Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

There tends to be quite a lot of pearl clutching by the left when it comes to the suggestion that Democrats are subtly exploiting John McCain's age for political gain that seems rooted in a sort of knee-jerk political correctness. Now, sure, if we were talking about simply associating age and confusion or age and incompetence, I'd perhaps be crying "ageism" too, but we're not judging McCain for any old job here; he's auditioning for the Presidency of the United States. As Anna Quindlen reminded us earlier this year, there are age caps for other jobs that require mental sharpness without much of an outcry.

It's significant that while the old mandatory retirement age of 65 has been largely junked, there are still age limits for jobs like airline pilot or police officer, the kinds of jobs that require some of the same skills as the presidency--unwavering mental acuity and physical energy.

Political operatives say that his age makes McCain's choice of a running mate particularly critical. But if you enter the process stressing a hedge against mortality or incapacity, shouldn't that suggest something about suitability for the job in the first place?

And let's not be naive; John McCain will do everything in his power to exploit the positive associations his age bring him, namely experience, for his own political gain. So forgive me if I'm a bit more tolerant than some of making McCain's age an issue. Not only has McCain himself remarked on it repeatedly, but also "old" is literally the word that people associate with McCain most often when asked to describe him.

From a AP/Yahoo News poll:

Ask people to blurt out their first words about the two presidential candidates and one in five say "change" or "outsider" for Barack Obama and "old" for John McCain, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll released Monday. Those are not only the top responses for each man but the ones used most often since January, when fewer than one in 10 volunteered those descriptions. [...]

In addition, respondents who are either undecided or say they could change their minds are as likely as everyone else to volunteer "old" when describing McCain -- not the attribute his campaign wants them focused on. So do one in seven independents, a significant number.

And people who in January did not provide a word for McCain now offer "old" far more often than anything else -- hinting that those paying little attention to the campaign six months ago are now struck by McCain's age.

Notice that the context of the poll doesn't make a judgment as to whether "old" is a plus or a minus but the article presumes the campaign sees it as a negative.

For me, one of the more compelling reasons it should not be off the table and why so-called ageism is nowhere near the level of sexism or racism on the inappropriate exploitation scale is that the ones who are most likely to cite McCain's age as a disqualifier...are the aged themselves.

"My husband and I are about the same age as McCain, and I don't think we'd be in a position to take this country in the direction it needs to go," said Rosemary Bates, 65, of Barre, Vt., an Obama supporter. "We've grown up in a different era. Something is not working and it needs to be changed."

John Murtha put it this way in April:

Democratic Rep. John Murtha said Wednesday that Republican Sen. John McCain is too old to be president. Murtha is 75, four years older than McCain. He says they are nearly the same age, and the rigors and stress of running the country is too much for guys their age. [...]

"This one guy running is about as old as me," he said, drawing laughter and applause. "Let me tell you something, it's no old man's job."

Now I'm not saying that Democrats should launch a campaign against McCain that accuses him of being old and hence unfit to be president. But considering McCain wears his age on his sleeve and even jokes about it, and people already hold pre-conceived concerns about it, I think playing into those fears, if only subtly, should absolutely be one of the arrows in our quiver.

Tags: 2008 Presidential election, aage, John McCain (all tags)

Comments

25 Comments

Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Before the start of the race I didn't. But watching him since...Yes bigtime.

by moondancer 2008-07-07 09:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

It's not a matter of age.  There are plenty of elder statesmen who'd make great Presidents.  

It IS a matter of being completely out of touch.  

by freedom78 2008-07-07 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Also, how does someone who admit to not being good with computers deal in this day and age with the complex issues such technology places on Emloyment, the economic system, our securty etc. etc.?

by Dog Chains 2008-07-07 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Exactly!

We have to make sure we're not talking about him being old so much as we have to talk about how he's out of touch with America.

by fbihop 2008-07-07 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

If McCain is going to tow the Bush line on executive power, then perhaps it is a good thing if he needs a nap in the afternoon...

by pennquaker08 2008-07-07 09:41AM | 0 recs
Yes

Whether or not any aspect of a presidential candidate makes anyone uncomfortable or not, if it potentially has an impact then it is on the table.

Age is not the same as skin tone or gender, vitality and stamina matter very very much.  Does his age mean he does not have both?  Good question, and worth asking.

-chris

by chrisblask 2008-07-07 09:48AM | 0 recs
No

His lack of memory should be on the table. However, age could be on the table if he picks another Dan Quayle as VP.

by Zzyzzy 2008-07-07 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

McCain has often said that he is older than the Golden Gate Bridge. It takes a substantial crew, working year-round, to remove rust and repaint to keep the bridge safe and functioning. The last I heard, McCain doesn't have such a crew.

Seriously, age is considered in many fields. Even with the best of skills, athletes reach a point where they can no longer compete. Actors age themselves out of some roles, and into others. Many fields keep their experienced workers by switching them to less strenuous positions. Age, as it relates to ability to perform, is absolutely on the table.

Also, McCain is not simply a 71 year old man. He is a 71 year old how suffered grave torture and privation for several years. Those have left their mark on him. It is fair to ask how those injuries affect his ability to carry out the job.

The key is to talk about stamina, concentration, recuperative ability, memory, and other requirements for the job that age can hinder, rather than age itself.

by anoregonreader 2008-07-07 10:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

I disagree, but only because I think we don't have to do anything explicit and risk the backlash.  The contrast in age is apparent by the tenor, enthusiasm, and even the tactics of the two campaigns.  Plus, it'll be painfully obvious when the two are on stage for their three debates who is, ahem, older.

