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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Jayne: Hangup on age dodging the facts

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Page Editor
Published: March 9, 2024, 6:02am

At least he’s not as old as Biden.

Donald Trump encouraged supporters to prevent the certification of a free and fair election.

He tried to nullify the votes of 81 million Americans who preferred Joe Biden.

He spent three hours doing nothing to stop an insurrection that defiled the U.S. Capitol.

But at least he’s not as old as Biden.

As the COVID-19 pandemic was taking hold in February 2020, Trump said, “You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.”

He frequently claimed COVID would “just disappear.”

He spoke publicly about injecting disinfectants to kill the virus. In case you are wondering, injecting disinfectants can kill the whole body, not just a virus.

But at least he’s not as old as Biden.

Trump made more than 30,000 false or misleading statements during four years as president.

He has been ordered by a court to pay $83.3 million for defamation of a woman who accused him of rape.

He has been ordered by a judge to pay $354 million in a fraud case for lying about the value of his properties in order to secure more favorable loan rates.

But at least he’s not as old as Biden.

And that seems to be the only straw that Trump supporters can grasp as a rematch looms in this year’s presidential election. Trump tried to overthrow the government, is an incompetent leader and is a proven liar. His presidency was the embodiment of a kakistocracy (great word; look it up).

But, his acolytes say, at least he’s not as old as Biden.

The strategy is curious. Because attempting to paint Biden as old and feeble and demented suggests that somehow Trump is more competent.

Yet Trump in recent speeches has confused then-presidential candidate Nikki Haley with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He confused a photo of the woman who accused him of rape with one of his ex-wives. He has frequently confused Biden with Barack Obama, saying, “And Putin has so little respect for Obama that he’s starting to throw around the nuclear word. He’s starting to talk nuclear weapons today.”

According to Forbes.com, that is at least the eighth time Trump has confused Biden and Obama. Trump supporters likely appreciate any chance to throw barbs at Obama, whether or not the man holds public office, but Trump also said, “Just think of it, we would be in World War II, very quickly.”

Trump’s staunchest critics might not be surprised that he is unable to count to III. But the rest of the public, the average voter, should be worried about the cognitive abilities of somebody who is running for president — and Biden isn’t the biggest concern.

As Zeeshan Aleem wrote in an opinion piece for MSNBC.com: “The primary reason Trump gets a pass on mental acuity is that his whole persona entails disdain for speaking precisely or truthfully. … But Trump’s rhetorical brand shouldn’t shield him from scrutiny on questions of aging.”

If Trump were a family member, you would take away his car keys. For Biden, we’ll just keep him away from his bike.

Admittedly, the choice in this presidential election is not ideal, but it is the choice we have. And it is startling that Trump supporters and many media members are focusing on Biden’s age more than his accomplishments.

You know, like actually passing an infrastructure bill. Trump spent four years declaring “infrastructure week” and getting nothing done. More recently, after years of complaining about illegal immigration, Trump has urged his disciples in Congress to oppose a bill that would actually do something about.

Copious evidence suggests that Trump is a narcissist who has authoritarian tendencies that should be anathema to Americans. Meanwhile, he is losing what little grasp he may have had on reality.

But at least he’s not as old as Biden.