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Though the White House fiercely pushes back on any suggestion that President Joe Biden’s age is catching up with him, the administration has nevertheless made some behind-the-scenes changes to better accommodate and protect him from himself.
After a series of high-profile stumbling and falling on the steps leading up to Air Force Once, the administration has quietly changed Biden’s boarding method, reports said last week.
POLITICO noted in a story headlined, “Biden downplays age talk — but subtle accommodations are being made,” the bizarre appearance of Biden, who recently stepped off Marine One wearing tennis shoes without socks.
President Biden’s ankles were the latest flashpoint in an ongoing discussion about footwear etiquette. “No-show socks are a crime.” https://t.co/jMcKOI2okk
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) July 14, 2023
“The informality of the president’s wardrobe distracted from something else — something reporters who travel with him have been noticing for some time,” the outlet noted. “Biden boarded using the shorter set of retractable stairs that fold into the belly of the plane. The routine began a few months ago, the president increasingly avoiding the grander, more traditional doorway near the front of the aircraft on the main passenger level, higher above the tarmac.”
The outlet noted further:
The new routine looks to be another subtle accommodation to the president’s age. It is hiding in plain sight, although the White House won’t concede that interpretation. Three weeks ago when the president traveled to New York, again using the lower stairs to board, Bloomberg’s Justin Sink pressed press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about it during her in-flight gaggle.
Was Biden having “mobility problems,” Sink asked, or was it “to address — you know, he’s had a couple incidents falling on the stairs getting up and you guys just decided that it would be better for him?”
“I don’t have any decision process to walk through,” Jean-Pierre claimed. “I’m sure there’s a protocol that’s used for the — for Air Force One. I just don’t have one.”
Historically, presidents have opted to use the lower stairs in situations where heavy rain or wind renders the taller steps impractical for use. In rare instances — like the notable diplomatic incident when President Barack Obama arrived in China in 2016 — when a portable set of stairs is unavailable to be placed next to the main door, the lower stairs have been employed, POLITICO noted.
During his recent European trip, Biden consistently used the smaller stairs to board Air Force One for every flight to various destinations such as London, Vilnius, Helsinki, and back to Washington. Notably, none of these arrivals or departures were influenced by adverse weather conditions, as the traveling press pool all publicly witnessed them.
While Biden did utilize the larger stairs to descend from the plane upon arrival in London, Vilnius, and Helsinki, where his hosts arranged formal greeting ceremonies, he did not use the larger stairs to board the plane for departure.
Moreover, this overseas trip followed a series of recent domestic visits to locations such as Rocky Mount, N.C., Chicago, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, where Biden predominantly used the lower stairs during both arrivals and departures.
Increasingly, Biden has had difficulty maintaining his balance. Last summer, he fell off his bicycle after stopping to talk to a small group of people near his Rehoboth, Del., home. He has stumbled and even fallen up the steps to Air Force One on a number of occasions. And he fell after tripping over a sandbag last month after giving the commencement speech to the graduating class of the Air Force Academy in Colorado.
Biden also nearly lost his balance and fell walking down some steps in Japan earlier this summer.