Monday, January 21, 2008

McCain And The Age Issue

OK, so it was pointed out to me that I wasn't the only person who mentioned McCain being, well, a tad on the senior side. I honestly am not sure why Norris' comment is such a big deal. It isn't ageism to point out that a person might just be too old for something as strenuous as the Office of President of the United States. I don't think we should allow McCain to shrug off the question of age the way Reagan did with Walter Mondale, with a scripted joke and the patented Reagan smile, head tilted slightly to one side, and a chuckle. This is a serious issue, and needs to be addressed directly. I know our political system is ill-equipped to handle a serious discussion of something as delicate as this, but I also think it is necessary. We have had Presidents in our history who have been seriously incapacitated while in office - the most infamous of whom was Woodrow Wilson, debilitated by a stroke, with his wife and eminence gris Col. House working to insulate Wilson from the stresses and strains of the office - and Presidents who have had various health problems while in office (Grover Cleveland had part of his jaw and palate removed because of cancer; Eisenhower had a heart attack and a stroke; Kennedy suffered from a war injury and was most likely addicted to prescription pain killers; Nixon was an incipient alcoholic; FDR deteriorated before the eyes of an adoring public, finally dying of a burst aneurysm; Reagan was in to the first stages of Alzheimer's Disease before he left office in 1989). These are real issues, to be confronted honestly, and one hopes, with a modicum of decency (thin hopes, to be sure).

Having a physical, and reporting the general conclusions is not a solution, by the way. It is, or should be, the beginning of a discussion. The next President will have a whole host of problems with which to deal. Being able to bear up under the strains of what will in all likelihood be very messy public controversies will be a big part of the job. Of course, many younger than McCain would be ill-equipped to do so. There is also the not unimportant issue that Barack Obama is a chain smoker - and one wonders how his heart and lungs will deal with the twin stresses of the job and the multiple carcinogens he inhales on an hourly basis. This, too, should be part of the discussion (and incidentally would be a nice way to have a broader discussion on questions of health care, public health, and the like; or perhaps I am being a bit too dreamy here).

Anyway, I think it's a legitimate issue, and just because Chuck Norris is the first person to raise it so publicly doesn't mean it is, our should be, out of bounds. On the contrary, I think we need more, not less, discussion. As long as it is done seriously and carefully, and with respect.

Virtual Tin Cup

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