President Joe Biden’s Democratic allies are launching an aggressive defense against a special counsel’s explosive claims that the 81-year-old president couldn’t remember major milestones in his life, trying to diminish the significance of the prosecutor’s allegations that Biden was too forgetful to be charged for mishandling classified material.
Biden set the angry tone hours after special counsel Robert Hur’s report was released, dismissing the report’s conclusions about his memory and insisting he hadn’t forgotten the year his son Beau died, as Hur claimed.
Democrats on Capitol Hill and around the country quickly followed.
“Republicans saying that Biden is old is the least surprising thing in American politics,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said. “It’s all they’ve got.”
Democrats plan to answer the widespread questions about the 81-year-old president’s age and readiness by affirming that Biden is capable of being commander-in-chief and trying to discredit people who portray him as enfeebled.
Key to that strategy is drawing a core contrast with former President Donald Trump, the heavy Republican front-runner who is himself 77 and has also confused names and facts while also facing four indictments and multiple multimillion-dollar civil judgments.
The signs of support are crucial for Biden as he prepares for what could be a tight election against Trump.
Even before the report’s release, fears were mounting that the coalition that helped elect Biden in 2020 was fraying, making it all the more important for Biden to keep as many supporters as possible firmly on his side.
“The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous,” Vice President Kamala Harris declared Friday in Washington.
“I will say that when it comes to the role and responsibility of a prosecutor in a situation like that, we should expect that there would be a higher level of integrity than what we saw.”
Indignation spread into South Carolina, where Biden scored a commanding victory in the first-in-the-nation Democratic primary on February 3, which was designed by his campaign to project clear strength.
Some saw Biden’s forceful response to the special counsel as a promising sign.
“I truly believe this is bringing the best out in the president. It’s showing that he’s a fighter,” said LaJoia Broughton, a 42-year-old small-business owner in Columbia who cast a vote for Biden in the primary.
Biden aides say they do not expect the president or his campaign to take on the age question more directly.
They can’t make Biden any younger, and note that attacks on the president over his age were also persistent four years ago, when Trump labeled him “Sleepy Joe.”
Instead, they intend to draw on the blueprint of the 2020 campaign and argue many voters won’t want a repeat of Trump’s turbulent time in the White House.
They also plan to highlight Biden’s accomplishments and an economy that continues to show strength.
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