Blogs – Our Little First Amendment Machines
This Old Lady’s Takin’ a Break

Senator McCain’s Age

category_bug_politics.gif [Before I even get started on this post, you should know that I support Senator Barack Obama for president and strongly oppose Senator John McCain. At a future date, I will post my reasons which have everything to do with policy and positions and nothing to do with either senator’s chronological age.]

As if the late-night comedy shows were not already doing a yeoman’s job of promulgating ageist jokes about Senator John McCain, now there’s a website devoted to bashing the presidential candidate based on his age alone - John McCain. Old. Really Old.

Here is a list of the home page navigation links:

And these are the choices in an online poll asking: How would you describe John McCain:

When I first looked at the website, I thought maybe I’m humor-impaired. But on further reading, I dismissed that idea. It is ageist through and through.

If there were (and who knows, there may be) a site similarly devoted only to the color of Senator Obama’s skin, cable news would headline it every hour and civil rights groups would organize petitions. But there is no media commentary on this anti-McCain website, no civil rights activity and the two or three newspaper pieces on McCain age jokes nearly every night on Leno, Letterman and O’Brian have been little more than an excuse to repeat the jokes.

Early on in this campaign, I believed the issue of Senator McCain’s age would be a positive force for a public debate about ageism and a chance to help educate the nation on the value and importance of elders in a culture that mostly rejects that truth.

I was wrong. McCain’s age has become, instead, a point of derision of the senator and nowhere in mainstream media has there been a serious story, seriously researched about ageism, its real-life manifestations and the tyranny it imposes on old people. (Stay tuned, however. That may change soon and I’ll let you know.)

So, should Senator McCain’s age be a factor in anyone's thinking while making the decision on whom to vote for? Certainly. But there are two ways to approach it – one is reasonable and one is not.

Poor health can be, but is not always, associated with old age. You might be concerned about Senator McCain’s health and how that could affect his performance as president. He released 1300 pages of medical records (although only for a few minutes and none could be photocopied by the limited number of reporters who were allowed to see them), and he has a long history of cancer. But there are millions of cancer survivors and millions of old people live with manageable chronic conditions that do not impair their job performance. Still, if McCain's health is your concern, it is a reasonable consideration.

Reports of Senator McCain’s temper tantrums have been attributed to his age. I reject that reason, but the issue is worth considering. Maybe it worries you to have a president who easily flies off the handle. The kind of intemperate attack ads he has recently produced on Senator Obama are something some might like to think about too, although they are hardly new to presidential politics.

There is a growing list of factual errors in Senator McCain’s speeches, interviews and town hall meetings. Are they due to age? Lack of knowledge? Or can they be dismissed as slips anyone would make under the pressure of non-stop campaigning for the past 21 months? These are reasonable questions to ask when making a decision about whom to vote for.

And, elders have a unique perspective younger people do not in weighing Senator McCain’s age in terms of the stamina required to handle the daily work of what is often called the hardest job in the world. We know how we are different from our younger selves, we live it every day and some voters may want to apply that experience to deciding whether to vote for McCain. Although I doubt the daily work of being president takes any more stamina than the pressures of a full-time election campaign.

These are all reasonable issues to consider in regard to McCain’s candidacy.

Unreasonable is the non-stop barrage of old-age jokes, the assertion that McCain could die in office and the attacks with derisive adjectives as on this anti-McCain website.

Ageist jokes have been around for decades on greeting cards, in cartoons and many comedians’ repertoires. They reinforce already entrenched ageism which leads to age discrimination in the workplace that, according to filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is up 20 percent over the past year. Also, it is well-documented that some elders are treated less aggressively by the health community just because they are old. Ageist jokes targeting McCain are not funny, they are prejudicial and they have real-world consequences including unfair dismissal of McCain's candidacy based only on his age.

Another unreasonable attack is that if elected, McCain might die in office. And so might anyone else. But age didn’t stop the British from re-electing Winston Churchill prime minister at age 77, nor the Germans electing Konrad Adenauer chancellor at age 73 and the French electing Charles de Gaulle president at age 68. All served out their full terms.

And what if a President McCain (or any president) were to die in office? That’s what vice presidents are for. The number of Senator McCain’s years should not deter anyone who believes he is the better choice from voting for him.

All the nasty adjectives referring to Senator McCain’s age should be condemned as fast and furiously as the nation would respond to anyone who used equivalent terms referring to Senator Obama’s skin color. That few do and that this anti-McCain website continues to publish reflects the widespread belief in the United States that it is all right to discriminate against someone based on age alone. And that is morally reprehensible. It denigrates not only Senator McCain, but every old person too. Where is the outrage?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins gets poetic about My House.]


You're right; where is the outrage? I have lots and will share with anyone else who wants some...

