Is Donald Trump slipping? In his endless quest to give everyone a derogatory nickname, he’s now calling Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe.” It’s not clear why he’s calling him “Sleepy,” but it might be a typo. Perhaps, he meant “Sloppy Joe.” That would be spicier. Then again, maybe that’s Trump’s subtle way of mocking Biden’s age. Or maybe not, since one thing we’ve learned about The Donald is that he’s not subtle.
The problem for him is he’s nearly as old as Biden. Neither of them matches Bernie Sanders, who is so crotchety that he’s in a geriatric class by himself. President Trump still insists that even though he’s a senior, he’s actually a freshman: “I just feel like a young man. I’m so young. I can’t believe it. I’m the youngest person. I am a young, vibrant man.”
Now, there are those tacky enough to say that he acts like a kid barely past puberty, flooded with hormones, but let’s set that one aside for now. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, it’s a pity that youth is wasted on the old. Or on the pretense of youth.
Actually, Ronald Reagan came up with the classiest way to dispose of this bogus issue. In 1984, when Reagan was 73 and debating challenger Walter Mondale, 56, he was asked whether his age was a valid consideration. “I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” Reagan responded. “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
You’ll remember that Reagan slaughtered Mondale to win re-election. Trump has sewed up the Republican nomination, which is a huge advantage over Biden. He’s trying to win his party’s primary, which is festering with 20 candidates of all ages. The newbies’ argument, which they make oh-so-gently so as not to antagonize all those elderly constituents, is that it’s time for fresh ideas, time to look past the old white guys who have run us into the ground.
Biden is definitely an old white guy. One might argue that one still has the ability to learn a few tricks. But one also has 50 years’ worth of track record in national politics … good track record and bad. Biden has seemed completely flustered with the kerfuffle over his old-fashioned tactile style of politics, even though no one has accused him of doing anything sneaky-sexual.
But his response to the inappropriate-touching accusations have seemed, well, out of touch. Additionally, the criticisms of how he handled the sensational 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings back when he was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering the Thomas nomination to the Supreme Court bench has appeared to befuddle Biden.
Anita Hill accused Thomas of all kinds of gross behavior back when she worked for him, really putting sexual harassment on the map as an serious issue. Nevertheless, Clarence Thomas was confirmed, after Biden’s handling of the hearings as chairman seemed to give short shrift to Hill and her accusations. Even he admits he blew it.
All of that makes him look old, as in past-his-prime old. He’s dismissed by many on the left as a relic whose time has come and gone. The Democrats will have to choose the one they consider most likely to depose Donald Trump and give him the nickname “former president.”
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.