EXCLUSIVE — Ex-President Barack Obama’s longtime former doctor warned that President Joe Biden’s weeks-delayed physical evaluation is likely to pitch the president’s health in the rosiest terms as he barrels toward an expected reelection announcement.
Dr. David Scheiner, who was Obama’s personal physician for more than two decades before he became president, said that while Biden has performed above expectations since entering office, the president’s age remains a major health concern. At 80, Biden is the oldest person to ever serve as president.
But Scheiner said the White House was unlikely to disclose much new information.
“You’re not going to learn anything. They sugarcoat these things,” Scheiner told the Washington Examiner, explaining that the president’s expected reelection campaign adds weight to the calls for transparency over the president’s health.
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“By the time he completes [a second term], he’ll be 86 years old; I don’t care if he’s in perfect health now,” said Scheiner. “I don’t care if he’s in perfect health now — which, I can’t believe he’s in perfect health. He’s had too many things in his past history.
He added, “It worries me that he is aging. If I look at him, he’s not a young 80.”
Scheiner explained that Biden’s gait, which the president’s physician described in 2021 as “perceptibly stiffer and less fluid” than one year earlier, could be a leading indicator of the overall state of his health.
“The gait is not an insignificant factor,” he said, adding that it lends “a peek into the whole physical, mental capability of a person.”
Biden’s annual physical examination is set for Feb. 16, more than two weeks after the White House initially promised after slipping from 2022 into the new year. The White House had attributed the delay to Biden’s travel schedule.
Part of the exam was completed last year, Biden told reporters over Thanksgiving.
The delay has lent ammunition for Biden’s political opponents questioning the president’s ability to lead the country ahead of an expected reelection bid. Biden turned 80 in November and would be 86 at the end of a second term in office.
Scheiner said the evaluation should include a neurocognitive exam or even an MRI but called this an unlikely prospect given the potential to expose new frailties.
“The one thing they don’t check is a careful examination of the mind,” he said. “I don’t think any candidate wants it. They’re afraid they might find something.”
He added, “Biden had an aneurysm repaired. When you do work on the brain, there’s always a little damage done. He’s had that atrial fibrillation — that can sometimes throw off small strokes. They’re leaving a whole area of concern in my mind.”
Biden’s press secretary said the president’s longtime physician would issue a public memo assessing his health. “We want to be transparent, want to make sure you have the information,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.
Biden’s last physical was completed in November 2021, when the president’s physician wrote that he “remains fit for duty, and fully executes all of his responsibilities without any exemptions or accommodations.”
Still, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s physician since he was vice president, noted two areas of “observation”: the president’s “increasing frequency and severity of ‘throat clearing’ and coughing during speaking engagements” and a gait “perceptibly stiffer and less fluid than it was a year or so ago.”
During Biden’s COVID-19 case last year, the White House declined to make O’Connor available to reporters, adding to questions about its transparency regarding the president’s health.
Yet Democrats who had once voiced unease about Biden’s age have quieted as the president lays the groundwork for a likely reelection campaign in 2024. Many questioned the transparency of physical exam details under former President Donald Trump, whose physician for part of his term is now a Republican member of Congress.
Biden has not announced a bid for a second term but is expected to do so sometime this spring.
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Biden’s former chief of staff, Ron Klain, downplayed concerns about Biden’s age, arguing that voters should instead look at how the president has handled major crises since taking office.
“Judge his record. Look at what he’s put together. With that age comes a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom,” Klain told the New Yorker in an exit interview.
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