In Asia for three days, President Biden enlisted the support of global leaders to help fund developing countries, strengthened the alliance supporting Ukraine, and reached an agreement with Vietnam to fight Chinese aggression.
But even before the president departed Vietnam on Sunday night, he was hit hard with an opposing storyline.
Conservative media sites used the president’s press conference at the conclusion of his tour as the latest proof that he is too old to perform on the international stage, and by Monday morning, as the 80-year-old was heading home on Air Force One, they had already made their case.
It’s a tendency that drives Mr. Biden and his top advisers crazy at the White House; they think the president’s detractors are deliberately spreading false rumours about his age and health.
Mr. Biden was soft-spoken and seemed exhausted as he answered questions on a wide range of global policy problems, including China’s economic woes and climate change. Some in the crowd were so confused by Mr. Biden’s digression into a well-known anecdote about liars in a John Wayne movie that he used it to make a point about climate doubters.
It wasn’t the first time the president’s opponents exploited his own words and deeds against him, particularly on social media where context and background are sometimes lost in the noise.
Mr. Biden’s advisors believe that “fake and distorted internet posts” are to blame for the harm done to their candidate’s electoral standing, rather than actual concerns about the president’s health or stamina.
For instance, when Mr. Biden visited Maui to see the fire-ravaged region, he was seen touring the island with his head down low. The conservative media machine went into overdrive spreading the lie that he had fallen asleep throughout the event, despite the fact that the whole footage proved otherwise.
Workers at the White home remember the summer of 2022, when Mr. Biden fell off his bike near his Delaware beach home and the story went viral thanks to conservative opponents on social media. His advisors defined his fall as “small” and “anyone may experience it. Or this year’s Air Force Academy graduation, when he was giving out degrees and stumbled over a sandbag. (He reportedly got up and was OK thereafter.)
Since President Biden’s experienced leadership and drive are responsible for turning infrastructure from a punchline into a reality and Medicare drug negotiations from an abandoned promise into a 30-year breakthrough for patients, it makes perfect sense that the QAnon crowd keeps inadvertently admitting the best it can do is keep moving its credibility into the red or complain that he likes dogs, as Mr. Bates put it.
Then, echoing the president’s most baffling dig, he wished the graduating class “best of luck in their senior year.”
Even yet, the president’s performance during the Vietnam press conference was not his finest.
Trump’s speeches and press conferences as president were notorious for his incoherent babbling. He rants that windmills are killing eagles and that the United States is running out of ammo. Mr. Trump’s rants often lacked coherence and seemed angry rather than rational.
Mr. Biden was more competent in that regard.
His greatest political weakness, according to several polls, is the widespread belief that old age has diminished his faculties, a point that was driven home by the press conference.
Seventy-three percent of respondents to a recent survey by The Wall Street Journal agreed that the president is too elderly to run for reelection. Seventy-three percent thought Mr. Biden was too old to be in government in an April Reuters/Ipsos survey, but just 53 percent said the same of Mr. Trump, his main Republican opponent at age 77.
His re-election campaign and the White House say they are unconcerned by the polls. They argue that these polls are little more than a snapshot of the political climate before voters are faced with a stark choice (like another between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump).