President Biden

EDITORIAL: Doing Ninety at Eighty

So Joe Biden is running for a second term. That was the worst kept secret in Washington, and even less of a secret for anyone who kept a close eye on Biden's recent visit to Ireland.

He didn't put it in words but Ballina was the de facto kickoff for his reelection campaign, at least, we reckon, in the president's own mind.

Biden is eighty years old and will be close to eighty two on election day next year. That is not a crime in itself but we're going to be hearing a lot about the 46th president's vintage in the coming months.

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But age is only a number, even in presidential race. If the man is up for it, well, he's up for it. In the end the voters will decide.

Those that cheered Biden at every turn in Ireland will be pleased at the running announcement. Some of them, U.S. citizens living on the island, will even be able to vote for the man, or his Republican opponent.

That is a privilege not afforded Irish citizens living in the United States who can only cast a distant eye on Irish elections while not being able to cast ballots. But that's another story.

Not so pleased at Biden's announcement will be sections of the British press, and people in certain corners of British government.

Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan turned a gimlet eye on British press coverage of the Biden visit and here's part of what she came up with.

Wrote Sheridan: "The spitefest in the conservative UK press was startling. It kicked off with an idiotic London Times cartoon last Thursday by Peter Brookes - Biden as leprechaun, drunk and bearing an unintended likeness to King Charles – followed by a rash of whiny columns. Sample headlines: 'All the times President Joe Biden has shown disdain for his UK heritage' (Daily Mail), 'Plastic Paddy Joe Biden’s hatred of Britain shames America' (The Spectator), 'The bumbling US leader who sticks two fingers up at our country” (Telegraph), all poignantly laced with the insistence, 'Britain doesn’t need him' (Telegraph). Special mention for the once venerable Sunday Times for the 'hopping around Ireland like a senile, gibbering leprechaun sticking out of his nose, to be sure, to be sure…'.

"The overall vibe was of a needy, raging playground bully disdained by the cool kids. It was the kind of monumental sulk that usually stays in social media and for good reason; self-respecting media outlets pay good money to editors for skills like sound judgment, political literacy and big-picture vision.

"As a confident nation, we tend to view this kind of quasi-racist needling as we would a toddler tantrum. It’s been coming at us in one form or another since the Brexit merchants realised they’d clean forgotten to factor Northern Ireland into their back-of-the-envelope plan. Same angry, deluded world view; same destructive press distortions; same abusive ad hominem tone."

Indeed. So we can expect more of the same from across the water in the days ahead. All guns blazing on Fleet Street, some aimed at Brussels, some at Dublin, some at the Biden White House.

Meanwhile, the constant Sword of Damocles that is Brexit, and the thorny matter of trade relations between the U.S. and UK, will enter the campaign frame to some degree or another. Hopefully, too, will other issues pertaining to Ireland, North and South and in a more positive vein. At a presidential forum perhaps?