‘Are They Old Enough?’

by on June 20, 2023 · 12 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach

By Joni Halpern

Almost everyone is talking about Joe Biden’s age.  Is he too old to serve as President again?  Did you see him stumble?  Did you hear him mix up his words?  Look how stiffly he walks.

Biden is old, but there’s another question to be asked of all the younger persons running:  Are they old enough to know how to run a world power?

Maybe they have silver tongues and limber bodies, quick minds and spring in their step, but do they know how to identify what is important to the security and health of this country and its place in the world?  Have these younger persons demonstrated they can bring about consensus in an environment of monumental egos and global ambitions?

Youth is beautiful in nearly all its manifestations. It is daring, adventurous, and innovative.  It is a lovely state of life.  We need our young people, for they are our future.

But there are certain gifts that age brings to the wise.

It is true that not everyone who grows old is wise.  There are plenty of people who have lived seven decades and beyond who remain unschooled by their own education and experience, let alone by that of others.

But some old people, like Joe Biden, have learned how to recognize the rising swells and currents that must be carefully navigated to avoid foundering the vessel of life, whether that life refers to an individual or to that of the nation as a whole.

While old people may not be as creative or quick, they have other gifts that can be important to Americans as we lay the foundation for our future.  Old age does not leave every person without mental facility.  Even science admits this, for recent studies indicate that the “executive function” of the brain may improve in some important respects in old people.

While it might take longer for old people to learn new things, their ability to orient their attention to new developments, and to focus on tasks without being distracted, often improves.  In the chaos of political life and global events, these qualities can be critical for a world leader.

Like many other old people, Biden has a world of experience.  Lucky for us, he has it in the legislative and executive branches of our federal government —  the very places where newcomers often stumble badly because they are too naïve to recognize or confront the powerful forces of manipulation at work in the corridors of power.

Biden was in the U.S. Senate for 36 years, serving on key committees dealing with intensely complicated issues.  He sometimes made mistake, but he learned how to navigate the labyrinth of personalities, many driven by relentless ambition, insatiable egos, or lust for power.  He learned that criticizing his colleagues’ motivations was counter-productive and that in order to get things done, he had to restrict the battleground to policy solutions that could deliver a taste of victory to a majority of high-powered combatants.  He had to learn when criticism was intractable and when it could yield to compromise, when it had to be confronted, and when merely endured.

Like many old people, Biden has experienced great loss.  He knows loss can occur in every aspect of our lives – our time, money, resources, jobs, personal belongings, and loving relationships.  He knows some of these losses are beyond our control, but we are better able to avoid them if we are informed of possible outcomes.

Biden has shown a respect for the expertise of scientists, military leaders, financial authorities, and other specialists from whom he seeks truthful information before addressing solutions.  It’s the same thing we all learn to do in life as we age.  The recklessness and adventurism of youth, which is its own source of vitality to a nation, gives way as we age to a desire to avoid an impetuous move that can transform positive potential into failure and make bad situations worse.

Biden is old enough to know that the development of anything in life takes time.  As speedily as life goes by, everything happens in its own time.  Youth, on the other hand, is in a hurry.  Old people are more accepting that time has its own rhythm.  They are more likely to have noticed that everything worthwhile thing we make happen in life takes more time than everyone thought it would, whether we are building a bridge, making a close friend, creating an enduring marriage, raising a good kid, or tending to the ambitions of a mighty nation.

Biden is old enough to understand that everyone has value.  Sometimes their value is in illustrating a problem that affects us as a nation.  Sometimes it is in proposing or implementing solutions.  Even if the proposals are faulty or born of hostility, dealing with them can help us articulate more precisely the kind of outcomes we want and how we can achieve them.

Like many people who have grown old, Biden seems to understand that everyone is a mixture of feelings and attitudes, virtues and vices, illusions and realities.  He seems disinclined to categorize everyone who disagrees with him as an idiot or partisan.  He seems to believe that with all of us working together, we can create shared solutions even to the gigantic challenges we face, whether they originate from the majestic force of Mother Nature or from the pace of technological, global, and economic change.

Biden may be old, but he is not without gifts that this country needs.

As a nation, we are not known for being patient, thinking things through, or listening to those who disagree with us.  We have a long history of suspicion toward any expertise that arises from study.  We prefer a shouting match with people we disagree with, rather than patient discussion that involves shared truths and verified information.  The “cowboy” still lives in us; we kind of enjoy the barroom brawl where we toss aside our socialized instincts and beat the stuffing out of people we have labeled as devoid of virtue.

There will be a massive effort in the weeks and months to come to depict Biden’s age as his greatest weakness.  But focusing on his faltering tongue or stiff gait may leave us blind to other gifts he possesses because he is old.  These gifts may give us the respite we need to  prepare our country for the next generation of younger leaders.



