OPINION

OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: And the band plays on


Joe Biden is another year older, and Donald Trump is as transparently ridiculous as ever.

And the band plays on in America, where the dysfunctional political system fails us by offering only the ancient and the buffoonish as choices for leadership in a troubled world.

Tuesday was a bad day for Biden. It was his birthday. It was that annual occasion when one is suddenly both another day older and another year older.

For him, one year older probably meant two points down in a swing-state poll. After all, his main negative circumstance is the calendar. His negatives rise with each turn of the page.

The country confronted on Tuesday a new quantifiable measurement--the number of years Biden has existed, turned 81--with which to consider the sufficiency of his current and looming vigor for the job he presumes to ask for until he's 86.

The calendar is no one's fault or failing. Our time is our time, not of our choosing. Some things occur before our time. Some things occur after our time has passed. Some push off too soon. Some stay too long.

No one can stop the calendar, whether with hair dye or facelift or denial or political partisanship.

There was a time when I could take a shovel and dig a hole in this backyard through roots and rocks on the instructions of my better half, then go about my business normally the next day. Now I am practically immobile the next day, groaning and teetering from acute soreness in the mid-regions.

There will come a time, and I'm predicting it will be next spring, when I declare that we have enough plantings in the backyard and that maybe some young buck could be hired if someone thinks we simply must have another.

It will be sad that the old man who once dug no longer digs while a youngster does. It also will be life.

I wonder if there is any chance that we'll have younger presidential candidates by spring.

Declining physical condition for shoveling and declining mental condition for being president are entirely different things, you say.

Indeed, they are. Our preventive physical health care is better than our preventive mental health care, as shown by the ravages of Alzheimer's and dementia. You're apt to lose cognitive skill about the same time as, if not before, your sacroiliac joint needs WD-40.

I probably will get called ageist by Democratic hyperpartisans for writing that Biden did not look steady the last time I saw video of him walking across grass, nor sharp when last I saw video of him holding forth via teleprompter.

That is no more an attack than noticing a man's sniffles and thinking he has a cold.

Biden's place in history is saving us from Trump. He imperils that by the prospect of not getting it done the second time.

He should get out of the race. He should let Democratic primary voters decide whether to anoint his running mate or pick, as I personally hope they would, someone else aged 40 to 70.

Kamala Harris was a fine running mate for Biden. He owed his nomination to Black voters and the Democrats owed their general-election advantages to women. She championed both well.

But she had not distinguished herself as a presidential candidate. She presumed to run on single-payer government health care but seemed in her first televised town hall not to have considered before the question of whether there would remain a role for private health insurance in her plan. Under duress, she said no, putting out of business all Medicare supplements and private alternatives and casting the United States to the left of Denmark on socialized medicine.

And she has assured few as vice president of a readiness to ascend.

Now to the buffoon: Trump celebrated Biden's birthday by putting on social media a letter from his personal doctor saying he was in "excellent physical and mental health" and "will continue to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle for years to come."

It was accompanied by no supporting data such as blood tests, blood-pressure and other vital-sign records, or weight reports--never mind psychiatric evaluations.

Tell me: What doctor is it who can promise good health tomorrow, much less for years to come, for any patient of any age, much less one 77 and a partner of mine in obesity?

The young buck who digs the next hole in my backyard could become deathly ill the next day.

That would be no reason to choose me to dig the hole after that.

What if, just to imagine, Democrats ran 52-year-old Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a solid progressive, and the Republicans ran 51-year-old former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, a solid conservative?

Offered two women in the prime of their public lives without the baggage of age or disorder, would American politics know what to do with a choice not driven by personal vulnerability and entirely negative?

If only we could find out.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at [email protected]. Read his @johnbrummett feed on X, formerly Twitter.