That said, events and photo-ops of Obama doing active, vigorous, youthy (hey, new word!) things like playing sports, marathon campaign days, picnicking with wife and children - even using a computer - should certainly be in the arsenal.  Kill 'em with implication.

by ASDem 2008-07-07 10:02AM | 0 recs
Keep it up, it's a nice way of getting the seniors

to vote for your guy! Insults works real well!!!

by suzieg 2008-07-08 02:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Yes, age should be on the table. Age matters. Ten-year-olds shouldn't drive cars, 30-year-olds shouldn't collect Social Security benefits, and 70+ year-olds shouldn't.... be working at all.

by LandStander 2008-07-07 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

That's quite offensive.

What, are you fifteen? To say that 70 year olds shouldn't be working at all?

by cuppajoe 2008-07-07 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

HA!  Tell it to Warren Buffet.

by Tolstoy 2008-07-07 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Agreed. I really do think that John McCain is too old to be President. Just as I felt that Reagan was too old. Now Reagan probably warped into senility after he got shot, and we have really no way of predicting what will happen to any individual while they are serving, but I also look at McCain's past and health history. I do think that his history of being tortured for so many years is also relevant. I am concerned about the physical and emotional impact of this event.

I am not saying that 71 would be too old for everyone. This is subjective, based upon the individual. Now I think that Hillary, at age 72, would be an entirely different matter. Of course that depends upon her health and state of mind over the next 12 year.

by Hollede 2008-07-07 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Age should noty be a consideration in any way. When you open that box you open the door for all the ageists to start in. Like the comment above which says that 70+ year olds should not be working at all.

If you say age should be on the table, then you allow ignoramuses like that to do what they will.

Progressives should be above all that. We are supposed to be better than that, more intelligent, more sensitive, more caring, more inclusive.

If you can't fight on the issues, then pack it up and go home because you havne't got much to fight on. If you resort to calling calling people out because you contend they are too old, then you've got nothing.

And who is to say what's too old? Look at McCain's mother who is in her nineties -- she's quite bright and active.

Everybody's different at every age -- Murtha maybe can't cut it, but others older than he can.

If we go down the road of ctiticizing someone for age then we certainly can bring anything else into the fray that we like.

If the Democratic Party takes this route, then it's not the Democratic Party I grew up loving.

by cuppajoe 2008-07-07 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

age should not be a consideration at all??  never? if the GOP put up a 75 yr old, a 77 yr old, or an 80 yr old, that should not be an issue?

by cgvjelly 2008-07-07 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

That's correct. Age should not be an issue.

I don't understand this preoccupation with age in politics -- if a person is willing and able to do a job, they should be permitted to do so. After all, running for office isn't easy and if a person can do it and come through to the point of being nominated, then what's the problem?

Ageism is as ugly as sexism, homophobia, racism, or any other thing.

If you have a problem with a person's age, then vote against them.

But the issues are what you should vote on -- or do you have a different standard for older people than you do for AAs or women or any other group?

by cuppajoe 2008-07-07 08:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Not simply as a number. But the guy is clearly in the advanced stages of age related deterioration. He mixes up words and facts and looking at footage of from a few years ago shows a noticeable difference in every way.

Does it need to be pushed by the Obama campaign? Maybe not since it's so apparent.

by Beren 2008-07-07 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Go back and watch some footage of him from the race in 2000.  The difference is incredible.  I'm not saying he was the smartest guy in the world back then, but he sure as hell was far more on top of things then than he is now.

by JJ Berg 2008-07-07 10:42AM | 0 recs
My mom is 76,

and she says the same thing as John Murtha. She says McCain is too old to be President. Unfortunately, she isn't impressed with Obama, either.

by georgiapeach 2008-07-07 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

No need to make it an issue and risk backfire when this poll is evidence enough that people think it anyway whether it is explicitly brought up or not.

by conspiracy 2008-07-07 12:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

Yes, considering he has a hard time putting sentences together.  His weakness should be exploited.

by agpc 2008-07-07 02:34PM | 0 recs
Bob Dole

Too old was the standing joke of the comedians in 1996.

Recycle the old jokes.

by bakho 2008-07-07 05:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?
Two things: My mom, a semi-retired RN, says the same thing.  He is not capable of the stamina required day in day out.
  Second its not the number, its the person.  He is not up to it.
by moondancer 2008-07-07 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Should McCain's Age Be On The Table?

By all means! And why shouldn't it be?

McCain talks about his experience. Is experience anything more than memory? And we've seen how unreliable McCain's memory is. Loose bearings might be an appropriate expression for the driver (McCain) of the Flip-Flop Express.

McCain denied he'd said he lacked knowledge about economics. Then when Tim Russert pointed out his quote in the Wall Street Journal, McCain had nothing to say.

Now McCain says he can balance the budget in four years! How? By cutting taxes, cutting Medicare, Social Security and health care? Isn't that Bush all over again? And isn't that the Repug agenda to dismantle the New Deal?

McCain also said he didn't love America until he was a POW. I find that puzzling. I enlisted in the Navy in 1955, age 19, filled out a questionnaire that had a question (among others), why are you joining the Navy? The answer I chose was "For Love of God and Country."

I wasn't born into a family of wealth and privilege as was McCain. My father was a railroader. My mother stayed a home and raised me.

I loved America in 1955 at age 19 (and long before that). I still love America, her Constitution and values. I didn't have to be a POW to realize that.

by Hempy 2008-07-07 07:13PM | 0 recs

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