In an address delivered from Air Force One following his seven-and-a-half-hour visit to the Middle East, U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday pledged solidarity with Israel. The president’s comments came after he announced a deal with Egypt to provide limited humanitarian aid to Gaza, while he also pleaded with Israelis not to become consumed with the deadly attack carried out by Hamas nearly two weeks ago.
Aboard the presidential aircraft, Joe Biden added that if Hamas confiscates any of the aid, it would end immediately.
“We’re not going to send any aid to Hamas,” Biden emphasized.
Joe Biden: Struggling to Speak?
Though Biden traveled to Israel on Wednesday to support a U.S. ally in the Middle East, some commentators paid more attention to how the president appeared during the return trip to the United States than what he actually said.
The Spectator’s “Steerpike” – its unknown gossip columnist – was among the media watchers who questioned whether Biden was up to the trip.
“Is it ageist to suggest that an obviously frail 80-year-old might not be well suited to the task of resolving global conflicts? Even a man in his prime would struggle to fly from Washington to Israel, do a frantic day of talks, greet the suffering, make a speech and jet off again hours later to go back to leading the free world,” Steerpike wrote on Thursday. “Joe Biden is not, to put it mildly, a man in his prime.”
The president’s age continues to be a concern for American voters, and the issue could only get worse if he is elected to a second term. Earlier this year, NBC News reported that aides have tried to address Biden’s age limitations by using note cards, and he has made increasing use of the shorter stairs to board Air Force One.
Travel is Taxing – Just Ask Woodrow Wilson
Any business traveler will tell you that flights across the country can be exhausting. But a president routinely makes such trips, while often also jetting across the world in whirlwind fashion.
It can take its toll on anyone – even a president.
In September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson set out on a national speaking tour to sell the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations to the American people. These were hot-button issues that had mixed public support. For three and a half weeks, the president and his staff rode the rails across the country.
Wilson was hardly the picture of health before the grueling crusade, but he rapidly declined from exhaustion. He lost his appetite, his asthma grew worse, and he suffered a mini-stroke, which was followed by a much more serious stroke.
Wilson’s health only declined further, yet he refused to resign. Historians have suggested that his wife, Edith Wilson, basically served as the chief executive until the end of her husband’s second term in March 1921.
Wilson was not the only president to have his health conditions hidden from the American people. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan all had various ailments that were concealed during their time in the Oval Office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt went to extreme lengths to hide his polio, and it has been long argued that his excessive travel during the Second World War, along with the stress the conflict brought on, worsened his health. FDR was so frail during the Yalta Conference at the end of the Second World War that it may have impaired his judgment, impacting the fate of Eastern Europe and setting the stage for the Cold War.
Thus, concerns about Biden’s age may be legitimate. While flying in Air Force One tops a seat in first class, or perhaps even most private jets, it is still the time in the air, and jetlag is taxing.
Even if Biden were to reduce his travel, the presidency is a 24/7 job and requires a person who can truly handle its rigors. This recent trip showed that Biden may not be up for such trips. And while the American press may have once covered for FDR, the same certainly is not true today.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.