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Aren’t these guys too old to be president?

By Art Cullen

I became eligible for social security the week I realized new eyeglasses were needed to renew my driver’s license. I find myself remembering a bad date in 1978 and not remembering where I am supposed to be in 15 minutes. I need a little nap after lunch. I wonder whatever happened to rock’n’roll. Brother John and I review our surgeries past and planned, and begin to sound like our crazy uncles.

It makes me wonder about age when surveying the presidential field. Trump, 72. Biden, 76. Sanders, 77. Warren, 69.

Nancy Reagan and Al “I’m In Charge” Haig were running the country while Ronald Reagan was asleep and losing his mental capacity in his second term, we later learned. Look what the Oval Office did to a young and vigorous Barack Obama, the one who practiced basketball with the Tar Heels.

Joe Biden

Call me ageist. As someone who knows a psychologist I can attest that Trump is batty and losing it more each day. Bernie impresses as a grumpy and impatient Trotskyite, Biden as a familiar Irish pol who wants to hug you up and keep you warm, hearkening to days when unions had teeth and Scranton had steel. They confront a candidate written by Rod Serling for the Twilight Zone.

Warren seems a pup in their presence. Young of mind, she is a fan of Game of Thrones. She is full of vim and vigor and maybe is no more likely to die of a stroke than Pete Buttigieg, 37. She could beat me in a foot race any day of any distance. But if she wins she will be 75 at the end of her first term – slightly older than Reagan at the end of his first four years.

Einstein and Edison were brilliant as old men. Mark Twain got sour and dour. Dwight Eisenhower was a fine president but seemed ancient when he departed office at 70. He left us with grave warnings about Soviet empire and US militarism. America was enthralled with a beautiful young couple, the Kennedys, and their playful children in the White House. JFK allowed us to turn from the Koreanwar to a future on the moon. He probably would have turned us out of Vietnam had he not been assassinated. LBJ quickly became an old man not to be trusted.

Donald Trump

Older people send their youth off to war when they have forgotten or rationalized its horror. That’s what this old man learned as a young man. Civilization seemingly always has been run by old chiefs who can’t pick up the sword any more.

Younger people who have to fight them generally clamor to end wars. And women. War would be rarer if women ran the world.

But we are talking, in the main, about three old white men. At least the national cable media are. Biden nearly has the nomination cinched, to hear it told.

Beto O’Rourke, 46, is talking about climate change as if it were the end of the world – which it will be, if we don’t do something urgently. The current occupant, between golf rounds, says it all is a hoax. John Delaney, 56, describes new technology that pulls carbon out of the air. Julián Castro, 44, exhorts us in specific terms about how to protect young immigrants in Storm Lake, and engage them to help build this community.

Biden and Sanders have not been here yet. Warren has – twice – and she has a mind like a steel trap. She has all the progressive planks of Sanders and then some. But many say that she is unelectable – and an old warhorse who waxes about the promise of socialism, or the days of wine and roses with Barack, is a completely sensible alternative.

Bernie Sanders

Mayor Pete may be too young and not experienced enough. He captures young imaginations. You might say the same about Eric Swalwell, at 38. He is talking about guns in a way that Biden and Sanders do not. Tim Ryan, 45, might understand the contemporary economics of Scranton and Youngstown better than either of them. My son, Tom, understands young Latino people in Storm Lake better than I do because he knows a lot more of them. He also probably has a better grasp on the future than I.

My main concern is whether to start collecting social security, and whether I can afford the health insurance until Medicare kicks in three years hence. If I were president, I would approve Medicare for people at 50. But I am not 75 yet. Old people set the rules – Nancy Pelosi is 79 – and got us into the mess we are in. It wasn’t 40-year-olds wishing for dependable health insurance.

Now, about that nap.

Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times in Iowa and won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.

17 thoughts on “Aren’t these guys too old to be president?

  1. I wonder how the moon lady feels about having a Dem candidate with a history of groping.

  2. Wisdom and being a consistent champion of social and environmental justice are my priorities in a candidate. Bernie stands head and shoulders above the crowd.

