The White House press secretary on Monday night laughed off the question of whether Joe Biden had the ‘physical and mental stamina’ to run for a second term, describing an article at the weekend questioning his fitness as ‘malicious’.
The 79-year-old president has insisted he intends to run again in 2024, and would be 82 on inauguration day if he wins.
He has faced a barrage of questions about his advancing years – most recently on Sunday, when multiple Democrat sources told The New York Times they were concerned.
On Saturday, he was asked whether he would visit Saudi Arabia, and replied that he had not yet decided – only to say, 20 seconds later, why he was making the trip.
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House spokesperson, gasped in horror when asked by CNN’s Don Lemon about Biden’s fitness for office after 2024.
‘Don, you’re asking me this question!’ she said, aghast.
‘Oh my gosh. He’s the president of the United States!’
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, was shocked to be asked whether Joe Biden was physically and mentally up for a second term
A new report featured concerns about President Joe Biden’s age, as his party faces serious headwinds heading into the midterms. The president is seen on Monday, at an event in the White House
Biden, seen on Saturday in Los Angeles, before heading to New Mexico, would be 86 at the end of a second term
Jean-Pierre, 47, said that she had been impressed by his energy and work ethic.
‘You know, I can’t even keep up with him,’ she said.
‘We just got back from New Mexico. We just got back from California.
‘That is not a question that we should even be asking.
‘Just look at the work he does. And look how he’s delivering for the American public.’
She said the New York Times story was cruel.
The paper quoted a mix of rank-and-file Democrats and senior figures, all raising concerns about the issue as the mid-term elections approach.
Their front page treatment of the subject that has dogged Biden throughout his presidency comes amid low approval ratings and fears among some Democrats that he remains vulnerable to a restoration effort by former President Donald Trump, 76.
Jean-Pierre said their speculation was unfounded.
‘That article that you’re talking about – it’s hearsay, it’s malicious,’ she said.
‘That’s not what we care about.
‘We care about how we are going to deliver for the American people. How we’re going to make their lives better.
‘That’s what the president talks about.
‘That is his focus. And that’s what we’ll continue to focus on.’
Jean-Pierre said the New York Times story was ‘malicious’ and of little concern to them
The New York Times story set off a new round of speculation about Biden’s intentions, amid fretting that his age – amid record inflation, a war in Ukraine, and a now-tumbling stock market – could imperil an effort to beat back Trump.
Axios chimed in with a story on the American gerontocracy, noting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 82 and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer is 71.
Even longtime commentator David Gergen, 80, told PBS NewsHour: ‘I think people like Biden and Trump ought to both step back and leave open the door to younger people.’
David Axelrod, 67, who helped propel Barack Obama’s ascent with a campaign that featured youthful energy and a ‘hope’ slogan, said Biden’s advancing years were indeed a liability on the campaign trail.
‘The presidency is a monstrously taxing job and the stark reality is the president would be closer to 90 than 80 at the end of a second term – and that would be a major issue,’ said Axelrod.
Obama was 47 when he took office, after failing to complete his first term in the Senate.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been hammering political enemies and drawing attention as a possible GOP presidential candidate or challenger to Trump
Donald Trump, 76, has repeatedly raised questions about Biden’s mental capacity
‘I need an equivalent of Ron DeSantis, a Democrat, but not a 70- or 80-year-old — a younger person,’ said Maryland data analyst Alex Wyshyvanuk, 33.
‘Someone who knows what worked for you in 1980 is not going to work for you in 2022 or 2024,’ he said.
DeSantis, 43, is the Florida governor who’s ability to grab headlines and rise in the polls has caught the attention of Trump’s circle.
The paper also quoted a Democratic National Committee member from Florida, Steve Simionidis, saying Biden ‘should announce his intent not to seek re-election in ’24 right after the midterms.’
Biden provided his critics with even more fodder on Saturday, when he was asked about a potential trip to Riyadh.
Biden told reporters that he hasn’t decided whether to visit Saudi Arabia – but then contradicted himself
Seconds later as Biden spoke on the tarmac at the foot of Air Force One, Biden said that he was in fact going
‘Have you decided whether or not to go to Saudi Arabia?’ a reporter asked Biden, on the tarmac in Los Angeles at the foot of Air Force One.
‘No, not yet,’ the president replies on camera.
The journalist asked: ‘What would be holding up the decision at this point? Are there commitments from the Saudi’s you’re waiting for?’
Biden replied: ‘It happens to be a larger meeting taking place in Saudi Arabia.
‘That’s the reason I’m going.
‘It has to do with national security with the Israelis. It has to do with much larger issues than the energy.’
The White House is expected to announce the trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel this week, a source familiar with the planning said on Sunday.
Biden’s trip, which is expected to take place around mid-July, could include a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the source added.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed a Biden trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia was being planned.
‘We have no further trip details to confirm, but we will announce as soon as we do,’ the spokesperson said.
Yet at the White House press briefing on Monday, Jean-Pierre brushed off speculation that Biden would retire at the end of his first term.
‘He hasn’t – first of all, let’s, let’s reset for a second,’ she began.
‘I cannot talk about elections. I cannot be a political analyst from here, or, you know, or the midterms or anything like that, including 2024.
‘The president, as you know, has been asked that question many times, and he has answered it
‘His answer has been pretty simple. Which is yes, he’s running for reelection.
‘I can’t say more than that,’ she said.
‘His answer has been pretty simple. Which is yes, he’s running for reelection. I can’t say more than that,’ White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Monday’s press briefing
Biden told ABC in December 2021 he would run if he’s ‘in good health.’
Asked if he would run against predecessor Donald Trump, he replied: ‘Why would I not run against Donald Trump as the nominee? That would increase the prospect of running.’
Jean-Pierre had a curt answer when asked about Biden’s consistently low approval ratings, which have dropped below 40 per cent.
‘The president’s focus on delivering for the American people that’s his focus right now,’ she said.
Biden’s approval rating stands at 39 per cent in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
He has been underwater since August 2021, and now must confront record inflation, food shortages, gun violence, a war in Ukraine and a host of other issues.
Party faithful might be more willing to overlook concerns about his age if he had better numbers heading into midterm elections, where the party in power usually suffers losses.