No country for old men

Prior to Donald Trump, the oldest man to occupy the office of president of the United States was, at 69 years 349 days on the day of his inauguration, Ronald Wilson Reagan. Reagan’s relevance today is that he’s the oldest person to have served two full terms. His previous closest rival in age, William Henry Harrison, only served one full month.

Reagan’s mental decline during his presidency is, of course, well known and a matter of record. He was already in the incipient stages of Alzheimer’s when he departed the White House. The Reagan era happened at a time, fortunately for us all, when the Soviet Union was progressively becoming less openly bellicose about the use of nukes and teetering on the precipice of economic and political ruin.

One imagines (in one’s nightmares) how Reagan would have handled a robust Soviet Union of the Khrushchev era in the midst of a full scale crisis of the Cuban Missile variety. We would be justified in proposing that were it not for a vigorous and informed and cautious and sly John F. Kennedy, I might not be here typing these words and you might not be there reading them. Kennedy needed all his faculties to face down Nikita Khrushchev and — good news for us — those faculties were available when he needed them.

Trump is another matter. Trump would have been every inch as awful a president at 43 as he is at 73. Probably worse, because he would have had more more energy and imagination for crime, rape and deception. So his age is irrelevant. In fact, if I could add twenty years to Trump’s age right now I would do it. We would be much better off.

But apart from the exception that proves the rule, what the hell are we to do about the three Bs, that is, Biden, Bernie and Bloomberg? Two of them, if elected, would be 78 on Inauguration Day and 86 on the final day of their second term. Bernie Sanders would be 79 and 87 respectively!

I’m not being an ageist here. At least I hope I’m not. I just think I’m being realistic. I’m not being fat shaming, for example, when I say that a man six feet tall and weighing 360 pounds can’t run a sub four minute mile. I’m acknowledging the laws of physics and human biomechanics. The three Bs are simply too old to be effective as presidents of the United States. Two of them should have mounted their campaigns when they were younger and physically able to take on the job. Biden had his shot in his younger days and he lost.

What’s more, and this is the part that actually makes me angry, who in the hell do these guys think they are? How dare they enter the race at their age? The presidency is not a final prize they can grab on the way to the cemetery. It’s not item nine on their ten item bucket list. It’s a sacred responsibility for a woman or a man mentally, morally, experientially and physically up to it. They know this just as certainly as I do, and it’s a measure of their contempt for the job (and us) that they’re willing to put you me and everyone in the world at risk for the sake of their little male egos.

When I endorse Elizabeth Warren as president I am fully aware that she would be 71 years old when she takes the oath of office and 79 when she departs after her second term. I’m okay with that. For one thing, she’s a woman, and women live longer than men with their faculties intact. For another, she’s sharp now in a way that the three Bs could only dream about. She’s Kennedy sharp. So I have faith in her abilities and her physical stamina. And she would be the same age at the end of her second term as Bernie Sanders would be at the start of his first.

I think Biden, Bernie and Bloomberg should step down for the good of the country. I think they each should acknowledge their unfitness for the job on the basis of advanced age. The world is too dangerous a place and we have too much to do in order to secure its safety to entrust it to men who simply are not physically up to the job.

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