A series of gaffes by former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has sparked concerns about the 76-year-old’s age and mental well-being.
Now, Biden’s former surgeon, who operated on his brain after the then-senator suffered two brain aneurysms in 1988, is trying to belay some of those concerns.
“He is every bit as sharp as he was 31 years ago. I haven’t seen any change,” Dr. Neal Kassell told Politico. “I can tell you with absolute certainty that he had no brain damage, either from the hemorrhage or from the operations that he had. There was no damage whatsoever.”
Kassell also indicated that he has enough confidence in Biden’s brain to vote for him.
“I am going to vote for the candidate who I am absolutely certain has a brain that is functioning. And that narrows it down exactly to one,” he said.
Concerns over Biden’s health have arisen as the former vice president has at times struggled to remember details of major events, while also spouting statements that don’t appear to make sense.
This week, he asserted that Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were murdered in the 1970s, even though both men actually died in 1968, as Fox News pointed out.
Last week, he mixed up also Burlington, Iowa, and Burlington, Vermont. This in addition to his statement that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids,” and his claim that he was still vice president during the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida.
Biden’s current physician, meanwhile, has insisted his client is in perfect health.
“Vice President Biden is in excellent physical condition,” Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a statement provided by the Biden campaign to Politico. “He is more than capable of handling the rigors of the campaign and the office for which he is running.”
According to some experts, presidential candidates like Biden tend to have better access to health care, meaning they have longer life expectancies.
“They all belong to a subgroup of the population that is privileged. And privileged subgroups tend to live longer and better than the average,” Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, who led a recent study to determine the likelihoods of the current presidential candidates dying in office, told Politico.
He also noted that presidential candidates “have prospects for survival that extend well beyond the four-year term of the office. The bottom line is their chronological age does not matter at all.”
Not everyone is convinced that age is just a number for Biden.
Writing in Reason, author and syndicated columnist Ira Stoll pointed out that questions about the former vice president’s age as he seeks the highest office in the land are completely legitimate.
“At 76, [Biden] is older than Dan Quayle, whose term as vice president began more than 30 years ago,” Stoll wrote. “He’s older than George W. Bush, whose term as president ended more than a decade ago. He’s older than Bill or Hillary Clinton, older than Al Gore or John Kerry.”
“He’s so old that he’s not even technically a baby boomer — he’s from the prior generation. He was born in 1942, while World War II was under way, but before America tested the first atom bomb.”
Biden’s age isn’t necessarily a hindrance, Stoll said, but it could be.
“It’s possible that the visibility of the way Biden is wrestling with his own aging could make him a more relatable and sympathetic figure for the American electorate, or for that matter, for the country itself,” he wrote.
“Or it’s possible that the Biden blunders will confirm the idea that he is a politician whose moment has passed. One big risk facing the Democrats now is that their primary electorate gives Biden a pass that he won’t get in the general election.”
As he has for most of the Democratic primary season thus far, Biden is currently the front-runner. He has a 12.8 percentage point edge over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
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