How old is too old to run the country?
Is someone in their 80s too much of an old fogey to lead the free world?
By "old," I mean someone who might spend an entire summit meeting talking about "how things were back in my day." And if he or she walked the grounds of Camp David with another world leader, at some point that president might plop down on a bench and say, "You walk ahead, I'll catch up, I just need to sit a spell."
For that matter, is a man or woman moving late into their 70s — a codger or a biddy, by some standards — too old to be president, and likely to misplace the keys of the White House, because, well, we old people lose things. Worse yet, would that president at some critical point ask, "Anybody know what I did with the nuclear codes? ..."
I ask this only because former president Jimmy Carter, whom I greatly respect in part because he still uses the young man's version of his name — Jimmy — even though he's almost 95, was asked recently if he'd ever considered running for a second non-consecutive term as president. After, all, constitutionally he's got another term as president coming to him because he lost his re-election — at the age of 56 — to Ronald Reagan, who was himself a noted old president.
“I hope there’s an age limit,” Carter said with a laugh as he answered audience questions on Tuesday, according to an Associated Press piece about his annual report at the Carter Center in Atlanta. “If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president.”
Carter went on to note that presidents "have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them together in a comprehensive way, like I did between Begin and Sadat with the peace agreement."
"The things I faced in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them at 80 years old,” Carter said. “At 95, it’s out of the question. I’m having a hard time walking."
How Old, Too Old?
It pains me to have to bring all this up because as I near 70 — I'm 68 or 69, at my age it's tough to remember which — I hate to rule out my someday being elected the chief executive of our great land. Still, I can't help but wonder, how old is too old to be president?
This is an important question currently because, according to the AP article I read, we have a president who "eclipsed Reagan’s mark as the oldest newly elected president in history and would become the oldest president to be re-elected."
One the opposing side, the top three Democratic candidates in the political polls are no spring chickens, either. Joe Biden is 76 and Bernie Sanders is 78, and the AP story noted that both would turn 80 during their terms, if elected president. Elizabeth Warren is 70, and would approach 80 if she was elected and served two terms as president.
After being re-elected, would all of them spend nearly their entire "lame duck" second terms talking about aches and pains and their latest surgical procedures?
"It's interesting that you'd put it that way. I really did get out of bed feeling a little lame this morning. My arthritis is acting up ..."
No Age Discrimination
Now, there are those who would argue that older candidates might make the best presidents. With age comes wisdom, these individuals might claim. Certainly we old people might be more experienced, but I'm not sure how bright I've become. I know I can't always remember the names of the stars of my favorite old movies, anymore, or the authors of my favorite books. How could I be expected to keep the names of world leaders straight.
"I think he's talking French ...," an old president might say at a state dinner. "Who's the French president?"
One thing I do know, though, is that there probably is nobody more interested in saving the Social Security program than somebody who already is collecting it.
The truth is, all this is just speculation. We shouldn't and we can't discriminate against older people. That would be wrong.
Besides, I'm pretty much an old goat, myself. I pay bills by check. I eat early so I can go to bed before it gets too late. I still listen to mix tapes.
Why would I want to limit my options as an old timer.
At my age, I've already had to chuck my dream of growing up to be a Major League Baseball player.
It's nice to know that I still can grow old enough to be president.