Ageism, sexism, racism, ism, ism, ism, how easy it is to distract us from the central issues of the decline of our country and the impending global disaster of climate change.

And it isn't enough for candidates to talk about it, we desperately need ACTION to save this sinking ship.

Are we all going to have the discipline to keep the politicians on the central issues?

And don't forget Pope Benedict XVI, chosen to be the new pontiff at the age of 78 or 79. He's just returned from a very strenuous trip without collapsing.

Excellent points. I have an issue with his politics and his lack of anger control. Not his age.

Exellent, of course. Very well said, Ronni.

Bravo, Ronni. And here's some of the outrage right here. I am also an Obama supporter (although tentatively at this point, only because I have not had time to do as much research as I would like on both of them; I don't expect that to change with more research but I acknowledge it could).

But age is not among the objections to McCain that I consider reasonable. Why not turn it around anyway? He brings more life experience to the job than a younger man would, after all. Which is more important - the risk of ill health, or the experience. Of course, the real question is whether you support and want supported the values and ideas he has accumulated over those years, regardless of their number.

I went to the web site you referenced and on the front page right now was an article about his having a mole removed, which starts:

"So I think we all get the point: John McCain is really old. But, for some reason, Ol’ MacDaddy just wants to make sure that he hammers it home. So, yesterday, he went to the doctor to get a small mole-like growth from the side of his face."

1) Appalling.

2) That has nothing to do with being really old. Skin cancer is a risk at any age. Your risk level depends on your history (usually childhood/youthful sun exposure, I gather, may be more important than exposure as an adult), genetics, etc. I had my first mole removed around age 25 (fortunately, the ones removed so far have all been benign moles that had the misfortune to "look funny").

Cancer is not a disease of old age, people. If anything, bravo to him for the fact that he is keeping a close watch for it!

I am struggling with this one. I agree wholeheartedly that ageist jokes are reprehensible. Stereotyping is wrong no matter who the subject may be.

I am concerned about McCain's factual errors. They are so huge that I can't chalk them up to a slip of the tongue or of being tired. To know why he is so lacking in knowledge is important and the fact that it could be an indication of the onset of dementia has to be considered. There are diseases that are affiliated mostly with age and the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's cannot be dismissed out of hand. Certainly Ronald Reagan's mental lapses while he was in office should have sent up warning flares.

"Although I doubt the daily work of being president takes any more stamina than the pressures of a full-time election campaign."

I don't agree with this, Ronni.
It's one thing to make a lot of campaign promises and tell us exactly what you MIGHT do in any given situation but it's another thing to actually answer that red phone at 5 A.M. and have to make an instant decision on an Earth shattering predicament.One situation is hypothetical and the other is REAL.

No, I don't want John McCain at the helm of our Ship of State. Whether he was a young Ensign or an old Captain he is just not the man for the job....

McCain had that temper from childhood. He writes in his own book about, as a child, being so angry he'd pass out. That's his character, not his age. His age is not a problem to me because his mom is still alive and is mentally alert, he appears to watch his health issues.

But as far as jokes, elders seem to want it both ways. We should quit sending on the elder jokes if we don't find them humorous. Frankly I do and get them regularly in email. They play on the humor about getting old and a sense of humor is one of the things that gets us through many things. So to me, to have comedians joke about it, or McCain himself go on a show and pretend to fall asleep, it's fair game. Most elder jokes are based on truth about what it is like to get old-- if not today, eventually.

To me, the reason it's different than any ethnic humor is that ethnic jokes are often based on old stereotypes or meant to keep a group down. I haven't heard the kind of humor about McCain that is cruel but maybe I am not exposed to it because of limited TV viewing. There may be some who won't vote for McCain based on his age, but not as many was won't vote for Obama based on his skin.


We'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

I don't see how two years of seven-day-a-week campaigning, up early every morning; several flights a day; several speeches a day to different kinds of constituencies; donor conferences, dinners and meetings; memorizing new speeches; constant questions from the press; keeping up with briefing papers from advisers; keeping up with developments in the world, the country and Congress; sleeping in hotels every night; etc...

can possibly compare to the almost coddled life, by comparison, of a president who has hundreds of advisers instantly on call, a cabinet of experts, a carefully maintained schedule, people always coming to him rather than him going to them, etc. If I'm not mistaken, President Reagan even had a regularly scheduled afternoon nap. Bush has a regularly scheduled exercise program. Presidents have a lot more down time for themselves than candidates.

I can't think of much that is more exhausting that a two-year election campaign and I'm amazed at Senator McCain's stamina.


I think you were answering me, not Kenju, but, in any case, even if you swing me over to your side and I agree with you that campaigning is a more strenuous job than being President, I still don't want John McCain to be President.

