Sunday, February 03, 2008

Respect For Elders

Reader Larry King doesn't have too much trouble with John McCain's politics, but he does have a problem with his age. I agree it's a huge negative for his campaign, but I feel the opposite. I'm quite troubled by McCain's politics and question if he has the proper temperament, but his age doesn't bother me.

I admit he's not nearly as healthy and hearty as Clinton or Bush--in fact, he's fairly frail--but this job isn't ditch digging. It's not even like being in Congress, where you've got to hunker down for days and make deals. Also, you've got a huge staff around you to lean on if need be.

We don't hire a President because he promises to put in the most hours. I'd pay most politicians to work less. What counts in a President, above all, is getting the big things right. (Knowing how to get stuff done is also helpful, and McCain's good at that.) But what you need for that is a sound mind, not body.

McCain wouldn't be the oldest President. He'd be younger than Reagan was in his second term. (There's a rumor Reagan was suffering from dementia during his final years in office, but it's not true, though his hearing loss did occasionally make him appear out of it. Of course, the Left was mocking his age and sanity before he was even elected.) The odds he'll stay mentally alert during his four years--and another four if we pick up his option--are quite good. True, you never know, but you can never be sure anyway. We've had extremely ill presidents before--Cleveland, Wilson, Eisenhower, Reagan. We've also had a number of deaths. But unless someone is very sick while he's running (Paul Tsongas?) I don't think worrying about these things should be a major consideration.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I agree on the age issue- it does make the choice of running mate more important than usual though. If he tries to placate the conservatives with a choice, the increased chance if his expiring in the saddle might scare off what cross-over support he might otherwise get (on the other hand he could also encourage folks who would otherwise stay home on election day). There's still a lot of primary season to go but if McCain is the choice, Condi would be a good out of the box selection

8:44 AM, February 03, 2008  
Blogger LAGuy said...

My guess is the Republican candidates will steer clear of the Bush Administration for Veep picks.

12:08 PM, February 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people are saying we'd look closely at Obama's pick for Vice President since they figure he'd be a target for some.

12:41 PM, February 03, 2008  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

I wan't just thinking of his current age, but his age in the later years of his presidential term(s).

From this Wikipedia page (click on the columns to sort) I find the following:

Before 1981, the oldest presidents on their final day of office were Dwight Eisenhower (70 yr 3 mo), Andrew Jackson (69 y 11 mo), James Buchanan (69 yr 10 mo), Harry Truman (68 yr 8 mo), and William Henry Harrison (68 yr 1 mo). Of course, WHH would have been much older had he not died a month after taking office. Everyone else was under 67. Eisenhower was sick at the end.

Reagan took office at 69 yr 11 mo, beating Eisenhower's record just four months into his term of office. He held office until he was 77 yr 11 mo old. I completely agree with L.A. Guy that Reagan was not "senile", nor did he have Alzheimer's, during his presidency. Yet it is also clear that in his later presidential years, he took a lot of naps. Did this decrease his effectiveness as president? I don't see how it couldn't. Even if the president surrounds himself with people who do most of the work, he needs to be able to intervene in case they start doing things badly.

When GHWBush left office, he was 68 yr 7 mo, which then made him the sixth oldest president, but if he had won a second term he would have been the second oldest.

Had Bob Dole been elected in 1996, he would have been 73 yr 5 mo old -- two and a half years older than Reagan (relative to their inauguration).

If John McCain wins, he will be 72 yr 4 mo old -- one and a half years older than Reagan (relative).

Is 72 too old? No, McCain today is quite alert. But by the end of his first term, he will be as old as Reagan was in the middle of his second term, when (IMO) Reagan began being less effective. If he wins a second term, he will become the oldest president ever, finishing his eight years at age 80.

I think that's not good. In actuarial terms, McCain's expected effective years are not as many as the other candidates. And what happens if he is too old to run again in 2012, but he insists on running anyway? Wilson did that in 1920, despite his illness, and it really hurt his party in the election that year.

Anyway, my point is not that it will be a problem, but simply that it might be a problem. Yes, some people live a long time; Ford, Reagan, and Hoover died in their nineties. But some people don't.

4:18 PM, February 03, 2008  

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