What has AGE got do with being POTUS?

October 8, 2016

Strange we haven’t been talking more about age.

Hillary Clinton is 68, and that’s old for a first-term presidential candidate in this country. The one thing we can ay with absolute certainty is that we’d hear about it every day were it not for the fact that Donald Trump is 70.

Image result for Clinton and Trump--What Has Age go to do with being POTUS

Still, Trump seems to be finding ways to get at it. Asked during the debate about his comment that Clinton doesn’t have “a presidential look,” Trump rejoined: “She doesn’t have the stamina. I said she doesn’t have the stamina. And I don’t believe she does have the stamina. To be president of this country, you need tremendous stamina.”

I believe he’s suggesting a question about stamina. Andrew Scharlach, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in aging issues, heard “a code for ‘She’s old! She’s a woman! You know how old women are.’”

Newcomers to the current presidential campaign might have wondered why Trump would consider going in that direction at all, considering he was born first. The answer is that the Republican presidential nominee believes he is always an exception. This is the guy who, at the same debate, both complained about America’s deteriorating infrastructure and bragged that he was too smart to pay taxes.

Experts on the subject seem to believe that age is not something we need to fret about, and given the fact that we’re currently juggling everything from Trump being really mean to a Latina beauty queen to the possibility of his starting a nuclear war, I think we should follow their advice.


Hillary Clinton on her campaign plane this month. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Unless we’re going to worry if they could catch something dropping off the table, I don’t think it’d be a problem,” said Steven Austad, the scientific director of the American Federation for Aging Research. “In fact, it might be an advantage.”

Still, this provides an excellent opportunity to look back in history and discuss the campaign of William Henry Harrison. Please. Just for a second. We haven’t given William Henry nearly enough attention this election cycle.

When he ran in 1840, Harrison’s opponents made a big deal about the fact that he was 67. (“A living mass of ruined matter.”) Given that the life expectancy at the time was around 40, you can see how there’d be suggestions that he’d already overstayed his welcome.

Harrison, in response, issued a doctor’s report. It did not include extensive test results, given that there were not yet any tests. But the author still sounded far more reliable than the physician who concluded that Trump would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Harrison’s doctor just said, “Bodily vigor is as good as that of most men his age.”

But then Harrison delivered an inaugural address that went on for one hour and 45 minutes in a cold rain, got sick and died. If Donald Trump wins in November, the one thing we won’t have to worry about is his duplicating Harrison’s performance. No, Trump might talk endlessly, but he would do it from a comfy, heated plexiglass bubble while the peons stand shivering in front of him.

Feel free to argue that when it comes to age issues, women have it tougher. In 1964, when Margaret Chase Smith ran at 66 for the Republican nomination, a Los Angeles Times columnist decreed that 45-to-55 was the optimum range for a presidential candidate. Unfortunately, he added, that was the time when “the female of the species undergoes physical changes and emotional distress.” Ah, memories

As life expectancy is getting a lot longer and people are healthier, researchers are rethinking the whole definition of old. “Seventy is the new 50. That’s not just a cliché. It really is a reasonable statement these days,” said Austad.

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, a research organization with the worst name in the world, published a study that pushed the line back, too. “When your life expectancy is 15 years and less, then you get counted as old,” said Warren Sanderson, a professor at Stony Brook University who worked on the project. Using the most recent data available, Sanderson said that Trump, at 70, would have 14.6 years of life expectancy and Clinton, at 68, would have 18.3

So by that new, expansive definition, there’s only one elderly candidate in this race, and his name is Donald. It’s not clear that Trump knows how old he is — he told an interviewer that when he looks in the mirror he sees “a person who is 35 years old.”

Clinton doesn’t seem to have that problem. Back in 2008, when she was wrapping up her presidential campaign, we had a conversation in which she told me, suddenly, that her happiest days on the trail were the ones when I was covering her. This sounded stupendously flattering until she added, “It was the only time there was somebody my age on the plane.”

7 thoughts on “What has AGE got do with being POTUS?

  1. Age and wisdom are supposed to come together but for Trump AGE came alone. Trump is acting like a spoiled child who must always get his way. If he can’t win then you are not welcome to play with him. His ego is so big that he thinks that he is always right and have problems with ethics. He is racially biased and a pathological liar, even after being presented with evidence, he wont accept responsibility for his statements. How can other Head of States trust him if he becomes President? How would bilateral negotiations and agreement be handled?

    Hillary has gone through a lot and have tremendous experience in administering the US since being a former First Lady, a Senator and a Secretary of State. She is much wiser now having learnt from her experience and would make a good President. Having said that Hillary has her flaws, don’t we? Its something the voters have to deal with and hopefully give her the benefit of the doubt.

  2. Life expectancy (strictly, “life expectancy at birth”) is an average figure for the overall population. What applies to the overall population does not necessarily apply to an individual.

    (Just like the average figure called GDP per capita).

    If one applies a population average to an individual, one is making the mistake called “fallacy of composition” or “ecological fallacy”.

    Thus a person who is well-educated, affluent, lives a healthy lifestyle, is likely to live beyond the life expectancy figure.

    On the other hand, a working class person who is lowly-educated, continuously financially stressed, has an unhealthy lifestyle, is likely to die earlier than the life expectancy figure.

    If we look at the life spans of elite individuals from the past, we can see that most of them have lifespans longer than the life expectancy of their era e.g. Isaac Newton 1643-1727, Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790, Schiller 1759-1805, Tolstoy 1828-1910 etc etc.

  3. Trump has populist programes for home audience and a significant number of them love him – bringing back American capital from abroad and creating new industries and thousands of new jobs. But his articulated foreign policy initiatives are scary – whittling down of economic and military alliances, demanding co-payment from allies for upkeep of American bases and soldiers in their soil, wanting many more countries go nuclear and more of such things. These would not make America great but only others increasingly stronger. Just imagine a few nuclear states forming an alliance with a declared warning that an attack against one is an attack against all. America would have to chew more than what it can swallow and that would make America no longer great.

    There must be sensible balance in advancing home front and foreign front policies and programes. Trump is lop-sided whereas Hillary is measured and even handed. The choice is obvious unless the American voters want to throw caution to the wind.

  4. I should also add that the biggest contributor to a higher “life expectancy at birth” for a particular country is actually a decrease in the infant mortality rate.

  5. Quote:- “Thus a person who is well-educated, affluent, lives a healthy lifestyle, is likely to live beyond the life expectancy figure.

    If we look at the life spans of elite individuals from the past, we can see that most of them have lifespans longer than the life expectancy of their era e.g. Isaac Newton 1643-1727, Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790, Schiller 1759-1805, Tolstoy 1828-1910 etc etc”

    Including Tun Dr. Mahathir?

  6. Yes pak semper, we grow in wisdom/discernment as we grow older. Some of us, anyway.

    We become become cynical or optimistic or strident, mellow and yet others – accepting and exhibiting tolerance. Our environment, education, individuality and experiences shape us. We slowly but surely become more ‘conservative’ – but the variance is remarkable. Many like us become Con-Liberals, with strong individualistic character but never middle-of-the-road Con Artists, who are mostly politicians.

    Unfortunately there are those like Trump, whom being a Fool on the Anthill, see themselves as Gawd’s Elected. Dementia is not age related. That goes for many so-called Evangelical Christians who form a substantial GOP base. Parochial entitled hicks.

    Here’s to us:

  7. Because he is reckless , he is a very Impulsive kind of person, unlike Hillary who is Cool-headed, therefore Voters have a clear choice on the better candidate to the POTUS !

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