, “Prickly City” depicts Trump as a skunk, which brings us back to Kal’s cartoon, and this one:

Walt Handelsman doubles down on Kal’s point: Nobody is happy with the choices being offered, and, though that donkey has Bernie Sanders, 81, and Elizabeth Warren, 73, on his wish list, the rest of the potential candidates offered here are younger.

The relevant question is whether any of them have the administrative experience? Have the two parties made attempts to groom replacements for the old folks at the top of the pile?

And the relevant answer is to ask what experience Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump brought to the White House? It’s apparently not always necessary except when it is.

We’ll also hear a lot about popularity, but a look at the polls at this stage of recent first administrations shows that approach to be, as one might say, a bunch of malarkey.

Leading up to re-election, the difference between Biden’s approval and that of Trump and Reagan is indistinguishable, but Reagan won a second term and Trump did not.

Meanwhile, the greatest gap is between Biden and George HW Bush, and you can see how HW’s numbers cratered as the war ended and the next elections loomed.

Bill Bramhall calls it a contest between advancing age and questionable character, exaggerating both to make his point. We can argue over which he exaggerates more unfairly.

While Marian Kamensky (Cartoon Movement) made me laugh with roughly the same argument.

Mike Luckovich broke out of the established argument, acknowledging the age issue but pointing out the achievements thus far and comparing Biden to Yoda (900).

Jack Ohman doesn’t attempt that detailed a response, pointing out, rather, that Biden, however old he is now or will be in five years, has been successful in bringing decency, maturity and respect back to his office and thus to his country.

Or at least to the half that values such things.

We’ll shortly feature cartoons that go beyond age and into more substantive matters.

Meanwhile, enjoy a little cultural literacy:

11 thoughts on “CSotD: You are old, Joseph Biden

  1. I look at my own parents. At Biden’s age, Mom was beginning to show signs of decline, mentally and physically. On the other hand, Dad, now over ten years Biden’s senior, is still going strong, walks to his doctor and haircut appointments and to vote (those last two a couple of miles from his home), and has just been asked to serve another term on the local Board of Health.

  2. Nikki Haley stated that Biden would likely be dead in 5 years. Can’t imagine ever saying such a thing — but I especially can’t imagine saying it about Harrison Ford, Barbra Streisand, Carole King, Paul McCartney or any of a host of other vital 80-year-olds. Including the President.

  3. Maybe it’s just because I passed 70 last year, but I’d like to believe that I’d find the late night comedy shows’ writers lame dependence on old-age jokes about Biden (vs. Trump, whom they have plenty of other more legit criticisms of) is just lazy joke-writing on the level of Leno’s old running joke about how big JLo’s ass was, night after night, till you were concerned about whether Leno was GETTING TOO OLD FOR THE JOB. Having heard many multiple Biden speeches over the past three years done either with minimal or withoutuse of a teleprompter, I have zero worry about him being up to the job. (And hey, I think there’s a good chance Nikki Haley will get run over by a train within the next five years, so don’t waste your vote on her either.)

  4. Wow. Quote of the week:

    “…I’d note that cultural literacy is more than being able to quote Shakespeare. It’s also being able to quote the Lone Ranger and Jeff Lebowski.”

  5. I don’t know much about what Biden eats (except ice cream…) but I bet his diet has a lot less fat and salt than hamberders and fries. As for Nikki Haley’s remarks – ask those people in Uvalde, El Paso, or Sandy Hook about how sure you can be of dying of old age.

    Amen to your cultural literacy remark too !

    1. You reminded me to go look for a picture of Trump eating ice cream. Found one. Well, I found several, but one I could add to my collection. I’ve verified that all but about three presidents ate ice cream, and those three may have but I couldn’t document it. (Yes, Dolly Madison’s husband ate ice cream. What a surprise!)

  6. Wiktionary claims “Malarkey” was popularized by cartoonist Tad Dorgan, beginning in 1922. I’ll have to look for those — I’ve bookmarked several of Dorgan’s cartoons, but the most recent of those was from 1921.

  7. A problem with this is that Biden is in REMARKABLE shape for a man his age. Depicting him with a walker is not an exaggeration, it’s the OPPOSITE of reality. But we live with a news media where the story is him stumbling while running up the stairs (like I’ve done). Not that an 80-year-old man runs up the stairs (which I no longer do, even though I’m 15 years his junior).

    As for his mental acuity, we all saw the SOTU, where he demonstrated that he’s better WITHOUT notes, dropping his prepared remarks when heckled and making them look like idiots.

    Yes, he can balance an eel on the end of his nose.

  8. Biden is okay, but surely there can’t be a better candidate in the wings? Obama would walk the race if he could.

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