Presidential Age Limit? Let the Voters Decide

Elizabeth Warren is ageless. (CNN photo.)

Former President Jimmy Carter, a man of considerable wisdom, has suggested that we put a cap on the age Americans are eligible to run for president. There is, of course, a Constitutional minimum age of 35, but there is no maximum, so any age questions about Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders are left to the individual voters.

As they should be.

I see age showing itself–or not–in obvious ways and each of the above-mentioned presidential contenders either has or doesn’t have obvious issues. At one end is Warren, who seems as bright and energetic as a Gen-Z candidate. At the other end are Biden, who has classic problems in speaking coherently, remembering, saying what he means without being out of line; and Trump, whose problems probably include some issues with age.

Voters can see that. And they can vote.

Age problems are not easy to hide, though political operatives will give it their best shot. We all knew Ronald Reagan was exhibiting signs of Alzheimer’s in his second term (which turned out to be the case) and we could watch George H.W. Bush fall asleep in his dinner with the Chinese while in his late 70s. We knew Eisenhower’s heart had outlived his body and it finally did him in, but by then he was a past president.

I’m 73 and much to my occasional horror, I show signs of being an old man. I pull out of my driveway on an errand and briefly forget where I’m going; the simplest words escape me when I am talking or writing; I forget people’s names–and not just casual acquaintances, but people I’m close to. My body aches after exercise, no matter how much exercise I get. Sometimes I can’t type well, and I’ve been typing for 55 years. If it weren’t for SpellCheck or GrammarCheck, I would be in big trouble professionally. I have made errors in stories that are directly connected with aging.

These shortcomings are hard to admit because they threaten me as a freelance writer of value. I’m still working regularly as a freelancer, but it is easy for editors to fire freelancers without ever saying a word. They can simply reject story ideas without explanation. I get that and my guess is that in the past–when I was younger–I’ve done it.

But the question of a too-old president is, and will be, pressing in every election. However, I don’t think drawing an artificial line at, say 70 or 75, is smart. I know people who are nearly feeble at 45 and others who are bright as an airplane landing light at 85. Elizabeth Warren will be presidential at 80, but Biden probably won’t. Trump never has been. How do we know that, though? We watch, as voters, and we vote.

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