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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Nina Lakhani

Trump confuses Obama for Biden again at Virginia rally speech

Donald Trump confused Barack Obama for Joe Biden at a rally in Virginia on Saturday, triggering further questions about the age of the likely Republican presidential nominee who has made a string of such gaffes.

It also comes at a time of similar concerns about Biden. At 77 and 81 respectively, Trump and Biden are the oldest people to run for the presidency in US history.

“Putin has so little respect for Obama that he’s starting to throw around the nuclear word. You heard that. Nuclear. He’s starting to talk nuclear weapons today,” said Trump, on Saturday night in Richmond.

The crowd reportedly went silent as Trump referenced Obama, who left office more than seven years ago. It’s the third time Trump has made the blunder in the past six months.

The former US president’s other gaffes include confusing his Republican rival Nikki Haley with the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Haley, 52, who has defied Trump and several primary defeats to continue in the race for the Republican nomination, has tried to frame herself as the younger, healthier option – referring to Trump and Biden as Grumpy Old Men in her campaign ads.

Trump’s mistake came the day after Biden, twice confused Ukraine and Gaza as he announced that the US would airdrop humanitarian supplies to Palestinians in Gaza who are dying of starvation due to the Israeli bombardment and blockades.

“In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others who are providing airdrops of additional food and supplies into Ukraine,” Biden said on Friday. The US will “seek to open up other avenues into Ukraine, including possibly a marine corridor”, he added.

A White House official later clarified that Biden meant Gaza – not Ukraine. The gaffe had been changed in the transcript of his remarks.

Questions about Biden’s age have intensified in recent months.

The latest lapse came days after was declared “fit for duty” at his annual health check. The White House physician, Dr Kevin O’Connor, said Biden “fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations”.

A new New York Times/Siena College poll found that 73% of registered voters polled believe Biden is too old to be an effective president, including 61% of those who voted for him in 2020. Voters seem less bothered about Trump, who is just four years younger, with 42% of those polled saying he “just too old” to be an effective president.

While criticisms of the age issue on both sides are laced with political spin, age-related cognitive decline is real.

As a person gets older, changes occur in all parts of the body including the brain. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) certain parts of the brain shrink, including those important to learning and other complex mental activities; communication between neurons may be less effective; and blood flow in the brain may decrease.

Healthy older adults can however learn new skills, form new memories, improve vocabulary and language skills. The NIA is conducting research on so-called cognitive super-agers, the minority of octogenarians and nonagenarians whose memories are comparable to people 20 to 30 years younger.

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