LOWRY/The Biden debacle waiting to happen

LOWRY/The Biden debacle waiting to happen


Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe,” is very cross with the White House staff.

It isn’t, she believes, doing a good enough job protecting Joe Biden from the effects of being 80 years old and increasingly frail.

She insists that it needs “to clear a pathway” whenever he is walking somewhere, and make sure it is “there and telling him what’s next” when he’s at an event and going from Point A to Point B.

It’s not clear what presidency Brzezinski has been watching, because it’s not as though the White House staff is working Biden like a dog, or as though there isn’t plenty of pointing and directing whenever Biden is out in public.

Axios reported a couple of months ago that “some White House officials say it’s difficult to schedule public or private events with the president in the morning, in the evening, or on weekends.” That does leave weekdays between about noon and 4 p.m., when most of his public events are scheduled.

Obviously, the problem isn’t staff inattention or unawareness of the limitations of their boss, but the difficult balance involved in maintaining the image of Biden as a robust, fully in-control president of the United States, on the one hand, and in giving him the help he needs as someone who is visibly shaky on his feet and unsure of what to do with himself at public events, on the other.

To her credit, Brzezinskiisn’t denying Biden’s infirmities — as many Democrats do, at least in public — so much as shifting the blame for them.

The latest discussion of Biden’s age was occasioned by his use of King Charles as a bit of a crutch during a visit the other day, while the king had some difficulty negotiating Biden where he needed to go during an inspection of the Welsh Guards.

In the scheme of things, this wasn’t a big event, but it’s part of a pattern and one that suggests more trouble ahead — the minor stumbles and wobbles will inevitably get worse, since aging is a progressive condition.

Even if the White House staff were to dispatch the advance team to remove every pebble in Biden’s path, as Brzezinski hopes, there is simply no way to protect an 80-year-old man from every potential misstep.

In the end, there is a reliable way to keep him upright, which is a walker. Let’s say he doesn’t need one now. Can we be sure he wouldn’t need one in a year’s time? And would the White House ever want to have him use one, given that he’s in the most demanding office in the world and a walker is a symbol of decrepitude associated with assisted living facilities?

No, of course not. Every incentive is to keep trotting Biden out like nothing is wrong — 80 is the new 70 — and hope for the best. Maybe he shuffles through the raindrops and nothing bad happens between now and November 2024. But there is some significant chance that it does, that there is a fateful sandbag, wire, or step out there that is going to bring home the fragility of the leader of the free world in a disturbing and undeniable way.

Democrats who look past this possibility are running the risk of repeating the Ruth Bader Ginsburg experience of talking themselves into believing everything is fine, until it’s not and they are left dealing with an avoidable catastrophe.

Ginsburg’s defenders dismissed concerns about her age and calls for her to resign as sexist while President Barack Obama was in office and Democrats controlled the Senate. Then, Republicans took the Senate, Donald Trump won the presidency, and it was too late.

Again, maybe Biden gets lucky, and certainly everyone of good will should hope that he does. 

If he has an ill-timed mishap, though, Democrats will have no one — not even the White House staff — to blame but themselves.

Rich Lowery is editor of National Review, ­a leading conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley.

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