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Old? Make that bold Joe Biden

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Biden and Zelenskiy hug after visiting Kyiv church to pay tribute to fallen soldiers Joe Biden has visited the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, defying threats of Russian missile attacks.
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Guardian News)
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By Bob Gaydos

About that Joe Biden is too old to run for re-election column I wrote a little while back: I may have been a bit hasty.

The "old" man just took the boldest, most dramatic act by an American president since, well, I can't remember when.

Biden's surprise trip to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was at once diplomatically and politically brilliant, as well as brave.

Shaking hands with the Ukrainian president in the middle of a war zone in an area not controlled by American forces immediately sent two messages:

  1. To Russian President Vladimir Putin: The United States of America is still the protector of freedom and democracy around the world. The leader of the Free World. Do not mess with us.
  2. To Democrats (and Republicans) considering running for president in 2024: Joe Biden is still an astute politician and the leader of the Democratic Party. Don't mess with him.

Too old? A special military flight to Poland and then a secret train ride to Kyiv for a "golf" rendezvous, with a courtesy call to the Russians that the American president will be visiting the heart of the country they have so miserably failed at conquering so don't do anything stupid? That's a movie script.

The scenes of Biden shaking hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Biden's later comments in Poland had to infuriate Putin as much as it heartened Ukrainians and citizens of Poland and other Eastern European countries fearful of Russia's expansionist tendencies. One year since Russia invaded Ukraine and Biden is in Kyiv, not Putin. The U.S. and NATO stand resolved to help Ukraine defeat the Russian invaders.

It also undoubtedly gave pause to any Democrats thinking of challenging Biden in 2024, as he appears to be planning a campaign for reelection.

Of course, there is also the fact that there is no obvious, younger, replacement candidate among Democrats. No charismatic leader. Nor is there anyone with the political experience and savvy demonstrated in his first two years by this president who occasionally flubs some words, stutters and walks slowly.

As for Republican presidential hopefuls, Donald Trump has already lost to Biden, is under several criminal investigations, any one of which could result in his indictment and, as Nikki Haley not so subtly reminded us of, is in the same age category as Biden. Over 75. Haley, the former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the Trump administration, announced her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination by calling for competency tests for any candidate for federal office over the age of 75.

Gee, wonder who she was talking about. Personally, I think one would have to be out of his or her mind to run for Congress, although these days that doesn't seem to matter in Republican primaries. But Haley's statement represents a blatant ageism, assuming that candidates younger than 75 would automatically pass a competency test. For what it's worth and based on what we've all seen and heard, I think Biden easily passes and Trump flunks any legitimate one.

Do I wish Biden were maybe at least 10 years younger? Sure. I'm a year older than Biden. I know the actuarial numbers on life expectancy and the daily risks of life in general for older people.

But presidents get the best of care and it's hard to dismiss experience and boldness, especially when combined with results.

Biden has got inflation down to a manageable level, the unemployment rate is the lowest in decades, a wide-ranging infrastructure bill (promised, but never delivered by Trump) will bring jobs and improve bridges, highways, railways across the country, a new chips act will take much of that business away from China and Medicare recipients will get a break on drug prices. He even tricked Republicans into saying they don't want to cut Social Security and Medicare in giving his State of the Union speech. Not a bad first couple of years, especially for an "old" man.

An old man, by the way, dealing with a Republican party pledged to oppose anything and everything Democrats propose. In a party with a growing progressive wing, the moderate Biden has demonstrated he knows how to be president and get some things accomplished in spite of sharp differences of opinion. And, in his trip to Kyiv, he has displayed courage and leadership to go with his ability to connect with the average American.

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Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
 

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