Saturday, September 30, 2023

God's Waiting Room: Washington, D.C.

Florida haters — there are many — sometimes refer to my adopted state as “God’s Waiting Room."

The haters are wrong. Everyone knows that God’s waiting room, the place old people actually go to die, is Washington, D.C. 

The latest (literally and figuratively): Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) who died Friday at 90. 

Left to mourn Feinstein's passing is her successor as the oldest living member of Congress, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). who is 90. He is followed in age-descending order by:

Rep Grace Napolitano (D-CA),  86

Rep. Eleanor Holmes North (D-DC), 86

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ),  86

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), 85

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), 85

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-MA), 84

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), 83

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA) 83

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) VT) 83

The two senators aren’t up for re-election next year, but the eight representatives are and six of them have already announced their re-election bids. 

Fully one-third — 34 — of our 100 (99 until Feinstein’s replacement is appointed) senators are 70 or older, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), 81, who suffered aphasia on camera twice in recent weeks. Compared to the Senate, the House of Representatives is a pre-school; only 75 of its 435 members are 70 plus.

The most visible oldster in DC, of course, is 80-year-old Joe Biden. If Biden is re-elected next year, he will be 85 at the end of his term. 

Biden will in all probability be running against Donald Trump, who, if he wins, will be 82 when his term expires in 2029. 

The thought of either of these old men running the country (and I know a thing or two about old men because  I am one— I’ll be 72 in November) should scare the shit out of all Americans. Electing people past their primes to high offices — especially the presidency — is madness. Dentists, brain surgeons, professional athletes and airline pilots are expected to perform to the best of their abilities. We should expect no less from our presidents, but we can't because we keep nominating and electing candidates well past their "Best If Used By" dates. 

Many oldsters retain much of their mental or physical agility well into their eighties, but few retain both. Biden appears to be in decent physical health but his mind is obviously failing. Trump seems sharp — his speeches are as acerbic as ever — but he’s overweight and out of shape. There are probably hundreds of thousands of younger Americans, including my dachshund, who would be more effective presidents than either of them.

Article II of the Constitution stipulates that a president has to be at least 35 years old. The founders clearly assumed people younger than that don't possess enough experience and/or wisdom to steer the ship of state. While I’m sure there are 25-year-old wunderkinds who could run the country efficiently, and that some 100-year-olds could also handle the job, they would certainly be the exceptions. 

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits most employers from establishing mandatory retirement ages. Some professions, however, are exempt, including air traffic controllers, airline pilots, and public-safety workers such as police, firefighters, and correctional officers, most of whom can’t work past age 65. Military officers have to retire at 64. Many states — among them New Jersey and Minnesota — require judges to vacate the bench at 70. Miners have to put down their pickaxes at 60 and racehorse jockeys have to ride off into the sunset at 55. Some publicly-traded company CEOs have to retire once they reach specific ages — generally 70 max— and partnerships, such as law and accounting firms, can require partners to pack it in at ages each firm can decide for itself.

It is well past time for a constitutional amendment that requires elected Federal officials —senators, representatives, presidents and vice-presidents — to retire once they reach a specific TBD age. Seventy (70) seems reasonable to me. The age cap would prevent candidates within spitting distance of 70 from running in the first place. 

if you worry such an amendment seems discriminatory, look at it this way: We already prevent people who aren’t yet 35, whose best days are presumably ahead, from serving as president. So why not prevent someone twice that age, whose best days are definitely behind him/her/them, as well? If a minimum age requirement isn’t considered discrimination — it’s in the Constitution after all — a maximum age requirement wouldn’t be, either. 

And with that, I’ll wind this up because I have a lot on my plate today. For starters, I need to proofread and post this column, then I'll take the dog on a two-mile walk, go to the gym for two more miles on the treadmill and an hour of free weights, take a bridge lesson, and run to the hardware store to buy brackets so I can fix the guest room closet shelf that inexplicably collapsed this morning. Considering I'm almost 72, I have plenty of energy and am firing on all eights.

But first, I have to take my Metamucil.