  3. ok, really interesting take. I live in Burlington (y Cuenca) part time and flew home with Bernie the other day, he was my neighbor on the plane., Agree he is an old guy and although a nice guy and neighbor, he really should retire and enjoy the grand kids (I know his daughter too) He looked like a miserable old guy frankly, but I did say something that made him chuckle, he needed it. But you can make an argument for age and experience I think, these guys have some wisdom and if they are healthy mentally and physically, why not.?

    Maybe I missed something, but the article makes no conclusion. I do not care about age any more, what have your learned in life that you can bring to the table is more important to me. . I will not even touch tRump in this post

  4. Having a president over would typically make me a little nervous. HOWEVER, Trump obviously isn’t your typical over 70 man. Like it or not, he has been a successful president, he is a definite patriot, and it seems his energy level is off the charts. HRC couldn’t keep up with him, and I know Biden can’t. And Bernie, he just needs to go fishing. Trump is special, like it or not.

    1. Mr. Trump has been a successful President and is a definite patriot? Is this a joke? Good grief.

  5. People are regularly living healthier and well into their 90’s and will soon be living into the 100’s thanks to gene therapy and DNA sequencing.

    I could care less how old, or white someone is; I care about their policies period, the color of their skin and age is irrelevant and to even mention it is racist and ageist. Judge people on the logic and sensibility of their ideas to judge them on anything else reveals an unwarranted prejudice and stereotyping being masked as self deprecating humor.

    Would any us want to be judged in such a way? By the way we look based on our genetics and our age? I think we can all agree on that.

  6. The elderly candidates in the US are the perfect metaphor for a declining empire. “Make America Great Again” is code for “Make American Young Again.” It ain’t gonna happen.

    1. When you look at the illegal invasions coming into the USA it can never be great again. People don’t have enough sense to know that when you can’t take care of your own citizens you sure can’t support all the illegal invaders and survive.

      1. The irony of a nation of immigrants that has invaded dozens of countries in the past century alone decrying the social effects of illegal invaders.

  7. I’m often reminded by the millennials in my life (maybe even like rubbed in my face) that baby boomer power will soon end and that a new age will dawn. I don’t know how the Generation Xers fit in. 🙂 I’ve also heard that younger folk favor younger candidates, like Cory Booker. I guess the winner of the next election will depend on how many vote from each generation. It must confuse a millennial to hear the catchphrase, “MAGA”. The last time “America” was great was before they were even born.

    1. Even then it was only great if you were white, male and Christian. The MAGA crowd pines for a time of greatness that never existed. I blame Ted Turner for running all those reruns of Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver in the early days of cable. They’ve deluded themselves into believing that all the shows they remember were actual memories of their lives. It’s only normal to pine for a simpler time when one didn’t have so many worries, when 24-hour news didn’t show you all the horror that was going on the whole time, when you could go to the movies for a dollar and missing children weren’t plastered on every milk carton, but the fact is that times have never been better for more people than they are right now.

      The great period they “remember” was actually a time when domestic violence was normal and cops wouldn’t interfere in matters between a man and his wife; when children were brutally beaten regularly for anything from bad grades to dad having a tough day at work; when people were regularly lynched for being in the wrong part of town; when the US was overthrowing democracies all over the world and installing, training and financing murderous dictators; when the country was dragged into a decade long meat grinder that killed 58k Americans and 3 million poor rice farmers and destroyed the lives of millions more; when millions of citizens had to face down tear gas, fire hoses and attack dogs just to demand the right to vote and send their kids to decent schools. If you go back before that time, it was centuries of slavery, genocide and violent land theft.

      In short, it was never great. I suppose defeating the Nazis was a worthwhile accomplishment, but one has to remember that the Soviets did the overwhelming majority of that work and nobody in their right mind would claim the USSR was ever great. Making America “great” is a dog whistle to the whiny middle-class white American male who didn’t get to take advantage of the same institutionalized privilege his father’s generation had, angry that he has to compete on a level playing field with everyone else. Admitting that publicly would make them a pariah, while admitting it to themselves would bring on too much cognitive dissonance for comfort, so instead they convince themselves that they really only miss Mayberry.

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