The White House is lashing out at the media’s fixation on President Biden’s age and his stamina for executing the job, seeking to go on offense on an issue that polls suggest is one of Biden’s biggest vulnerabilities in his reelection campaign.
Aides in a series of social media posts took direct aim at news stories and headlines — even those from left-leaning publications — relating to the 80-year-old president’s age, suggesting it was a lazy narrative that ignored Biden’s marathon trip in Asia over the last five days.
“Hanging in the basement,” Herbie Ziskend, the deputy communications director wrote in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, along with a photo of Biden’s schedule for Monday, when he was set to spend the morning in Vietnam and the afternoon in Alaska before landing in Washington after midnight.
Ziskend was referring to a campaign attack used by former President Trump’s team in 2020 that Biden was running for president from his basement because he was using the pandemic as an excuse to hide his lack of stamina due to his age.
The X post was in response to an Axios story from a few days earlier that suggested both Biden and Trump are “running basement-esque campaigns in 2024” with limited public events.
Principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton took issue with a CNN headline that highlighted an awkward end to Biden’s press conference Sunday in Hanoi in which press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre interrupted him while Biden was still responding to a shouted question from a reporter in the room.
“Here on Earth, we saw the President start his day in India at the G20, end the day in Hanoi with a substantive & detailed 40-minute press conference at 9pm, and continue to answer questions—including from @cnn—as he departed. What will be enough?” Dalton wrote on X.
The attacks by the White House even targeted left-leaning publications seen as friendlier to Democrats.
White House Communications Director Ben LaBolt mocked a Daily Beast headline that focused on how Biden concluded his press conference at 9:30 p.m. local time in Vietnam by saying he was going to bed.
“Presidents shall never sleep. Not even at night after days of marathon meetings overseas. Sage guidance from The Daily Beast. Next up in the series: Presidents shall never eat,” LaBolt wrote on X.
In a rare occurrence, Jean-Pierre complimented Fox News’s Peter Doocy, whom she often tangles with at press briefings, for telling viewers Biden had been pulling “the equivalent of an all-nighter” Sunday when he started the day in India with meetings and ended it in Vietnam with a press conference.
“Thank you, Peter,” Jean-Pierre said in response.
For Biden allies, the president’s trip from Washington, D.C., to India for the Group of 20 (G20) summit, then to Vietnam to meet with government and business leaders, to Alaska for a 9/11 memorial ceremony and back to Washington, was proof that the 80-year-old president can handle the rigors of the job.
Biden met with leaders from India, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and other countries at the G20. He also announced a new comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam, meeting with government and business leaders in Hanoi.
The president himself nodded to the nonstop schedule during his press conference in Vietnam on Sunday.
“Good evening, everyone. It is evening, isn’t it?” Biden said at the top of his remarks.
Biden and White House officials often faced questions about whether the president is up for the demands of a second term for months. But it’s not just the media making it a focus — several national polls have indicated the issue isn’t going away amid repeated attacks by Republicans on the matter.
Biden, the oldest person to ever be sworn in as president, would be 86 at the end of a potential second term.
A CNN poll released last week found a whopping 76 percent of Americans say they are seriously concerned Biden’s age could negatively affect his ability to serve out a full second term.
That followed a Wall Street Journal poll conducted Aug. 24-30 that found 73 percent of registered voters said the phrase “too old to run for president” described Biden well.
An Associated Press/NORC poll also conducted in late August also found that 77 percent of Americans and 69 percent of Democrats think Biden is too old for a second term, though 82 percent of Democrats said they would probably or definitely support him as the party’s nominee.
Republicans have made no secret that they plan to make Biden’s age and his stamina for the job a focal point in their attacks heading into 2024.
Trump, the current front-runner for the GOP’s nomination in 2024, has repeatedly described Biden as a “Manchurian candidate,” and he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last week that he believes Biden’s “body is shot, and his mind is worse.”
Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has spent much of her own presidential campaign making an argument for generational change, and she has frequently suggested that she is actually running against Vice President Harris in questioning whether Biden will serve out a second term.
White House aides have dismissed those attacks as ridiculous, and Biden himself has said while questions about his age are fair game, voters should judge him on his track record in the job.
Some Democratic strategists believe that while Biden has shown he’s up to the task and has a strong record of legislative success to lean on, the White House will not be able to ignore polls that show the president’s age matters to a large swath of voters.
“Joe Biden has shown that he’s up for the job, willing to do the job. But is it an X factor? Yes. Should people be concerned? Of course. We should be concerned every day about our health and our vitality,” Donna Brazile, a longtime Democratic strategist, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
“But Democrats also understand that Joe Biden has the experience to lead and he has the commitment to serve the American people,” she added. “So while it might be an X factor, there are other factors that will also come into consideration when we go to the polls some 420 days from now.”