A Biden-Trump rematch will be a painful watch – Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly is an Irish News columnist with a background in politics and public relations. He is also a former member of the Policing Board.

The electoral race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump has been portrayed by many as a clash between two cultural warriors
Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump appear to be displaying cognitive difficulties about names, dates and events

Last week on the Jubilee Line, a young man offered me his seat. I politely declined but thought, there, it’s happened – I have become old.

Although in possession of a recently acquired bus pass, I am as jaunty as ever. But unfortunately, a mane of white hair, turmeric-aided joints and a face embedded with deep crevices (kinder voices say laughter lines) suggest otherwise.

I contented myself that the ebullient Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald is less than six years younger than me.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald arriving at Parliament Buildings
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald at Parliament Buildings (Oliver McVeigh/PA)

Irish people take age in their stride. The newly appointed Bishop of Down and Connor, Alan McGuckian, is a spritely 71 and President Michael D Higgins is a hearty octogenarian.

The undemocratic rulers of Russia and China, Putin and Xi Jinping, are both septuagenarians. Putin’s recent declaration that during the Second World War, Poland left Hitler with no choice but to invade, would suggest he has delirious moments when dealing with historical facts.

The saintly Vicar of Rome, Pope Francis, whilst showing signs of some physical decline, is mentally agile for a man of 87.

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St Peter’s Square on Sunday (AP)
Pope Francis is still mentally agile at the age of 87 (Andrew Medichini/AP)

So age isn’t necessarily a barrier to occupying high office.

And let’s face it: Prime Minister Sunak is a mere 43 and doesn’t exactly set the world alight. As for Liz Truss (48) and Kemi Badenoch (43), the wisdom gene which comes with age has not dropped yet and shows no signs of ever doing so.

On the other side of the pond, it’s hard to believe that some of the most prolific senators, both Democratic and Republican, are aged between 78 and 90.

The US Supreme Court rules are ludicrous. An appointee may remain in situ until they decide to retire or die in office.

Justice Stevens sat on the highest court in the USA until he was 90 and Ruth Ginsberg remained in office until 87. At least the UK Supreme Court has a mandatory retirement age of 75.

But what has drawn this column to the issue of age and public life is the clear cognitive decline of President Biden.

His record of public service is outstanding, as are his achievements in turning around the American economy whilst in office. It was important that Biden beat the demagogue Donald Trump for the sake of a country on the brink of insanity.

When Biden visited Ireland last year, he seemed energetic but it also had the hallmarks of a valedictory lap.

A report has now spelt out in harsh but honest words what many Americans feared most about their president

Now a report has spelt out in harsh but honest words what many Americans feared most about their president.

The author – Special Counsel Robert Hur – described the president as “a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with poor memory”.

Hur understood Mr Biden was a decent person, highlighting the president’s willing cooperation with his investigation into the retention of classified documents. This was in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s refusal to hand over files to his investigators. But then again, Trump is devoid of a moral compass.

The box where classified Afghanistan documents were found in the garage of President Joe Biden’s Delaware home, during a search by the FBI (Justice Department via AP)
A report found that Joe Biden could not recall when he was vice-president or "even within several years, when his son Beau died" (Niall Carson/PA)

President Biden can appear wooden or disorientated, often stalling during speeches. Sometimes the words simply do not come.

In recent press conferences, he has confused the name of the president of Mexico with the Egyptian leader, Fattah al Sisi, and at another, he referred to the French President Macron as the long-time dead Francois Mitterand.

The Biden administration has been competent and steady, especially when compared to the 91% staff turnover in the Trump ‘A team’.

Trump is also too old to be US President and he, too, appears to have cognitive difficulties about names, dates and events. Unfortunately, Republican supporters seem able to forgive his clouded memory as much as his misdemeanours, infidelities, lack of candour and acquaintance with the truth.

Former president Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on January 27 in Las Vegas (John Locher/AP)
Former president Donald Trump is unfit and unsuitable to ever again hold public office, but the spectre of a comeback remains real (John Locher/AP)

Trump, like Boris Johnson, is unfit and unsuitable to ever again hold public office. But the spectre of a comeback remains.

The Democrats may need to find a new standard bearer – but who? A Biden-Trump rematch will be a painful watch.