By declining to charge President Biden with mishandling classified documents, but gratuitously impugning the president’s cognitive abilities, special counsel Robert Hur overstepped his bounds and fed into a blatantly ageist political narrative. Hur pulled a “James Comey” yesterday in announcing that the president would not be charged with a crime but criticizing Biden, anyway, just as Comey did with Hillary Clinton in 2016. (And we know how that turned out.)  But, unlike Comey, Hur felt the need to disparage the President’s age and his memory, referring to Biden as “a well-meaning, elderly man.”

President Biden rightly defended himself during a press conference Thursday night. “I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man — and I know what the hell I’m doing,” he declared from the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, as the Washington Post reported.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder posted on X (formerly Twitter):

“Special Counsel Hur’s report… contains way too many gratuitous remarks and is flatly inconsistent with longstanding Department of Justice (DOJ) traditions. Had this report been subject to normal DOJ review, these remarks undoubtedly would have been excised.” – Eric Holder

Columnist Robert Kuttner assailed Hur in today’s American Prospect, accusing him of “going out of his way to offer politically damaging and snarky assertions, and quotable one-liners.”

It’s interesting that Hur (a former Trump appointee) felt the need to play amateur gerontologist, which is not traditionally the job of a federal investigator. A lot of people are assuming that ‘gerontologist’ role these days without any qualifications whatsoever — from social media users to rival political figures — especially when it comes to President Biden. The worst offender has been Nikki Haley, who shamelessly said in a tv ad“I’ll just say it: Biden’s too old.” She added for good measure, “And Congress is the most exclusive nursing home in America.”

Special prosecutor and armchair gerontologist Robert Hur

“You have to realize that most people that are out there commenting on this haven’t really looked at (Biden’s) medical records,” demographer S. Jay Olshanksy told us on our podcast in January.  “My colleagues and I, including board certified geriatricians, have looked at the medical records in detail that are publicly available. We have come to the conclusion that there are no significant issues with President Biden’s cognitive abilities.”

Several national figures rushed to Biden’s defense on social media after Hur’s report was released. MSNBC host and former Republican Joe Scarborough posted:

“Hur, a lifelong Republican and creature of Washington, didn’t have a case against Biden, but knew how his swipes could hurt Biden politically.” – Joe Scarborough

Former United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Joyce Vance, commented on X:

“Robert Hur was no friend to Joe Biden. He conceded there wasn’t evidence that would prove (the president) committed a crime. That’s all. It’s over right there. It’s not like a friendly prosecutor gave Biden a pass.” – Joyce Vance 

Meanwhile, President Trump largely seems to get a pass on his mental acuity by many in the mainstream media — and in the public at large— despite recent speeches replete with delusions, fantasies, paranoia, and outright falsehoods.

Olshansky says that commentators who question Biden’s mental agility are engaging in “classic ageism — where people draw false conclusions about older individuals based on the number of trips around the sun.”

As we wrote in this space last year, ageism is one of the only socially acceptable -isms these days — and runs rampant in our culture.  “Ageism is everywhere – in the workplace, in media, in Hollywood, in schools and in health care, and it is something that most everyone will experience at some point in their lives,” writes Michele Dinman of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ageism is not a benign phenomenon. According to Dinman, older adults experience discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and in their daily lives.  In a 2019 survey, 82% of older adults said that they “regularly experienced at least one form of everyday ageism.”

Olshanksy argues that President Biden should be judged by his achievements in office and his policy decisions, not by an ageist standard.

“I would think that the vast majority of the population would be incapable of holding the schedule that President Biden holds on a daily basis and under a spotlight added to that. So I would challenge anyone who makes this claim that there’s any sort of cognitive issue associated with President Biden to follow his schedule for a day and see how long they last. I don’t think they would last a single day.” – S. Jay Olshansky, Demographer, University of Illinois at Chicago

Ageism not only has no legitimate place in our political discourse, it has no place in our society at large. The last thing we need at a cultural moment like this is prosecutors playing armchair experts on the mental health of the president — or any other citizen of the United States of America.