When Strom Thurmond, a conservative and racist South Carolina Democrat who eventually found a home in the conservative and racist GOP, ran for his 8th term as a senator (1996), he was 93 and noticeably senile. He won a contentious Republican primary, in which his age was anise, and was then reelected in the general with 53.4% of the vote. He was soon fainting and collapsing all over DC and at his Senate desk. No one wanted to sit near him because his diapers were always filled with shit and he stunk. He didn't run for a 9th term and Lindsay Graham took his seat. At his 100th birthday celebration, a few weeks before he died, Republican Senate leader Trent Lott (MS) made a vaguely racist statement-- nothing like what comes out of the moths of Republicans like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Traitor Greene on a daily basis today-- and was forced to resign his leadership position. But how could you have a party honoring Thurmond without celebrating racism, the issue that motivated his entire political life? His old friend, Joe Biden gave the eulogy
At the time of Thurmond's decision not to seek another term in the Senate, he was the longest-serving senator in history, although Robert Byrd (D-WV), another racist-- a more or less reformed one-- soon surpassed him as longest serving senator in history. He entered politics as a leader of a KKK chapter. By the end, he was in and out of hospitals and finally died in one in 2010. Senate president pro tempore at the time, he died at the age of 92, the 3rd in line of presidential succession. At the funeral he was eulogized by Obama, Biden, Bill Clinton, Manchin (then governor), Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell.
At The Hill this morning, Gary Schmitt didn't explore how old is too old to be a senator. Instead, he asked How old is too old tp be president? He noted that Biden is 79 "and would be 83 at the time of his inaugural if he wins a second term. If he served the full term, he would leave office at the age of 87." Hopefully Señor Trumpanzee will die today or by the end of the week or before 2022 begins, is 75, and should he run again-- God forbid-- and win-- inconceivable-- "he would be 79 when sworn in and 83 by the end of his term. At these ages, most families are trying to figure out how to take their dad’s or mom’s car keys away from them. But, under the Constitution, we would be obliged to hand over the keys to the Oval Office, the world’s most powerful and demanding office. Shouldn’t there be an age limit on who can run for president?"
Many people are begging Bernie to run again-- run, Bernie, run. He's far more robust and mentally agile than either Biden or Trump, but he's also older, having turned 80 in September. If he runs and wins, he'd be close to 100 at the end of his second term and the country would probably be demanding the 22nd amendment be tossed out or suspended so he could run for a third term.
The Constitution already specifies a minimum age to become president: 35. The Framers obviously thought that setting a minimum age was necessary to ensure that the nation’s chief executive would be relatively mature and have some political or military experience to call on. While they knew that there could be 25-year-olds equally ready to assume the office’s powers and duties, they were unwilling to open the door to such brilliant exceptions precisely because exceptions are not the norm and a constitution cannot take such chances if it wants to last over time.
Nowadays, we certainly live longer and lead generally healthier lives, whether from better habits or the prescriptions that fill up our medicine cabinets. But it’s still inescapable that, as we get older, virtually all of us slow mentally and physically. Here, too, there are exceptions [like Bernie]. Everyone has heard about the grandfather still playing pick-up basketball on a city playground or a grandmother still pounding out her umpteenth novel. Nonetheless, a governing document should not presume luck in the genetic lottery.
Nor does the test of America’s prolonged presidential campaigns guarantee voters will have an accurate handle on a candidate’s mental and physical health. Campaigns are good at hiding whatever problems exist [both Trump and Biden are excellent examples], and voters rarely see anything but the best in their preferred candidate. And even if the public had access to thorough and honest medical records of the candidates, those records cannot guarantee a president’s future mental and physical health. Moreover, as we now know, the fact that a president is not well rarely becomes public at the time.
Pointing to the absurd and fatally flawed 25th Amendment, Schmitt is advocating a new amendment that sets an age limit on who can become president. If it were an arbitrary 80, say, Trump-- senile and certifiably and severely insane-- could run, while Bernie, fit as a fiddle, could not. But, acknowledging the arbitrary nature of his proposal, Schmitt is looking at 70, not 80. "But arbitrary does not mean unreasonable if based on a judgment of what generally makes sense," he wrote. "Reagan was, until Trump, the oldest person elected president at 69. And by the end of his second term, he was no longer, as some have noted, functioning like 'the Gipper.'" No, he was mostly deaf, had cancer and by the end had advanced Alzheimers (10 years earlier than he announced it according to Ron, Jr.) and was confused much of the time, unable to recognize his cabinet members, journalists he was speaking with and was, often mentally unable to function as president, something that was aggressively covered up by his family and closest aides, including his deceitful doctors.
"The presidency," concluded Schmitt, "is unique among our system of separated powers in that, unlike Congress and the Supreme Court, it is never out of session. The reason the founding generation determined that the president alone should have a house is that the chief executive's job is 24/7. Perhaps when life expectancy was shorter, the Constitution’s framers thought there was no need to put a cap on how old a person might be to be president. That is no longer the case and we’re rolling the dice by ignoring that change and the obvious downsides of having no limit on how old a president can be."
It might not be as serious, but the same could be said of members of Congress. Understanding she was increasingly senile, the California Democratic Party refused to endorse Dianne Feinstein for reelection in 2018 but the moron voters reelected her anyway. The Senate Democrats had no choice but to (gently) removed her as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee when they regained the majority and there was the danger of her becoming chair. At 87, she is the oldest senator right now, although Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are right behind her. Leahy's, Shelby's and Grassley's terms are up next year and Leahy and Shelby have the good grace to retire, while Grassley, also senile, apparently wants to run again and be sworn in at 89. State Senator Jim Carlin is primarying him and there are 4 Democrats in the race, including Glenn Hurst, who has been endorsed by Blue America. Since he's a medical doctor, I gave Glenn a call and asked him about the topic this morning. Since he's never examined Grassley, he didn't want to talk about his mental health.
But this is what he told me: "The oligarchy that effectively asserts itself in the US Senate, does so by entrenching itself in what should be freely elected positions. Dark money in our system is always within the reach of this gluttonous, and now aging, class that essentially buys its way into these lifetime positions. They have created a lopsided system that favors incumbents to keep themselves ruling well beyond any period of useful contribution. We must wrest control of our country out of their hands with campaign finance reform and the overturning of Citizens United. Other reforms must include the protection of the voting rights of all Americans and addressing the appropriate limits of time spent by any individual in Congress and the Senate. Having recently signed the US Term limits pledge, I stand with the majority of Americans who believe that political service is just that, as service, not a career. While an amendment to the Constitution would be required to achieve this goal, there is work within the rules of operation of the Senate that could temper the power of the oligarchy. For example, we can limit the number of terms an individual can serve as leadership in a committee. We need creative solutions to wrest control of the direction of our country from the ruling class and put it back into the hands of ordinary Americans."