President Joe Biden took a crash off his Trek bicycle this weekend when he attempted to dismount to speak to a crowd. His foot caught part of the pedal clip and down he went in front of cameras and the entirety of Twitter. If not for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 7-0 loss in the Stanley Cup Finals, it would have been the worst crash of the day.
Biden should invite the Bolts back to the White House simply for getting him off the hook.
Every President has clumsy moments. It’s hard not to have them when every news camera—and now cell phone video recorder—is pointed in your direction. And like every tumble up the stairs of Air Force One, they always seem to take on a symbolic measure of how their presidency is doing.
Joe Biden crumbling over onto the ground led to instant memes on gas prices and inflation on social media, not to mention his advanced age. A good portion of the country probably took a deep breath when it turned out he hadn’t broken a hip.
Kamala Harris stopped measuring the Oval Office drapes.
The internet is, of course, going to have fun at Joe Biden’s expense. It’s a good reprieve from five-dollar gas and spiking grocery prices. He will be blaming “Putin’s pavement” any minute now.
And then there is the matter of the national media, which is what actually matters when it comes to public perception of the president’s robustness. You see, national media outlets and some (not all) journalists made a sport of poking former President Donald Trump as a way of trolling him back for his questions about Hillary Clinton’s health in 2016. The problem for them is when they excuse Biden’s follies.
By doing so, they widen the credibility gap that is as deep and wide as the Grand Canyon with the public.
“Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp Raises New Health Questions” shouted The New York Times headline in June 2020 after he gave a speech at West Point. The story authored by favorite Trump media foil Maggie Haberman raised questions about Trump’s own health. CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote, “Why the Donald Trump-West Point ramp story actually matters,” citing Trump’s advanced age. “The President turned 74 on Sunday. He is the oldest person ever elected to a first term in the White House. Earlier this month, the White House released a memo on the results of Trump’s annual physical that only briefly outlined the overall picture of his health (height, weight, etc.).”
When it came to Joe Biden spilling onto the pavement in front of an adoring crowd, however, Cillizza’s only response was “Been there.” Joe Biden was at a complete stop when he fell over. Sure the culprit seems to be a stuck pedal, but maybe he had a moment of exhaustion or heat exertion. At the edge of 80, who knows?
Biden’s own campaign made a point of the president’s physical fitness, comparing him to Trump’s awkward ramp walk. The problem with going that route is exactly what we saw this weekend. Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates immediately took to Twitter to fend off mockery and trolls, to no avail. It was hopeless, and this very online administration should have just laughed it off. But because they themselves made Biden’s fitness an issue, it is now fair game.
And because the media decided to go full Woodward and Bernstein over Donald Trump’s own health, they are now also fair game for their unequal and biased coverage now as well, no matter how silly the entire matter may be.
Not that voters consider the president’s fitness for the job a “silly” issue. A Harvard-Harris poll released in May found nearly two-thirds of respondents said Joe Biden is showing he is too old to be president. That includes 72 percent of independent voters and nearly a third (29 percent) of Democrats. In a new YouGov poll, more 2020 Biden voters said they did not want him to run again than did.
Forget the bike crash. At this point in his presidency, Biden could star in a Cirque du Soliel highwire act on the Vegas Strip and Democrats would still probably be going down in November.
Just like he did.