Saturday, May 17, 2008

Is McCain's Age a Legitimate Campaign Issue?

A group of Democrats have created a website at that has a great, but snarky, video up about McCain's age. In the video they show all the things that are "younger than McCain" including things like television, aluminum soda cans, etc. It is a funny video. It has lines like "He's older than his wife, but younger than his Mama/He is as old as one and a half Obamas." Or how about this one: "He's older than the Golden Gate Bridge/He's younger than Bob Dole, but only by a smidge."

While the video is funny, the issue it brings up is whether McCain's age is a legitimate subject of political debate during this presidential campaign. If McCain wins, he will be the oldest person ever sworn in as president.

Age is a good thing in certain situations. It gives you experience and it allows you to have patience. Things that get younger people riled up don't affect you as much. All of us know people who are in their 70s and even their 80s and have a great disposition.

On the other hand, age can also be a problem. A person's endurance is not as great as it used to be. People in their 70s have a much narrower margin of error physically than younger people.

The presidency is a very demanding job. All of us have seen pictures showing how people have aged while serving as president. It's legitimate to ask whether McCain is up to the challenge physically of serving as president.

In McCain's case, given the fact that he has a quick temper, it would be possible to run a campaign around the theme of "Let's not elect the crazy old guy as president." There are two questions about such an approach. The first is whether it is fair. The second is whether the public would perceive it as unfair. The first is objective. The second is subjective.

We don't know the answer to either question, but you can bet that the Obama campaign is polling on that issue. The answer they receive could end up being very important in this campaign.

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