On Tuesday last week, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders suffered chest pain at a campaign event and was taken to a hospital in Las Vegas.
At first doctors said the senator had a blockage in an artery but when he left the hospital on Friday, the campaign issued a statement saying Sanders had suffered a heart attack.
“'After two and a half days in the hospital, I feel great, and after taking a short time off, I look forward to getting back to work,' Sanders said in the statement quoted in Slate.
It was announced on Thursday that Senator Sanders will attend the 15 October Democratic debate in Ohio.
Bernie Sanders is 78 years old and until this past week, few journalists had dipped their pens into the quadrennial presidential age conversation. But his heart attack seems to have loosened reporters' reticence and there has been a sizable uptick in the number of opinions on the matter in the past few days.
After skimming through a number of them, it seemed to me to make better sense to have a bunch of old people like us at this blog discuss the presidential age issue. So here we are today.
This year, in addition to 78-year-old Sanders, there are 76-year-old Joe Biden, 70-year-old Elizabeth Warren not to mention 73-year-old Donald Trump running for the office of president.Former President Jimmy Carter turned 95 last Tuesday. A couple of weeks earlier he told a crowd that he hopes there is an age limit on running for president:
“'If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger,' Mr. Carter said, 'I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was president,' according to The New York Times.
“'One thing is you have to be very flexible with your mind,' he continued. 'You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately and then put them all together in a comprehensive way.'”
It's hard to argue with a guy who's been there, done that so I won't try. Another age limit proponent, Andrew Ferguson, writing in The Atlantic back in June, had a different reason for wanting a younger president: “to break the gerontocracy” of the Democratic Party:
”There is a huge gap between where the energy and creativity of the party lie, with a group of dynamic activists and House members in their 30s and even their 20s (thank you, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), and the ruling class of 70-somethings layered far above like a crumbling porte cochère...
“The trick for old folks is to adjust their search for purpose and meaning as they follow nature’s course and give way to their juniors.”
I'm ignoring that “crumbling porte chochere” crack along with the false assumptions about age stuffed into so short a quotation to offer the notion that some experience – as you might have noticed over the past two-and-a-half years – wouldn't hurt.
I think The Squad and some other young newcomers to Congress are terrific but I don't think one year is Congress is quite enough to tackle the biggest job.
Personally, I oppose a cutoff age for presidential candidates for the same reason I keep arguing against lumping all old people together. Come on now, you can sing it with me: People age at dramatically different rates.
Some 50- and 60-year-olds would be incapable of keeping up with the demands of the top job. Some 70-somethings and even 80-somethings can. But you don't need to hear that from me. Almost any geriatrician or gerontologist would agree:
”Gerontologists and other experts in aging say there is simply no way to definitively address the question of an upper age limit on the rigors of the presidency, reports The New York Times.
“'There’s no answer. It’s unknowable,' said Dr. Mark Lachs, co-chief of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian. 'It’s true that rates of physical and cognitive impairment are age dependent but there’s all kind of variability.'”
And, hoping I'm not being too flip about it, what do you think vice presidents are for?
Ed Kilgore, writing in New York magazine last June came down on the side of no age limit:
”So from a historical perspective, Trump, Sanders, and Biden (and Elizabeth Warren...) aren’t too old at all as compared to the rest of the population. From a health point of view, it’s hard to say if they are riskier propositions than younger pols.
“There is the cautionary tale of Reagan, whom many observers thought was showing signs of serious cognitive impairment during his second term. On the other hand, another president who was clearly impaired, Woodrow Wilson, only 62 when he suffered a debilitating stroke...”
Now it's your turn, dear readers. Should there be an upper age limit for presidential candidates?