WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday by joking repeatedly about his advanced age, even as the White House strongly defended his stamina and batted away polling — and one prominent Democrat — suggesting that the issue could cost him votes in next year’s election.
(click below to watch the President's birthday comments)
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president’s age should not be a primary focus.
“Our perspective is, it’s not about age, it’s about the president’s experience,” she said while highlighting that Biden had successfully championed through Congress several major pieces of legislation — including a sweeping public works package and initiative on public health and combating climate change — and visited active war zones not controlled by the U.S. military in Ukraine and Israel.
“What we say is we have to judge him by what he’s done, not by his numbers,” Jean-Pierre said. “I would put the president’s stamina, the president’s wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people, against anyone. Anyone, any day of the week.”
Biden, for his part, went for humor.
“By the way, it’s my birthday today,” Biden told a crowd on the White House South Lawn as he pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys Liberty and Bell.
“I just want you to know, it’s difficult turning 60,” the president added with a chuckle. “Difficult.” On Instagram the President wrote, "Thanks for the birthday well-wishes today, everyone. Turns out on your 146th birthday, you run out of space for candles!"
Noting that the pre-Thanksgiving pardoning ceremony dated back 76 years, Biden also said, “I want you to know I wasn’t there — for the first one.”
The oldest president in U.S. history, Biden for months has used humor to try to defuse the issue — even as polls suggest it’s no laughing matter. An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 77% of U.S. adults, including 69% of Democrats, viewed Biden as too old to be effective for four more years.
As he seeks a second term, Biden could be headed for a rematch with former President Donald Trump, who is 77 and was the oldest person elected to a first term until Biden was. Trump has himself made some recent, notable gaffes. Yet the same AP-NROC poll found that 51% of adults — and just 28% of Republicans — said Trump was too old for a second term.