As I have mentioned here before, I think he has a "5 year prisoner of war" chip on his shoulder and somebody has to pay for that. I don't want another war over it.

I agree that there has been way too much "stuff" regarding McCain's age. I would not care if he was 80, if he was healthy and sharp. However, I am more and more convinced that he doesn't have the stamina required to do the "hardest job in the world" -- I think that many of his "gaffs", slips of the tongue, forgetfulness, etc. is a result of his being worn out - exhausted by the demands of campaigning and all that entails. And I don't think being President of the United States would be easier - particularly in a crisis situation. So, if I wasn't leaning toward Obama in the first place, I would certainly be considering him just because I think he has the strength to meet whatever challenges the position presents.

Obama will be bad news for America...soak the rich, tax, tax, tax.

The only thing worse will be if McCain wins, not because he's old, but because he offers nothing much for anyone.

Congress is owned by big business.
The best we can hope for gridlock, and that is not a happy picture.

The future is grim. I stay home as much as possible and out of a culture that is going down the tubes.

Where is the outrage in older women who are suffering the most in the mortgage crisis? Where is the outrage in older men who've lost their retirement benefits?

We have no organization that represents us. Nothing coming for that insurance giant, AARP. Had a moment when I hoped Bill Moyers might go beyond great TV. Had a fantasy that you'd return to radio...not that would be something.

Meanwhile, asked someone who will be an Obama delegate at the Democratic Convention if there's a "seniors for Obama" group within their campaign.

I'm with Darlene, Lois and Nancy on this one. Let's get answers from McCain on THE ISSUES.

What the heck mortgage crisis? Do you know someone personally who is suffering in this 'crisis'? You need smarter friends. Why are 'older' women suffering more than younger women? Are they even more stupid? AAARGGGGHHHH!!!

Real Estate is a gamble. It always has been. It is like the stock market. It is cyclic.

The crisis is people buying more house than they can afford, with terms they can't possibly meet. Now, whose fault is that, exactly? But there is no intelligence test required before signing up for a loan and banks are afraid NOT to give loans.

But think about this: Congress has been crawling all over the banking industry to make loans to people who are incapable (and a lot of times unwilling) to pay these loans back. (they can't AFFORD IT!) The CEO's of these banks aren't too unhappy, because they get out before the damage shows, then sell their stock short...

If I lose my job, and so does my husband, we are on the street. We lose our house, and that's sad, but it is not an outrage. We borrowed money (WE BORROWED MONEY! IT ISN'T OURS!), and if we can't pay it back, they get to take the house. Them's the terms. I read the contract before signing my name.

I'm sure you remember the "bad ol days", before P.C., the days of radio shows like "Abie's Irish Rose",
"Jack Benny & Rochester" and the 1000 year old man etc. I think we laughed a lot more when we weren't worrying (too much} about saying the wrong thing. OK so it was wrong and I guess we should have known better but my point is that if we can't laugh at ourselves - we're in trouble. McCain and I are almost contemporaries. I was born two year before he was so I think it's OK to make jokes about his age since I frequently make jokes about my own. I think I might have been a decent president if I had been elected eight years ago but I don't think I'm really up to the job now and neither is McCain and it's for the same reasons. We're both grumpy old men who often forget where we left our glasses or the car keys and we have to pause a little to remember the names of our grandchildren or the first name of the French President and although I aced history and gography in school, I can't remember which countries border on Lebanon or Iraq without looking at a map but the main reason we shouldn't be in the White House is because we can't inspire the young people of the world to go out and make a difference but Barack Obama can, almost the way JFK could.
Considering the kind of campaign my contemporary is running now- he should be treated as a joke.
As my Jewish friends would say:
"I laugh so that I don't cry"

This website came to me in my email... it is issues oriented and not age discriminatory (at least the parts I viewed). McCain looks really bad based on his policies and positions. Age has nothing to do with it.

In most circumstances I would go with experience rather than youth. I think age gives depth, wisdom and perspective. But I will vote for Obama because I don't agree with McCain's perspective. In this case I'm voting for new ideas.

Was this site removed somehow? I went into it a few times and kept getting "Site Not Found."


Apparently someone has removed the website linked in the second paragraph.

I agree with you about McCain, but I think using Winston Churchill's being re-elected when he was 77 is not a good example. If you look at biographies of him, he wasn't really up to the job. Eisenhower, for example, respected him for what he had done during the war, but he hated dealing with him during that later time because Churchill wasn't quite with it.

Hey Ronni! Is is possible that website link you provided in the second paragraph which is now not available was removed as a consequence of your post and the comments here? All the more reason to keep these little first amendment machines writing -- differences can be made.

The comments to this entry are closed.