| 21 June 2024, Friday |

McConnell, Biden lapses highlight advanced age of US leaders

The latest reminder that America’s most influential political leaders are significantly older than those in other countries is Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s apparent freezeup while speaking in Congress this week.

Joe Biden, 80, is the oldest president in American history, and he is over two decades older than the median age of the world’s national leaders, 62, according to Pew Research.

While Biden is younger than 89-year-old President Paul Biya of Cameroon, the world’s oldest head of state, he could be a grandfather to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin or Chilean President Gabriel Boric, who are both 37.

Yet Biden is years younger than some members of the U.S. Congress.

McConnell, 81, stopped talking mid-sentence at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and stood mutely for 23 seconds until he was led away from reporters, only to return later to report, “I’m fine.”

The moment sparked worries about his mental fitness, especially after he was hospitalized and treated for a concussion after a fall in March. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, 89, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, 89, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 81, are older than McConnell.

Many congressional lawmakers are in their 70s, and the median age of the Senate is 65.3, FiveThirtyEight calculated, the oldest ever, versus a median age of 38.8 years in the United States as a whole.

At 64, the U.S. Senate has the seventh-highest average age of any parlimentary body, the Interparlimentary Union calculates, topping countries with much older populations including Japan, Italy and Greece.

Biden’s advanced age has raised questions about whether he should stand for a second term. The president recently tripped over a sandbag on stage, walks with a careful gait and is prone to verbal slip-ups.

He may face Donald Trump, 77, as the Republican nominee in the 2024 election. Reuters polling shows many Americans think neither should run because of their age.

Asked about Biden’s age, the White House points to accomplishments, including the 2020 presidential election, helping Democrats stave off loses in the 2022 elections and getting a host of legislation through Congress as president.

Biden doesn’t make the top 10 of the world’s oldest currently serving leaders, according to Pew, which in addition to Biya is led by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, at age 87.

  • Reuters