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Who is Too Old to be President?

How old is too old to be president?

Wait, wait. Don't rush into this. Before you answer, let me remind you of what I have reported here dozens of times:

Babies' development can be predicted to the week. If she/he has not taken a first step or said a first word by a specified week of life, it's probably time to check with a pediatrician.

The other end of of life, however, is highly unpredictable. Some people's intellectual capabilities are compromised by age 50. Others sail into their eighth, ninth and even tenth decades while carrying on the work and interests they have always had, or taking on new ones.

So (discounting heavy physical labor), there is no date, no particular age at which a person can be labeled too old to work.

We complain about that here all the time, the rejection of job applicants based on whether they look like an interviewer's parent. It's called ageism and it begins to show up at a remarkably early age – about 40 for men and 35 for women and increases from there.

Nevertheless, growing old is not without intellectual consequence. We often laugh at ourselves about forgetting words – even whole concepts we were trying to talk about; aches and pains that wear down our mental and physical stamina throughout the day; and general slowing down we all recognize in ourselves.

Of the people currently in the running for U.S. president, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have been most frequently attacked for being too old for the job. As The Hill reported:

”Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday rebuffed criticism that he is 'too old' to seek the presidency, challenging critics to 'follow' him on the campaign trail.

“'It’s not whether you’re young, it’s not whether you’re old; it’s what you believe in,' Sanders said during a town hall event hosted by Fox News.”

Here are the ages of some of the people running for president. I've not listed them all because – well, it's just absurd how many think they are presidential material. Numbers are each person's age on election day 2020.

Bernie Sanders – 79
Joe Biden - 77
Donald Trump – 74
Elizabeth Warren – 71
Jay Inslee – 69
Amy Klobuchar – 60
Kamala Harris – 56
Cory Booker – 51
Beto O'Roarke – 48
Pete Buttigieg – 38

Those who want a younger president often argue that people keep growing even older year by year after an election and may die in office. Others like to argue that anyone can die unexpectedly at any age (just ask John F. Kennedy).

I'm with the second group on that question, but any old person knows intimately how much most of us slow down, tire easily, make jokes about our C.R.A.F.T. difficulties (“Can't Remember A Fucking Thing).

I want my president to be at the top of his intellectual capabilities.

Even so, I would vehemently oppose a cutoff age for presidential candidacy. They may be few, but people who maintain their mental acuity well into old age are out there and I don't see Bernie Sanders nor any of the other older candidates fumbling for words the way I do.

Now it's your turn. What do you think?



Comments

Three words: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

OTOH: Ronald Reagan was no advertisement in favor of older presidents.

I don’t support an age cutoff for a presidential candidate, but I am reluctant to vote for anyone over 70. As we get older, changes in our energy and cognition may be gradual and we may not be aware of them. The stresses of being president cannot be minimized and the four years between 72 to 76 aren’t the same as between 52 and 56 for most people. I have seen too many tenured professors hang on to their positions for too long, feeding their ego and preventing younger colleagues from advancing. As much as I love RBG, I support term limits for supreme court judges also.

I love Bernie and think he would make a great president for our times. But at 79 could he do a second(and even more important)term?

I think we humans have a tendency to over simplify (present company included) and age is one big area for this. I catch myself thinking at times, "oh this person looks so young, what could they possibly know?" Then they drop some wisdom on me, teach me a thing or two and I am the better for it. Older adults are no different. I just don't think there are shortcuts. We must do the heavy lifting of listening, try to become aware of our own bias when they start creeping in and see how the message resonates within us. No age group has been completely inoculated from foolishness.

My major quarrel with older candidates in the Democratic field is that American ageism will keep them from being elected, and I am desperate for a Democrat--any Democrat--to be elected. If we get four more years of Donald Trump, we will have no country left.

If one of these older candidates does become the Democratic nominee, I hope he or she will consider very carefully who should run for vice president. The office can seem so unimportant, until the unexpected happens.

I don't want either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden to be the candidate, and it's definitely about age. Not because I think they are "too old," but because of the generational shift in thinking among progressives and older white men. We need big, bold steps if we are going to survive all our current problems, most especially climate catastrophe. From my perspective, a woman or a younger man is more likely to do the different and out of the box thinking we need right now.

Some people maintain a high level of mental functioning into their 80s and 90s. {May I be so fortunate!} Nobody maintains a high level of physical function so late in life.

To become President one must first campaign for the nomination, then campaign for the election. That is physically demanding. Constant travel, disrupted sleep schedules, compromised exercise routines, exposure to thousands of people some of whom are (unknowingly) carrying contagious diseases. All this, and stress.