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg June 20, 2023 at 1:43 pm

Imagine someone you know that is 82 years old starting a four-year term in the hardest most stressful job they have ever worked in their entire lives. A job that takes a mental and physical toll visible on those who held it prior. This not ok nor should it be normalized. Democrats need to run better candidates.


Chris June 20, 2023 at 2:15 pm

I have to agree with Great on this to some degree. While not everyone’s cognitive ability declines the same, there are reason’s to take age into account. I voted for Biden and TBH I did so not thinking very highly of him. I voted the way I did only get Trump out of there. If it comes down to a Biden/Trump ticket again I will not vote for Trump but it will be hard in good faith to vote for Biden again. I may simply skip over the Presidential part. Greg is also right in that the Democrats need to run better candidates. Not to say that will happen.


Vern June 20, 2023 at 3:49 pm

One doesn’t necessarily have to vote for party-line or simply to keep someone from attaining office. Nor should it be like a sports rivalry. One could always vote for policy. Dems and Cons aren’t the only game in town and shouldn’t be.


Chris June 20, 2023 at 5:00 pm

Sometimes there’s not really a choice. I could have voted for a 3rd party candidate but that would only result in one less vote for the one person that could have (and did) beat Trump. That’s the sad thing about our politics.


Chris June 20, 2023 at 2:16 pm

Meant to say Greg, not Great lol.


Greg June 20, 2023 at 8:21 pm

I am ok with that nickname. :)


Paul Webb June 20, 2023 at 2:37 pm

Well, let’s see. The average age of members of the Senate is 63.9 years, with a median age of 65. There are 21 senators between the age of 70 and 80, including Bernie Sanders who will turn 80 later this year. There are three senators over the age of 80 (Pat Leahy, Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein). Other than Feinstein, who is clearly showing signs of cognitive decline, is anybody questioning the age of members of congress and senate, or is it just Biden. And what about the Donald? (I really enjoying employing whataboutism against the Donald and his follower sand apologists) The Donald just turned 77, and would be 78 1/2 if he takes the oath of office in January, 2025. Anybody questioning his mental fitness?


sealintheSelkirks June 20, 2023 at 5:57 pm

On your very last question, Paul, they sure in the hell should be questioning Trump’s mental fitness, and his psychological as well. Mary Trump PhD has enumerated repeatedly why his is completely unfit to hold office. Let her do the psychological evaluation!

One problem with this essay is that there is no discussion of alternative candidates. It is, blatantly, a political ad for the status quo which, if anybody has noticed, is rapidly diminishing our chances at survival as a species much less as a civilization.

And there hasn’t been any comparison of the horrible neoliberal right wing policies he wholeheartedly supported in the 90s, when neoliberal B. Clinton took this country over veering it sharply towards being just another face of the corporate-owned political rulers and NOT a real alternative to GOP rule in fact if one studies the actual policies promoted and signed into law in those years by Biden. And what he’s actually supporting now. Nor is there any questioning of the absolutely awful policies his administration has enacted from the madness of Willow Bay oil drilling to the breaking of the railroad union and the wholehearted support of dictatorships all across the world that revel in the largess of weapons supplied by the US and the continued prosecution of Assange who revealed the war crimes committed by the US. Obama did the same, prosecuted journalists and whistleblowers. These are democrats???

Bluntly, Biden is also unfit to serve and that’s due to his lifelong commitment to neoliberal rightwing policies.

The other side of this is that I watched my Buddhist Priest maternal grandfather drift away in dementia and see damn near exactly the same happening with Biden. Grandpa’s last year I was his sole caretaker and I watched the same behavior happen that is now being broadcast with Biden as the star of the show. I doubt very much that Biden is going to survive another 4 years just like Reagan who was gone into Alzheimer’s in his second term and should have been removed long before the end of it.

Ex-prosecutor and now placeholder VP Harris stepping into that position of power is in my opinion an absolutely awful idea given her judicial policies and political record. This country doesn’t need more neoliberals, we need a real Progressive forward-thinking Democrat with ethics (if there are any left). You all do realize just how much different this country would be right this moment if the wealthy elite neoliberal DNC ‘leadership’ hadn’t deliberately de-railed Bernie Sanders, yes?

Very much like what Reagan’s crowd did to Pres. Jimmy Carter in 1980 in my estimation.



Vern June 20, 2023 at 3:42 pm

Warren Buffet is 92 and still rockin’!


Joni Halpern June 20, 2023 at 4:39 pm

Now, see, you guys? This is what a true dialogue really looks like. Thank you for contributing.


Michael June 22, 2023 at 4:03 pm

Biden is embarrassing the elderly at this point. Yes, the President is supposed to be a coherent speaker and not call other leaders “dictators” behind their back at private fundraisers. He could have told him that in person just a few days prior. I guess that’s his “wisdom” coming into play.


Sorry not Sorry June 23, 2023 at 8:57 am

Seriously? That’s nothing compared to the last regime. Besides, it is true.


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