President Joe Biden will celebrate his 81st birthday on Monday, continuing his daily tradition of being the oldest president in United States history.
As Biden prepares for the day’s activities, which include the annual pardoning of Thanksgiving turkeys and a low-key family celebration, White House staffers are reportedly ramping up an effort unofficially known as “Operation Bubble Wrap” to keep the elderly executive from falling down on camera or injuring himself before the 2024 election.
President Biden’s birthday festivities began with the pardon of Liberty and Bell, two four-month-old turkeys from a farm in Minnesota. Biden also took the opportunity to commemorate former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 96. When his remarks concluded, the president promptly left the ceremony, half-jogging on his way back into the White House.
However, Biden’s quick movements were likely a source of great concern for White House staff given the octogenarian commander-in-chief’s tendency to trip easily. Since taking office, Biden has slipped and fallen no fewer than four times while boarding Air Force One, even while using a shorter set of stairs to enter the plane. Other notable instances include a particularly nasty spill Biden sustained while biking near his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware last summer and an on-stage stumble at a U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in June.
None of these incidents left the president with any significant injuries, according to White House medical personnel—but they have highlighted the looming issue of Biden’s advanced age.
Recent surveys indicate that voters around the country are increasingly expressing concerns over Biden’s physical and mental capacities, with nearly 54 percent of Biden’s own supporters now believing he is simply too old to do the job. The president’s televised stumbles, combined with his frequent verbal missteps (like calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping “a dictator”) have contributed to fears that he may no longer be an effective leader for the country.
In an effort to divert attention back to the Biden administration’s achievements ahead of the 2024 election, current and former White House officials have encouraged the president’s handlers to adopt a “bubble wrap” strategy to keep him safe and his campaign on track.
“Operation Bubble Wrap” seeks to limit opportunities for Biden to trip or fall, encasing him in metaphorical packing material until the 2024 election. Steps toward accomplishing this include advising the president to exchange his dress shoes for sneakers and only walk short distances while cameras are rolling. He has also reportedly been doing balance-improving exercises with a physical therapist since taking office. The overall goal is to create humor rather than concern around the image of “Grandpa Joe,” holding the president forth as a wise and experienced leader despite his diminished physical capacity.
“Those close allies believe that Biden is mentally up for the job, but some acknowledge that the president can at times appear frail, according to two people involved in the conversations but not authorized to speak publicly about internal deliberations,” Politico reported ahead of Biden’s 81st.
If re-elected, Biden would be 86 at the end of his second term in office. Biden’s primary rival in 2024, former President Donald Trump, is only slightly younger and will turn 78 before the election. But while Trump’s age is also a concern for voters, far fewer cite it as a major issue with the candidate.