President Joe Biden touted his experience as a rebuttal to chronic questions about his age at a campaign fundraiser on Broadway Monday evening, delivering an impassioned, campaign-style speech that also accused former President Donald Trump as being “determined to destroy democracy.”
In remarks at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where the two-tiered cast iron set for Sweeney Todd remained mostly in place (minus the barber chair), Biden directly addressed an issue that polls have consistently found is a top concern for voters. At 80, Biden would be 86 at the end of a potential second term.
“A lot of people seem focused on my age. Believe me, I know better than anyone,” the president said, going on to use his experience as rationale for his reelection.
“When this nation was flat on its back, I knew what to do,” he said.
On Ukraine: “I knew what to do, to rebuild alliances.”
“When democracy was at stake, I knew what to do,” he said.
CNN polling conducted by SSRS in late August found roughly three-quarters of Americans say they’re seriously concerned that Biden’s age might negatively affect his current level of physical and mental competence (73%), and his ability to serve out another full term if reelected (76%), with a smaller 68% majority seriously concerned about his ability to understand the next generation’s concerns (that stands at 72% among those younger than 65, but just 57% of those 65 or older feel the same).
Biden also spoke in some of his most direct terms yet in tying Trump to his larger reelection theme of protecting democracy. He mentioned his predecessor by name after obliquely referring to the former president at another fundraiser earlier in the evening.
“In 2024, democracy is on the ballot once again,” Biden said. “And let there be no question: Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy, and I will always defend, protect and fight for our democracy. That’s why I’m running.”
“I don’t believe America is a dark, negative nation, a nation of carnage driven by anger, fear and revenge. Donald Trump does,” he added.
At another point, he vowed, “I will not side with dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down and praise him, but I won’t.”
He cited Trump’s line, “I am your retribution,” asking, “Did you ever think you’d hear a president of the United States speak like that? Well, I believe we are a hopeful, optimistic nation driven by the proposition that everyone deserves a shot.”
Biden also spoke about his rationale for seeking another term, reiterating that he wasn’t planning on running again upon leaving the Obama administration until the 2017 White supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, happened. He said he was running to protect abortion and LGBTQ rights and that he’s seeking another term “because there are people banning books.”
Across America, Biden warned, “hate groups have been emboldened” and he recalled Trump’s infamous response to the Charlottesville riot when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“‘They’re very fine people on both sides.’ When I heard that, I knew I could no longer stand on the sidelines,” Biden said.
“I believe silence is complicity. And I would not be silent any more than you would,” he added.