How old is too old for a president? Candidate John McCain will be 72 by the time of the election. The worst case scenario is that he gets elected, does a good job, and gets reelected. He’ll be 80 by the end of his second term.
Imagine you’re a presidential advisor and you notice him starting to lose it. Do you tell the media, and set in motion a chain of events that will end in you losing your own job and power? Or do you schedule fewer public appearances for your boss and hope no one figures it out?
Every person is different, of course. But I’d like to see some statistics on the mental and physical risks to an average 75-year old. If there’s a 30% chance of a major health problem for a 75-year old, but far less for someone the age of John Edwards, I’d like to see those stats. But I doubt the media will spend much time on that sort of thing because their customers skew older. It’s bad business to remind your customers that they are likely to lose it any minute.
I’d like to see a younger candidate address the issue directly in a debate. I think it could be done without cruelty, as in “My opponent is in excellent health. But realistically, you have to ask yourself if it’s wise to vote for a man in his seventies. At his age, his mental faculties will be declining quickly. By the end of his first term, he won’t be the same person you voted for. It’s one factor among many, but it can’t be ignored.”
We have one recent experience with an old president. Ronald Reagan was in his seventies when he served as president. Regardless of what you think of his overall performance, does anyone think his age had no impact on his decisions?