I like Bernie Sanders but he's too old. I doubt Middle America is willing to vote for a Jewish president. If Bernie runs the Alt-right Haters will come out of the woodwork.

I like Elizabeth Warren but she is far-left and could not win the moderate middle. Republicans made socialism into a bogeyman by implying socialism=communism and communism=totalitarianism, therefore socialism is /bad/.

Joe Biden would appeal to the centrists but he also is too old.

All the other wanna-bees are lightweights.

Maybe the Dems will fashion a balanced ticket by running Biden with Kamala Harris for VP. East-/west-coast balance. White/non-white balance. Male/female balance.


Well, there is a young candidate out in the field that is a Harvard graduate, Rhodes scholar, Afghanistan veteran, concert pianist - and he's able to read seven languages and is fluent in four of them, and is very articulate in his native language. That's pretty good for someone who is yet 40.

Question is, has he reached his peak? Hardly.

What could we possibly expect from a gentleman that brilliant?

During the last presidential campaign, I kept asking how Trump and Clinton could keep up the pace of campaigning at their ages. My husband answered, "They have staff."

Yep. Staff makes a huge difference in what one can accomplish.

I will take any Democrat at any age over what we have now.

There's a lot to be said for the experience and wisdom of older candidates, as well as the energy and innovative thinking of the younger. The campaign season, much as I hate it, it quite a testing ground for candidates. If you are tough enough to survive its physical rigors, speak intelligently and wisely throughout, and maintain/gain supporters, you can probably make it as president. Regardless of age, the candidate must have the gravitas to stand toe-to-toe with other world leaders.

As an unaffiliated voter, I've little say in who the Dems will nominate, but I'll vote for almost anyone named Not-Trump.

No matter how sharp and physically fit someone over age 70 is when they run, we're talking 2 possible terms, 8 years. We know how each year over 70 makes a difference. What can we expect 8 years out? I think Bernie and Biden are too old.

In my pondering of these very questions over the past few weeks, I've decided that a middle-age woman with an even younger VP and an Advisory Council of Elders might be just the ticket as we pull ourselves out of the mudslide our current White House occupant has unleashed.

I love Bernie and wish he were younger. Add 8 years to his present age and I wonder if he would have the stamina to fulfill his duties, but right now he is still out-pacing those young candidates. If he picks a young woman with his ideals for VEEP I will give serious consideration to voting for him. Any anti-semite probably wouldn't vote for him but I hope they are an ignorant minority just as a racist won't vote for a black candidate. The last election is proof that they don't influence the election (thank goodness).

As to those mythical centrist voters, I have my doubts as to their power. Bernie is the one pulling in the active crowds and they like his progressive ideas. The young voter is motivated now and they will carry a lot of weight as to the outcome of the election.

I am waiting to hear more from all the candidates before deciding whom to back. It's early yet.

I'm all for not having a cut-off age for being president. I do think that we need a younger president than Bernie, Joe, Donald, or Hillary or any one close to their ages. We need a younger administration running the country, IMHO.

Recently forced into retirement myself, a bit early.

Age is pretty far down my list of criteria, especially where I'm comfortable with the VP choice. My concern is that next November we'll have a leftist ideologue running against a right-wing ideologue, neither of whom will engage the Center for the General Election. Always voting against someone instead of having someone to vote for is unsatisfying.

My having given RBG as an example of a highly-functioning older person, Mia M brought up that, although she loves RBG, she favors term limits of SCOTUS justices. That is a whole different discussion. I agree that no one should "hold their offices during good behavior".

I believe that when the terms were set, essentially, "for life", the life expectancy was much shorter than it is, today. I cannot imagine that we should have anyone appointed to any position for more than 16 years (4 presidential terms). It makes no sense. I would support term limits of 12-16 years for any/all political appointee.

I agree with Cop Car on term limits and his reasoning of the term 'life' in 1775 and the life span today are quite different things!

There are many more fine comments above, and I agree that pulpit pounding is not at all attractive to me. Give me a man or woman with a good, solid mature brain who has had the good luck to watch all the contrasts between the last 5 or so presidents this country has had coupled with a younger version of the same as VP and I'll fight to get to vote for him/her any day! Cool heads with some age and experience in their background are what we need now to pull us out of this quagmire that T-rump and his old, fat white cronies have created today!

As a Canadian I truly have no say, except to remind myself that when your country gets the sniffles mine comes down with pneumonia.
But my thinking is that a younger candidate like the last 5 on your list perhaps, would help to bring out the younger voters, and it’s their generation whose fate lies in the hands of any government.

