On the thirteenth hour of the third day of a two-country journey, President Biden stepped onstage at a information convention in Vietnam and bid reporters there a great night.
No less than, he thought so.
“It’s night, isn’t it?” the president stated, drawing laughs from the jet-lagged plenty. “This around-the-world-in-five-days is fascinating, isn’t it?”
He was joking, however solely kind of.
The journey, which started in New Delhi with the Group of 20 summit, was a whirlwind for Mr. Biden. He went overseas with an inventory of diplomatic to-dos, most of which had been geared toward signaling to China that the USA was working to line up allies who’re fed up with Beijing’s aggression within the area. In Hanoi, he celebrated the elevation of the U.S.-Vietnamese partnership to the very best stage in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy, and stated it was a part of his administration’s technique to bolster the American presence within the Indo-Pacific.
However Mr. Biden took one other goal abroad, too, as he enters an election season going through questions on his age and stamina: displaying that he’s nonetheless as much as the challenges of globe-trotting statesmanship.
His aides described a president in close to fixed movement. Earlier than touring to Hanoi, advisers stated that Mr. Biden had met with greater than 30 world leaders, largely in casual meet-and-greets, on the G20 summit in India. The interactions, they stated, had been designed to be extra advert hoc than the normal bilateral conferences that accompany worldwide summits.
Earlier than Saturday’s diplomacy, a priest went to Mr. Biden’s lodge for Mass, an association the president maintains anytime considered one of his international journeys occurs over a weekend, based on aides who requested to not be named as a result of they weren’t approved to publicly talk about behind-the-scenes actions.
The president additionally instructed aides that he needed to succeed in out to the tennis participant Coco Gauff, who had simply received the U.S. Open, so that they labored to make time for a name. (Aides stated he’d been following the match.)
With all of the operating round, it appeared like little coincidence when, in Hanoi, Mr. Biden, 80, repeated himself: “These five-day journeys around the globe are not any downside,” he instructed a BBC reporter who confirmed the time of day.
Mr. Biden’s journey might finally do little to change his political fortunes again dwelling, the place his polling numbers are low and he appears headed towards a good race in opposition to his predecessor, Donald J. Trump. Home Republicans are itching to push forward on a long-shot impeachment inquiry, and his son, Hunter, is going through federal indictment on a gun possession cost.
The president can be going through persistent questions on his age and effectiveness as a messenger for his personal agenda — a part of a broader dialog in Washington about leaders, some with well being issues, who stay in workplace nicely into their 80s or 90s.
As getting older politicians of each events, together with Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, endure from well being issues within the public eye, some are starting to name for extra transparency into the medical historical past of elected leaders.
“I feel if you wish to be the president of the USA, or a senator or Home member, then there’s a accountability over and above that of simply providing your self,” Invoice Cassidy, a Republican senator from Louisiana and a doctor, stated in an interview on “Meet the Press.” “It must be that you could present that you’ve readability.”
Again dwelling and overseas, White Home officers have publicly expressed irritation over information reviews that describe the president as protecting the identical languid marketing campaign schedule as Mr. Trump, who’s spending most of his time filming movies railing in opposition to his indictments and accumulating endorsements from different Republicans. A number of pointed to Mr. Biden’s Asia journey as proof that he was busy with governing.
Up to now, aides have adjusted schedules to accommodate the day by day rhythms of the oldest president in American historical past, together with final 12 months, when preliminary plans for a 10-day journey to the Center East and Europe had been cut up into separate journeys. On more moderen journeys overseas, Mr. Biden had skipped night dinners, absences that aides attributed to the president’s want to organize for the subsequent day or verify in on issues again dwelling.
This time, in India, Mr. Biden made the dinner. And on Monday in Hanoi, he was up early for a day of actions that included a go to to a memorial devoted to the army service of John McCain and to attend a luncheon — the place officers toasted to his well being — earlier than touring again to the USA. On the 30-hour leg dwelling, Mr. Biden was scheduled to deal with troops in Alaska to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 assaults.
Ben LaBolt, the White Home communications director, who was on the journey with the president, stated that the schedule was not meant to make some extent. “President Biden’s give attention to strengthening alliances and constructing relationships with world leaders is a longtime hallmark of his profession.” (The president was chairman of the Senate Overseas Relations Committee for a part of his 36 years within the chamber.)
Even when Mr. Biden’s age wasn’t a subject of dialog amongst his aides, it was apparently on the thoughts of at the very least one different chief. Nguyen Phu Trong, the 79-year-old basic secretary of the Communist Social gathering of Vietnam, made some extent of publicly commenting about Mr. Biden’s vitality.
“You could have nary aged a day and I’d say you look even higher than earlier than,” stated Mr. Trong, who noticed Mr. Biden on a visit to Washington in 2015. “Each function of you, Mr. President, could be very a lot complimentary of your picture.”
The president laughed appreciatively.
On the information convention in Hanoi, Mr. Biden grabbed a microphone and walked across the stage answering questions on China, Russia and Ukraine. Not all of his responses had been direct, nonetheless. At one level, he invoked John Wayne in an extended soliloquy concerning the evolving world view on local weather change.
“And there’s a — my — my brother loves havin’ — there’s well-known strains from motion pictures that he all the time quotes. , it — and — one of many — is — the — there’s a film about John Wayne,” the president started, persevering with in stops and begins till he lastly made his level about world warming.
Later, he appeared not sure of which reporter to name on from a preselected checklist furnished by aides — “No, I ain’t calling on you,” he instructed reporters who raised their palms, hoping to fill the void.
Close to the tip of his 25-minute look, Mr. Biden instructed reporters he was able to go to mattress.
However then he continued taking questions, together with one from a reporter who requested him if he’d met with the Chinese language premier, Li Qiang, who attended the G20 summit after China’s prime chief, Xi Jinping, determined to skip it.
“We talked about what we talked about on the convention general. We talked about stability,” Mr. Biden stated. “It wasn’t confrontational in any respect.”
A reporter then requested if he was placing the USA’ strategic pursuits over human rights points in Vietnam. As Mr. Biden answered — “I’ve raised it with each particular person I met with,” he stated — the voice of his press secretary came to visit the loudspeaker, the public-relations equal of a shepherd’s hook, telling the world the occasion was over.
Music started enjoying, and the president left the stage.
It was not but bedtime.
Aides stated that Mr. Biden completed the day by posing for images with U.S. Embassy workers members and army officers earlier than receiving a briefing from Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on the lethal earthquake in Morocco.