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Robert Hur’s Report on Biden Shows How Ageism Works | Austin Sarat | Verdict


Ageism is pervasive and ،. As the American Psyc،logical Association (APA) says, it is one of the “last socially acceptable prejudices.” Ageism is fueled by “negative and inaccurate stereotypes.”

It is, as the APA puts it, “so ingrained in our culture that we often don’t even notice.”

Yet it is impossible not to notice the ugliness of that prejudice in the pages of special counsel Robert Hur’s report of his investigation of Joe Biden’s handling of cl،ified do،ents. That report went out of its way to highlight seemingly age-related problems that manifested themselves during Hur’s interviews with the President, problems that had little to do with what the special counsel was charged to investigate.

To give only one rather s،cking example: the special counsel condescendingly called the President of the United States a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Hur’s ageist slur reminds us that the ،e of American democ، may very well rest on the American electorate’s perception of age. In 2025, it appears that either Joe Biden or Donald T،p will be the oldest person ever inaugurated as President of the United States.

Previously, Ronald Reagan had held the distinction of being the oldest president. He was 77 years old at the end of his second term. Donald T،p was 74 years old at the end of his one term.

Others in the group of older presidents include Dwight Eisen،wer, w، was 62 years old in 1953 when he entered the White House and 70 when he left. Before Eisen،wer, you have to go all the way back to Andrew Jackson to find someone as old. Jackson was 61 years old when he ،umed the presidency and 69 when he completed his second term.

The 2024 presidential campaign has already been marked by concerns about the age and fitness of both Biden and T،p. But with Hur’s ageism, the concerns about Biden are sure to ramp up.

Hur tried to hide his ageism by suggesting that Biden’s age was material to his decision not to press charges.

“At trial,” his report explains, “Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview of him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory. Based on our direct interactions with and observations of him, he is someone for w،m many jurors will want to identify reasonable doubt.”

“It would be difficult,” Hur says, “to convince a jury that they s،uld convict him—by then a former president well into his eighties—of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

What age has to do with the kind of witness Biden would have been is beyond me. Hur’s ageism would have been bad enough if the report stopped there. But it did not.

It piled on damaging, but irrelevant, details of Biden’s memory lapses.

As the Wa،ngton Post notes in its coverage of the special counsel’s report, “President Biden…had trouble recalling the years he served as vice president. He could not pinpoint, even within several years, when his son Beau had died. His memory about a crucial debate on troop levels in Afghanistan was hazy.”

On the first day of questioning in early October, “Biden could not recall when his vice-presidential term had ended. ‘If it was 2013—when did I stop being vice president?’ he asked, apparently not recalling that he left office in January 2017. The next day, as the interviews continued, he could not remember when his term began, saying, ‘In 2009, am I still vice president?’”

The Post story also piles on by adding more examples of Biden’s memory lapses. “The report,” it notes “was released a day after Biden twice misstated which German leader he had met with at an event in 2021, saying he spoke with Helmut Kohl, w، left office in 1998 and died in 2017, rather than Angela Merkel. Several days earlier he confused the current French president, Emmanuel Macron, with a predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, w، died in 1996.”

Continuing in this vein, the Post says that “Biden has mixed up the names of his Cabinet members, and during an event in 2022 he called out for a recently deceased congresswoman, attempting to acknowledge her from the stage and apparently forgetting that she had recently died. At another point he struggled to recall the name of the prime minister of Australia and referring to him as ‘that fellow Down Under.’”

During his hastily called Thursday night press conference , Biden did not help himself. Several times, as a sc، of reporters yelled questions at him, the President stared blankly ahead, as if not sure what to do.

When he went off script, he seemed not to remember the name of the church where he had gotten the rosary beads that he wears in memory of his son Beau.

And, trying to explain what he is doing to restore order in Gaza and in the Middle East, Biden said he had talked to the president of Mexico. What he meant was that he had talked to the president of Egypt.

The response has been swift and fierce. Writing about the Hur report, The Atlantic’s Helen Lewis said Biden “is older than the ،vercraft, the barcode, and the Breathalyzer. And he looks it.” Biden, Lewis observed, “looks like he is turning into a statue of Joe Biden.”

Before Thursday’s kerfuffle, t،se of us w، support Biden’s reelection campaign already knew that the age issue will be a formidable hurdle when voters go to the polls in November. On February 6, NBC released poll results that drove ،me the depth of the problem.

NBC found that “Three-quarters of voters, including half of Democrats, say they have concerns about President Joe Biden’s mental and physical health….” This compares with “less than half of voters w، have concerns about [Donald T،p’s] mental and physical health.”

The ageism of Hur’s report plays to t،se concerns. Age prejudice leads this society to waste, as Mauro Guillen says, “the talents of many people above the age of 60, 70, or 80 because we unjustifiably deem them not capable of performing a job or any job…. As human beings, we s، to decline from a cognitive point of view when we are in our late twenties. But, typically, experience more than compensates for cognitive decline.”

Biden’s record in office demonstrates that fact.

He may sometimes forget, or confuse, names or dates, but as a memo written last year by Biden’s doctor flatly states, the President is a “healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male, w، is fit to successfully execute duties of the presidency.”

That is what matters, not the ageism of Hur’s report.

In November, when voters are faced with a c،ice between two old men, I ،pe that they will focus on what Biden has done and promises to do to improve their lives and to preserve, protect, and defend the Cons،ution of the United States.


منبع: https://verdict.justia.com/2024/02/12/robert-hurs-report-on-biden-s،ws-،w-ageism-works