President Joe Biden, 80, the oldest serving president in U.S. history, has reportedly been using a smaller set of stairs to board Air Force One in an attempt to limit any missteps.
Biden has had a number of stumbles on the more traditional longer set of stairs leading to a doorway near the front of the main passenger level, high above the tarmac. Politico reported Wednesday that a few months ago, Biden began boarding by using a shorter set of retractable stairs that fold into the belly of the plane.
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Two Biden advisers told Politico that the change was intentional to make Biden’s travel easier and limit the possibility for missteps. The longer stairway has 26 steps, but the shorter one has 14. Biden was also seen walking in sneakers instead of dress shoes, another concession to comfort necessitated by age, Politico reported.
The focus on Biden’s age is among a number of negative factors affecting his prospects for reelection.
“Satchel Paige famously said about age: ‘It’s mind over matter — if you don’t mind, it don’t matter.’ But this does matter to voters,” Rick Ridder, a longtime Democratic strategist with experience on several presidential campaigns, told Politico. “And Biden’s physical fragility complicates his effort to convince voters that reelecting him is a vote for stability. Because it’s hard for anyone to embody stability at 80 years old.”
During a press gaggle June 29 on Air Force One during a trip to New York, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked if Biden was having any mobility problems because he was taking the shorter set of stairs.
“I don’t have any decision process to walk through,” she said. “I’m sure there’s a protocol that’s used for the — for Air Force One. I just don’t have one. I mean, you guys see the president every day … when we speak to mobility. The president always says watch him.
“You know, he was a — this was a president — let’s not forget, he went to a war-zone country in Ukraine and did that in a way that was incredibly effective. The world got to see him out there and meet with President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy. And I think that’s incredibly important.”