Dowd: Biden could take a lesson from Reagan on pace of travel

In his bid to look energetic, the president is jetting around the globe at a clip Nancy Reagan would not approve of.

By Maureen Dowd / The New York Times

In Normandy last week, President Biden gave a speech defending democracy that was designed to evoke Ronald Reagan’s famed “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” address in the same spot 40 years ago.

But if Biden wants to make sure democracy is defended from tyrants, he should emulate Reagan in another way: the Gipper’s leisurely travel style.

Nancy Reagan was always on guard, making sure her husband wasn’t being overstuffed with facts or overbooked with travel.

When I accompanied the couple in 1986 to Tokyo for the Group of 7 summit, we wended our way there blissfully slowly. A stop in LA, a couple of nights in Honolulu, a look-see in Guam, three nights in the paradise of Bali. Nearly a week later, when we finally reached Japan, Reagan was tanned, rested and ready. (By contrast, when George H.W. Bush — known in Asia for having a frenetic “ants on a hot pan” personality — dashed around the Pacific Rim in 1992, he threw up on the Japanese prime minister and fainted in his lap at a banquet.)

Reagan was 75 when we went on that dream trip, but he never acted as if there was a problem with his age (even though it would seem later that there was, given his subsequent Alzheimer’s diagnosis). He played the ancient king, gliding along at his own pace.

Reagan wasn’t immune from criticism about his age, but he wore his years better than Biden, who seems in denial. And no one is stepping in to schedule him any breathing room; Jill Biden, the Nancy to Biden’s Ronnie, has a schedule that’s even more frenetic than Joe’s.

Biden and his staff always seem to be frantically trying to prove he’s energetic enough to govern. The 81-year-old sometimes jogs to the podium. And he’s trying to exhibit, through a strenuous travel schedule, that he’s up to the job. He arrived back in the United States on Sunday and went to Wilmington, Delaware. He came back to Washington the next day to host an early Juneteenth concert at the White House. On Tuesday, he gave a gun safety speech at the Washington Hilton; awkward, after Hunter Biden’s guilty verdict on gun charges. He went straight from the Hilton to Andrews Air Force Base, and flew to Delaware where he gave his beleaguered son a hug on the tarmac.

On Wednesday, three days after he left Europe, the president schlepped back to Europe, this time for a G7 summit in Italy, and meetings with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the pope, and a joint news conference with Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine. On Friday, he flies through cascading time zones to L.A. for a glittering George Clooney-Julia Roberts-Jimmy Kimmel fundraiser with Barack Obama as a guest star.

Nancy Reagan would be appalled. Sometimes for an older president, it’s better to glide than jog.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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