THE reviews are in and they’re mainly positive. By common consent, Joe Biden came out swinging in a State of the Union address which most folks characterised as the opening shot in his presidential campaign.

So is all well with the world? Not from where I’m sitting, and that’s a place and an age where it would be difficult to accuse me of out-and-out ageism. However, I do speak of what I know.

I’m old enough to know that there are certain non-negotiable facts about the ageing process and they include reduced mobility and a neurological retrieval system which is way clunkier than it used to be. In short, the memory function slows up. 

I listened to Joe overnight, then watched him the following morning. (No point in being a political anorak and not overdosing!). His gait is slower and more deliberate than it was – of course it is, he’s in his 80s for heaven’s sake!

The fact that he works out, and is no stranger to gym time can slow the decline – but decline his body will.

It already has.

Because of a lifelong stutter and a tendency to, let’s be kind, misremember, he sped up at various points as if trying to get past and around likely verbal elephant traps. He once described himself as a “gaffe machine” and that tendency to error – especially when he goes off scripted piste – causes his team to fret until they get him back safely to base.

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Yet when all’s said and done, JB is a decent human being with the right humanitarian instincts which is a great deal more than can be said for his predecessor.

Like lots of folk, I cling to the thought offered by Justin Webb in a recent documentary, that the likely cast list at this moment may not be the one which actually contests the next presidential election. Oh, please let it be so.  Outside of all the other flaws you could detect in The Donald – and we’re kind of spoiled for choice here – he will be 78 and a few months come November. So even if he won – God forbid – he too would be in his 80s whilst in office.

What we have here is not two bald men fighting over a comb, but two elderly white men in search of all their yesterdays, given there might not be too many tomorrows.  Because he strides on stage all bluster and brio, less attention is paid to the fact that Donald Trump (below) is no spring chicken either.

The National: Donald Trump’s case was the first at the Supreme Court dealing with a provision of the 14th Amendment that was adopted after the Civil War (AP)

Should you read the text of his rally rants, you would have to wade through a load of garbage and deal with a plethora of non sequiturs. You would also find him repeating the fiction that he won in 2020 and be bemused by the fact that he keeps thinking he fought Barack Obama rather than Hillary Clinton.

Mary L Trump, his well-estranged niece, is not, I concede, the most objective source of opinion on her uncle Don. Her side of the family and his have spent a wheen of time suing and counter-suing over  the terms of the Don’s father, Fred Trump’s, will among other things.

Nevertheless, she said something the other week which was nothing less than arresting. A qualified psychologist herself, she was quoting a psychiatrist who had studied the neurological condition of both Biden and Trump. His verdict was that Biden’s brain was ageing, but Trump’s was “dementing”.

In other words, Joe’s marbles may no longer be in pristine condition, but Donald’s are already going awol. Joe said in his address that America deserves better than Trump. No question. But actually, that massive and complex country deserves better than these both these two old men.

According to those able to observe the American political scene up closer and more personal like our own estimable David Pratt, the Republican Party has morphed into the Trump Party, while none of the many younger and talented Democrats want to be seen to be challenging a sitting Democratic president.

Yet the USA is screaming for the old guard to change; to make way for maybe the next generation but one. With age comes wisdom, argue some, but it ain’t necessarily so. A long-standing American friend of mine used to intone that “old age is not for sissies”. And the presidency is surely not for candidates well past  their prime.

Ageism in other fields is often rampant too, but in other fields, it can be less dangerous. TV will allow elderly men to soldier on into their 70s – John Humphrys was still presenting Today on Radio 4 until 2019, and Mastermind for two years after that.

Female presenters are rarely allowed to get old, grey or fat before they’re put out to grass, although the BBC might argue that they gave Angela Rippon a sought-after slot on Strictly when she was about to turn 79. Whereupon no story ever appeared which failed to talk about her age (and her legs).

Compare and contrast the US of A where the legendary, late Barbara Walters was still strutting her TV stuff in 2014/15 having been born in 1929.  Yet even she, latterly the doyenne of the political interview, confessed in her autobiography that when she started they would only let her loose on the weather or anything too lightweight for the fellas. 

It was famously thus when I was first in journalism on this side of the pond. Women’s Pages were where “feminine” issues could be safely cocooned. On one memorable occasion, I got censured  for featuring men’s underwear rather than women’s. 

The then editor’s wife complained that unseemly bulges could be seen. This in an organisation which had absolutely no compunction featuring women in sexually explicit poses!

Happily, women’s sections have gone the way of all editorial flesh in the print media, though you’ll still find female journalists pointed in the direction of “women’s interest” stories.

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As for ageism and women. Germaine Greer once pronounced that women become largely invisible after a certain age and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though it has to be said that Germaine’s books almost always found reasons to celebrate whatever age and stage she happened to be at herself.

WE don’t however, go in much for ageism in our politics. The political problem seems to be a lack of external experience in our politicians rather than any fixation on their date of birth. 

Having said which, a contest for the top job in either London or Edinburgh which featured a septuagenarian facing an octogenarian just wouldn’t happen.

Not just because they would be instantly labelled too old to be credible, but because our system allows for younger talent to break through.

It doesn’t always follow that they will display wisdom or have enough of the relevant life skills to make a telling contribution, but what they won’t lack is energy, both mental and physical, and that matters. It matters when the decisions in which they play a part might have far-reaching effects on the lives of families and the opportunities for their children.

There is another barrier to understanding which affects both Biden and Trump and that is money. To get the top job in the States, you need to have money, come from money, or have an organisation which can attract money.

The fiction that anyone can be president of the United States is just that. Over the piece, they’ve steadfastly removed the safeguards which stopped people essentially being able to buy their way into power.  So-called Super PACS – huge political action committees – no longer have any curbs on how much they can raise or how they choose to spend it.

We are already in receipt of “dark money”. Let’s not go down the Super PAC route too.