Saturday, March 29, 2008

He's Too Old

As someone who is on the other side of 60, I've been uncomfortable with the sarcastic jokes about John McCain's age. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a McCain sympathizer. I think he's the wrong man for the presidency, but not because he'll be 72 when sworn into office should he win. As Ellen Goodman pointed out in her column yesterday in the Boston Globe, there's been a lot of serious (and, I believe, healthy) discussion about race and gender during the presidential race, but McCain's age has been relegated to late night humor. And, as Ms. Goodman points out, a rather nasty ageist comment by a Fox News "journalist" certainly didn't help.

IT WAS probably not wise for the 64-year-old Brit Hume to describe the 71-year-old John McCain as having a "senior moment." A blip would have been better. Or a gaffe. Or even a dent in the candidate's "experience" armor.

But when the traveling senator confused Shi'ites and Sunnis, when he conflated Al Qaeda with all extremists, the "senior moment" phrase uttered by the Fox newsman got velcroed to the story of The Man Who Would Be the Oldest President in American History.

Mr. Hume's comment was all the more egregious when one considers that George W. Bush (now age 61) has been making those same mistakes for over six years, and nobody in the media has suggested the President has Alzheimer's. Tom "Nuke Mecca" Tancredo has likened Mexican immigrants to Al Qaeda-type terrorists, yet no one has called him senile.

And it's not like people over 70 have never led their nations. Ms. Goodman points to the most famous of the elder statesmen/women in recent history: Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Golda Meier. All three were as old or older than Sen. McCain when they held power. All three served their nations well.

Ultimately, however, it's not about age. It's about fitness for what has to be one of the most demanding jobs in the world. The question should not be "Is he too old?" It should be "Does he have any physical impairments which would preclude him from doing the job?" At this point, Ms. Goodman points to a very important issue.

But we have grown to expect a thorough health report on candidates. We knew about John Kerry's prostate cancer and Joe Biden's brain aneurysms. We know about McCain's war injuries and his melanoma, his cholesterol, and his allergies. We expect full assessments from every doctor except, well, neurologists. If airline pilots, some judges, and people in other occupations are subject to cognitive tests, why not presidential candidates?

Why not indeed? It's not about longevity, it's about competence. There have been and are very competent and very productive men and women over the age of 70. I know because I have butted heads with them in the courtroom and I've lost to them often enough to know that chronological age has nothing to do with it. At the same time, I've seen 70 year olds who, because of various debilitating conditions couldn't do the job. Age does enter into the equation but should not be the only (dis)qualifier.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right! Age has nothing to do with it unless your age has created senile dementia. Um, which I observe regularly in McCain.

Heis no more up on the real issues concerning America and it's people than the earth worms in my flower bed. The real problem with politicians is that they are in a bubble world and what matters to them is foreign oil and how to get the most money out of the government coffers without being detected.

If being a lobbyist were not a sure fire way to continue the looting, then nobody would strive for those jobs after leaving office. Hmmm. Which reminds me. They don't leave office unless they are close to or have been caught in the act. Now, I wonder how much longer we have to wait on more of McCain's stories behind the scenes? Stories such as the FCC trade and play, lobby ladies, and more that should be in full view of American voters.

I bet the "senior moments" will fly if those stories come to life.


6:53 AM  

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