I can't speak for anyone else but I know that at 82 I'm too old to be President even if I were otherwise qualified, which I'm not. Reluctant though I am to admit it, I have neither the physical ability nor the mental acuity I had even 5 years ago. There are outliers, of course, and I think both Joe and Bernie belong to that group. They are mentally sharp and seem to be in good physical shape. Still, we (the Silent Generation and the Baby Boomers) are inevitably fading into history, and perhaps it is time to "pass the torch to a new generation" as the first President I voted for once said.

Far and away the most important factor, however (as several have noted), is that the Dems MUST nominate a candidate who can defeat tRump! We won't have much of a nation left if that Master of Disaster wins 4 more years. If the Dems don't come together and work to get out every single non-tRump vote, 2020 will find us in tRumpistan once again. That is, quite simply, unacceptable to me.

I will vote for the Democratic ticket, but I have many, many reservations about Bernie:

1) he is not a member of the Democratic party -- he wants the nomination but won't stoop to signing up -- why should the Demos give the nomination to someone who has such disdain for them as an organized group?

2) it is obvious that Bernie weakened Hillary and is therefore partially responsible for her defeat and for the election of Donald Trump -- why reward him for this disaster we are living through?

3) Bernie is a self-declared "democratic socialist" and the right is already trying to pull out the "red menace" as a sure-fire bogeyman in the election. This will give an enormous advantage to the Trumpians, and the orange menace is already tweeting about "socialism" almost every day. Just wait for the TV ads...

3) people who think anti-semitism is a thing of the past, or something only a tiny minority would be influenced by, need to wake up and smell the coffee. The right would be salivating over the opportunity to get at Bernie, both for being Jewish, and for not being Jewish or Zionist enough on issues concerning Israel.

4) he is quite old, but that for me is the least of the problems with him.

I'm sorry, even though I am 82, I feel that we should give some younger (possibly more diverse) people a chance at cleaning up our government. Definitely someone with the charisma to build up an eager following. I personally think a sensible leftish-moderate Democratic might be more able to be elected.

PS -- I'm only in my early 70's (a spring chicken!) but you will notice that I couldn't even number the paragraphs correctly in my post above -- the slippery slope!

I will add that Elizabeth Warren has a lot of good policy ideas, but she cannot win the election. She is very intense in a way that makes her TV appearances almost cringe worthy at times. Her default mode is to lecture -- after all, she has been a university and law school professor for decades. While her Demo followers love her, and I admire her, she will not win over 'ordinary' Democrats, independents and former Trump voters.

I would go with Biden and Klobuchar, but realize that it would have to be Biden and Harris to bring out the black vote -- but Harris is somewhat controversial among African Americans due to her heavy handed history as a prosecutor.

Interesting to read a variety of positions from what I gather is basically a left leaning group. Kind of underscores our major problem when confronted with the marching morons on the right. While we think and discuss and come up with good points and bad, the Republislime line up and vote for whomever Fox News and talk radio tells them to. They replace critical thinking with blind following. Which leaves me very much afraid that it doesn't matter how old or young, right, left or centrist the Democratic candidate will be. I am by nature an optimist, but I am anything but optimistic about the 2020 election for the state of the nation during the rest of my life. I'm almost 76 and in very good health. Suddenly, I am unsure that I want to live another 20 years!

I am with Nancy W. in that I don't think Bernie's too old, but I'm scared that enough people will that he won't be elected. And I'm desperate to be rid of
Drumph.

Am fine with either Bernie or Donald, a couple of high energy older men. My experience with these types is like with the "Energizer Bunny, they can go strongly for a long time, but might suddenly drop--I've seen it many times.

Let me preface my comments by saying I am an unregenerate introvert and have a very limited tolerance for baloney, so I can't imagine anyone wanting to be a politician, much less President. Also, I am way too outspoken and would piss everyone off at some point. So I assume anyone who wants to be President has ISSUES!

For reasons you guys have already mentioned, I think Biden and Bernie are too old. Also, anti-semitism and the "hands" problem pose significant drawbacks for them. I think Klobuchar sounds too much like Hilary Clinton, who is a real bitch to underlings. I can't support someone like that. O'Rourke strikes me as kind of hysterical and insubstantial. It would be important to have a president with some gravitas after suffering with trumpie.

I'm very impressed with Buttigeig (sp?). I think he has a lot of dignity , he's smart, he's been in the military, and he doesn't seem to be highly reactive. Plus, he has a sense of humor. I think that quality is diagnostic for people. He also, like both Obama and Trump, is an outsider to the East Coast Establishment, which is a very, very, good thing and will work in his favor. I think he probably faces an unwinnable battle because he is gay, but I'd like to hope not. Perhaps his evident faith would work against the homophobia. Harris is a possibility, but her ambition is a little too evident for my taste, and I wonder if she is a lightweight. Warren is too leftist and too shrill, and the other woman, whose name I've forgotten, hasn't made much of an impression.

