Two weeks ago 81-year old Sen. Mitch McConnell was asked at a press conference about running for reelection in 2026. He seemed to start to answer the question and then totally freezes, staring blankly, lips pursed, going suddenly silent for multiple, notably awkward seconds. An aide comes to his side to re-state the question. With a clear inability to respond intelligibly, he’s led from the scene. This is the second time in less than two months this has happened to the Senator. For the record, should he be elected to another term, he would be 84 at time of election and 90 at term’s end.
90-year old Sen. Diane Feinstein continues to represent the people of California. She is the oldest sitting US senator and the longest-tenured female senator in history. Note that the Senator has said she will not be seeking reelection in 2024 at age 91. However, she has been treated for multiple significant health ailments in 2023, absent for many months, and this summer she mistakenly started reading a statement during a routine Senate vote and was quietly corrected by colleagues multiple times how she should actually vote. She has also ceded power of attorney to her daughter.
President Biden is only 80. He’s the first octogenarian in the Oval Office. He, too, seems to have had multiple moments of significant question or confusion. Granted, his team has given us a plethora of explanations as to the totally logical reasons why, comparable to McConnell’s spokespersons suggesting his freezing was due to dehydration and Feinstein’s team suggesting the transferring of POA was so she could more thoroughly focus on her congressional work.
Let me, no less, regardless of reason, respectfully stick up for them all.
I think we’re making a mistake.
We’re making a mistake by focusing on age itself.
Allow me a rather entertaining example… the Rolling Stones are set to release a brand new original album next month — “Hackney Diamonds” — created by iconic band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood. Jagger is 80. Richards, 79. and Wood, 76. It goes without saying that “moves like Jagger” still exist with significant agility and style.
In other words, it’s not about the age.
The problem is acuity.
Clearly, there is something off with each of the above.
Let me be clear. I mean no disrespect. None whatsoever. But it takes zero anything-close-to-rocket-science to discern that the sharpness and keenness of thought is not there. I am not suggesting dementia; we’re too removed to know. I am also not suggesting that the persons have nothing to give nor are absent of value. I do question, however, if those mentioned above still have the qualities necessary to function in a way that significantly benefits those they are elected to serve.
That’s it. Who are they serving? Why do they stay?
And what does power have to do with it?
Great questions, no doubt. And questions I don’t believe we’re able to definitively answer absent increased proximity. Why do the McConnell’s, Feinsteins, and Biden’s, etc. of the world think we need them not just to stay in office, but at least in McConnell and Biden’s case, to actually run again?
CNN and The Wall Street Journal each chimed in with relevant polling data last week. 60% of registered voters believe Biden is not “mentally up for the job of president.” 73% believe he is “too old.” I would expect the results on McConnell and Feinstein to be similar.
This is not a partisan issue, friends. There are others who can run. There are others who can serve.
There are others for whom their acuity is not in question.