Why Bernie seems younger than Bi­den

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Mick Jag­ger and for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den are the same age. Both are 76 years old. Mr. Jag­ger, of course, is a freak: Hy­per-tal­ented (an of­fi­cial rock star for more than five decades, his celebrity aura has ac­tu­ally en­sured that he’s be­come un­der­rated as a mu­si­cian and song­writer) and a Peter Pan fan­tasy brought to life. But the point is still il­lus­tra­tive — hu­mans age at rapidly dif­fer­ent clips; one man’s 76 is an­other’s 36.

A path­break­ing study in 2015, pub­lished in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Acad­emy of Sciences, con­firmed that many peo­ple not named “Jag­ger” age more slowly than oth­ers.

The re­searchers tracked 954 dif­fer­ent peo­ple born around the same time and found that “young in­di­vid­u­als of the same chrono­log­i­cal age var­ied in their ‘bi­o­log­i­cal ag­ing’ (de­clin­ing in­tegrity of mul­ti­ple or­gan sys­tems). Al­ready, be­fore midlife, in­di­vid­u­als who were ag­ing more rapidly were less phys­i­cally able, showed cog­ni­tive de­cline and brain ag­ing, sel­f­re­ported worse health, and looked older.”

Even in their 30s, peo­ple are at wildly dis­parate phys­i­cal and cog­ni­tive ages.

This fact has been brought into stark re­lief dur­ing the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial race. Mr. Bi­den, in his mid 70s, is dod­der­ing, no­tice­ably more el­derly than he was even four years ago. While ap­par­ently rea­son­ably phys­i­cally healthy, he refers to “record play­ers,” waxes po­etic about his re­la­tion­ship with seg­re­ga­tion­ist sen­a­tors, and has trou­ble string­ing to­gether a co­her­ent para­graph, much less con­sec­u­tive sen­tences.

The writer Matthew Con­tinetti has ob­served cor­rectly that Mr. Bi­den has a “four-sen­tence prob­lem. He’s on mes­sage for four sen­tences and then, once he hits the fifth, launches into outer space. Then stops mid-sen­tence-eigh­teen when he sees his time is up.” It ap­pears that his mind is nowhere near as nim­ble as it once was.

Con­trast Mr. Bi­den’s pres­ence with that of Sen. Bernard San­ders of Ver­mont, who is two years his se­nior. Mr. San­ders may have had a lit­eral heart at­tack ear­lier this month, but he still ap­pears far more ag­ile and hearty than the for­mer vice pres­i­dent does.

At last week’s de­bate, while Mr. Bi­den strug­gled to get out his talk­ing points, the Ver­mont so­cial­ist was force­ful and on-mes­sage. Then over the week­end, Mr. San­ders held a large rally in Queens — draw­ing the largest crowd of any Demo­cratic can­di­date dur­ing this pri­mary sea­son — and was again hale and pow­er­ful. It seems safe to say that Mr. San­ders is a young 78.

Or does it? In a way, it seems that it’s some­what un­fair to say that Mr. San­ders is just plain cog­ni­tively younger than Mr. Bi­den. Mr. San­ders, very real phys­i­cal health con­cerns aside, is ac­tu­ally do­ing some­thing quite easy: re­peat­ing the same plat­i­tudes he has for decades. Af­ter all, Mr. San­ders is a true life-long so­cial­ist; for him, it’s al­ways been class war­fare, “po­lit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion,” and a deep cyn­i­cism

Some might find Mr. San­ders’ un­re­lent­ing con­sis­tency ad­mirable in its way. Fine. But how much in­tel­lec­tual dex­ter­ity, re­ally, does it re­quire to just keep say­ing the same thing for years on end?

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