I'd love to have a 50ish RBG in the game, but she isn't. And despite her glorious old age, she is a good example of how unforeseen health problems can suddenly take their toll as our immune systems decline. But please, no more old white men!

So far I like Mayor Pete. But of course, I’d vote for anyone over trump! If he wins, the country is lost for a long long time.

I think Buttigieg could handle trump’s bullying and crassness with dignity and class. He is so charming and appears so smart and decent. I’d love to see these arrogant hypocritical so called Christians have to accept a gay president who isn’t afraid to be who he is.

I agree Biden and Bernie too old...not that they aren’t capable but it’s a matter of perception like it or not.

Theoretically, age is not an issue for who should become president. Realistically, I think it is one factor of many to consider, partially dependent on the individual candidate. We have had the experience with a previous President who was coping with cognitive functional change. Language and select cognitive functions associated with aging, informally assessed by some professionals through observation and comparisons between current and earlier year skills, have raised concerns for some about our current president’s abilities. Credence to those views alone might give many voters second thoughts to the age issue, at least for that candidate.

How age might impact my thinking on other candidates presently remains to be seen. I’m interested in seeing how they all perform in this run-up to obtaining a political party nomination. The individual selected to be a V.P. running mate will have some bearing on how I might regard the importance of a Presidential candidate’s age.

I'm liking what I'm seeing of Mayor Pete so far. Smart, balanced, somewhat politically experienced, articulate, well-educated. Although he's the youngest of the candidates, his age is not a big factor for me. I'm not excited about most candidates who have been in Washington for many years already. Too much dead wood that has become comfortable with the "inside the Beltway" mentality raises too many red flags for me.

I agree with every one of Cassandra’s reservations about Bernie Sanders. In fact, I hold Sanders responsible for the defeat of Hillary Clinton, who should have been our President, and I will never forgive him for that. These two were in agreement about almost every political issue, so it was only Bernie’s massive ego and his misogyny that led him to decide he must be the candidate of the Party he refused to join.

As for who I think should actually be the candidate, I am not impressed by any of the other self-declared presidential hopefuls, who are either too old (Biden) or woefully underqualified (Buttigieg) or lightweight (Harris) or—all of them—unelectable against Trump.

If I could choose any candidate, it would be the Governor of my State, Gavin Newsom. Newsom was mayor of an internationally important city, he was brave enough to make the decision that led to national approval of gay marriage, he was Lieutenant Governor of the great State of California (practically a nation in itself), and was elected Governor in a landslide. He is smart, he is young and handsome, he has a beautiful and accomplished wife and an adorable family—in short he is perfect campaign material and could whip Trump’s ass. If only he could be drafted to run in this election instead of four years hence after Trump has further destroyed whatever is good in this Country.

Good point about Bernie's role in Hillary's defeat. . .I don't know yet who to support but, as I said above, it HAS to be someone who can beat tRump! We may not survive another 4 years deep in The Swamp with him and all the corrupt, slimy swamp creatures he surrounds himself with--a real Cosa Nostra, Washington DC!

I keep telling myself age shouldn't matter, but it does and never so much as the times we are in right now. I'm convinced we need a young, sharp intellect willing to learn, listen to counsel, and act with resolve. I was first impressed listening to Buttigeig on a Preet Bharara podcast. It's still very early, but every time I watch his interviews and speeches, I am floored by his down to earth sensibilities and comprehensive thoughtfulness across foreign and domestic issues.

All due respect to Biden, Bernie, and all the rest, but I think the country needs a forward thinking President not afraid to tackle big issues and willing to call in the best minds to help. All the generations following the baby boomers need a person who is looking out for the needs of the future. There is little time to play politics as usual when so much needs to be done.

Back to the age issue when I look at the toll eight years in office can take on a person, an elder statesman might be up to it if we were still in past normal times. Age limits don't seem necessary, but it's capabilities that matter most. Coming out of the Trump era will certainly require all the endurance and sharpness of a typically younger mind willing to work with experienced advisors.

Basically, I am very disappointed in baby boomers and older to do the right thing in either party. The exceptions are too few.

Trump is too old. That means, of course, that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are too old. I'm sorry to say, as I used to work as an advocate for elders, that I don't want to see an election between two old white men. Curmudgeons at the least. But then, as much as I admire Nancy Pelosi, I think her time should be over. We need younger people and younger ideas.

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