The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

What’s Left: Trump’s Erratic Behavior Is More Concerning Than Biden’s Age

In today’s political realm, a politician’s age has materialized into a significant issue for many voters, and rightly so. A candidate’s age greatly shapes public perception of them and can often raise concerns about their leadership capabilities. These concerns are becoming increasingly prominent with the upcoming 2024 presidential election. The 81 year-old incumbent Joe Biden and 77 year-old former president Donald Trump are likely to be the respective Democratic and Republican candidate nominees, given the current state of the primaries. While Biden faces relentless scrutiny regarding his age and fitness for office, it’s imperative to recognize that Trump, his potential and probable opponent, is close in age and faces similar concerns. In a world where Trump and Biden emerge as presidential candidate options, I believe the focus on age should be accompanied by a more nuanced perspective that considers the broader context of their capabilities.

Since assuming office, speculation around Biden’s age and health has been a hot topic. At 81, Biden already holds the record for the oldest U.S. president. Over the past four years, news sources like NBC News have featured numerous clips of Biden tripping on stairs or falling off his bike, which have been quick to circulate. Similarly, he’s had verbal slip-ups as well, which raise concerns about his mental acuity. CNN reports how he referred to two dead European leaders when recounting recent conversations with global leaders and forgot the years he served as vice president. These mental concerns can increase worries surrounding his ability to be president due to the presumed mental demands of the job and the need for a leader with sharp cognitive abilities. Further, a recent poll demonstrates that 64 percent of voters don’t think Biden has the mental fitness for a second term, with 62 percent believing he doesn’t have the physical fitness either.

On the other hand, Donald Trump is just a few years younger than Biden and will be 78 years old by the upcoming election. Despite his younger age, Trump has also faced backlash for his supposedly declining mental and physical fitness. In the past, Trump has been recorded having difficulties walking down ramps and lifting his arm to sip water, according to The New York Times. In fact, Trump’s past leading military advisor, former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, has furthered allegations surrounding Trump’s mental condition. Milley reportedly had to take action to prevent Trump from launching a military attack following the Capitol insurrection. Milley has also spoken on the former president’s mental health, referring to him as sometimes crazy” or “erratic,” per CNN. These reports of Trump’s alleged cognitive decline further fuel some uneasiness regarding his leadership ability if he were elected. 

Given the physical and mental capabilities of the two, I believe when criticizing a candidate’s age and fitness, one ought to focus on the leader’s mental agility over their physicality. The role of a president involves much more than whether or not they can walk upstairs or ride a bicycle. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt served for 12 years in a wheelchair while also guiding the United States through the Great Depression and World War II. A president’s role involves making critical national security decisions that could span a wide variety of areas. Managing domestic and international affairs takes a degree of cognitive sharpness that will undoubtedly decline with age. 

Despite Biden’s older age, I believe he has portrayed a stronger mentality than his likely presidential opponent, Trump. Even if one disagrees with some of Biden’s policies, he has often shown a thorough understanding of pertinent issues. This has materialized, for instance, in his quick and effective COVID-19 response. Biden’s ability to mobilize resources such as vaccines, coordinate efforts across agencies and prioritize science-backed policies played an instrumental role in the country’s progress toward controlling the pandemic. He has demonstrated similar strengths by attempting to mitigate climate change through rejoining treaties, such as the Paris Agreement, and promoting renewable energy, electric vehicles and sustainable infrastructure.

In contrast, Trump is more known to act erratically and speak with less understanding and factual claims. For example, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, he suggested ingesting disinfectant as a method for combating the virus, according to NBC News. Statements like these — coupled with his previous encounters described by Milley —demonstrate his possible declining mentality. 

As Biden and Trump continue to age, concerns about their ability to hold office are valid. However, from my observations, the media has preferred to primarily depict Biden as an incompetent leader due to his declining physical fitness. Worries over Trump’s fitness have also seemed to occasionally circulate. To reiterate, I believe the most concerning consequence of their age should not be their physical fitness, but instead their mental acuity. The presidency is a job requiring much more mental than physical demands, and given the criteria, I believe that despite Biden’s older age, he has proven himself to be much less erratic and unpredictable than his likely opponent, Trump. 

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    Allan CrounseMar 2, 2024 at 11:27 am

    The general message of this article is spot-on, in my own estimation. Trump has shown again and again that he is, if nothing else, emotionally incompetent for the presidency. (I ought to list examples to back up such a claim, so I’ll start with the much-used example of him mocking a disabled reporter, which is only one of many times when Trump has shown himself to be petty and unable to take an insult without a baseless, personal attack in response. I’ll also point to his characterizations of Muslims and illegal immigrants as, for want of a better word, ‘bad hombres’, characterizations in which he has not clearly separated the incredibly small minority of terrorists and criminals, who are just as easily white Americans as members of those minorities, from the generally upstanding members of those larger groups. I’ll also point to his generally ill-thought rhetoric, comments that make Biden’s slip-up in musing over the potential responses to a ‘minor incursion’ in Ukraine, a statement in any event swiftly corrected, seem minor, such as Trump’s far more explicit claim that Putin can do ‘whatever he wants’ to NATO members who don’t spend enough on their militaries — which he said recently during the ongoing Ukraine war.)

    With that having been said and my position on these matters established, I do think this article presents the facts in a manner slightly too favorable to Biden and detrimental to Trump — not to a great extent, but to enough of an extent that I feel a response could be useful. Firstly, I would challenge the claim that Biden’s coronavirus policies were quick, effective, and science-based. Certainly they were more science-based than Trump’s. However, I would point out that in the specific instance of schools allowing students and teachers to be remote with minimal to no medical justification required, which has led to severe learning losses across the country, well into 2021, Biden and the federal government did not do a good enough job pressuring states to go back to in-person even when it was fairly clear that masks and social distancing worked. As education is more of a state issue than a federal one, Biden cannot take too much blame. But I do feel that there are valid reasons to question whether his response was truly effective and scientific, beyond the question of whether the response justified the costs. (I ought to provide sources for these claims; see “Edweek — Feds’ First Survey of Pandemic Learning Finds Nearly Half of Students Taught Remotely” this one does not entirely prove my point, but is relevant. I’ll freely admit that this argument stands on a shaky factual basis — if someone finds research that contradicts me, please correct me publicly.)

    Additionally, I would clarify that a more accurate reading of Trump’s infamous bleach comments would be to state that he publicly mused on whether you could use disinfectants such as bleach and ultraviolet light on the inside of the body, without making direct claims on the efficacy of such an idea — speculation that I view personally as deeply irresponsible for a non-medical expert to share from a position of power, but which was not quite so ignorant as this article implies it to be.

    I would also take this opportunity to affirm that Biden and the 118th Congress have done the most of any administration to combat climate change, agreeing with this article’s statement of Biden’s decisiveness in that regard.

    I realize this is a long, meandering, somewhat insufficiently fact-based comment, but I hope it can be helpful for readers. If I said anything that you disagree with, especially if it is factually incorrect, please correct me.