Press "Enter" to skip to content

When it’s time to go

BONA FIDES: I’m 87-years-old. Living an active, mostly healthy, retired life in a small Northwest community.

About six-years-ago, after extensive testing for dementia, the diagnosis was “early onset.” Well, here we are, about 60-months down the road. If tested again today, the result would probably be the same. “Early onset.”

The words still hang over the household, but nothing’s changed. I’m feeling fine and am suffering no more than the usual memory vagaries typically associated with nearly 90-years. I have not – yet – found my car keys in the refrigerator.

I give you those bona fides so you know I have some experience with being old. Certainly in body if not necessarily in spirit.

All of this has come to mind in recent weeks as we hear of the various ailments coming out of the U.S. Congress. Especially, the video of Mitch McConnell “freezing up” mid-speech in two of those awful Congressional leadership “news” conferences.

Instead of Big Mac delivering the typical tripe about whatever he wanted to place in the media, he froze. It happened “on camera” once before, several weeks ago, under similar public circumstances. And, we’re now told, similar “freezing” has happened off-camera during the regular conduct of Senatorial business and at home.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is 90 and has been in and out of the hospital in recent months for treatment of dementia. NEWS FLASH: treatment for dementia doesn’t result in “refreshing” the brain. Other Congressional octogenarians have been reported being treated for this-and-that infirmity usually associated with advanced years.

Also appearing, in what passes for news these days, is the charge of “ageism,” a poorly conceived charge casually tossed about by staff and other supporters of the afflicted.

Reporting on the mental difficulties of folks who write laws by which this country is governed is legitimate news. If you’re going to fly with a pilot whose age is 91, you’d want that person to have all the faculties of a careful, responsible pilot present in the cockpit.

Let’s check the requirements to run for President of this fractured nation: be a natural born citizen – a resident of the country for at least 14 years – be at least 32-years-of-age. That’s it. Disturbingly, even Marjorie Taylor-Green could run. Unsuccessfully, we’d hope.

The McConnell and Feinstein mental problems, to me, raise this question. With the qualification of how old you have to be to run for President, why is there no discussion of an age limit requirement at the top?

Yes, I know. There are old folks – like Joe Biden and me – who can apparently participate in reasoned discussion well into our 80’s. But, my life experience has also found some folks who couldn’t mentally handle the job in their 50’s.

So, should we implement some sort of competency test for candidates for high office? We pay attention to physical conditions. What about mental conditions?

Lots of career fields have age limitations. Commercial pilots, for example, are out at age 62. Gone. Even though they’ve been watched and tested regularly. But, people who write the laws by which this nation is governed can stay on the job until their “light” goes off. What’s wrong with this picture?

This issues of age and competency requirements for public office need to be addressed. We’ve walked around the subject for many years. The pace of technology, and the many changes in our lives caused by its constantly demanding presence, have many of us struggling to keep up.

Yes, our Congress uses advanced, legislative-specific software on a day-to-day basis. And, each elected member has staff to help stay on top of things. Though, eventually, decisions have to be made. Decisions by the elected member who uses staff research and support for making those decisions.

The final “thinking” – the final decision-making – is a one person process. And, the mind that must reach many decisions, on a daily basis, must be alert, up-to-date, well-versed and competent to carry out the duty. There are some members, right now, who don’t meet those requirements. Their deficiencies, in many cases, are being covered by good staff work.

What’s happening with McConnell and Feinstein are medical conditions. They’re being examined and treated by competent medical professionals. But, at 80 and 90 years-of-age, faced with the recognized medical issues, isn’t it time to re-evaluate, seek medical advice and – possibly – step down?

I know the perks of high office and, especially, the life-style of being a U.S. Senator, are difficult to walk away from. But, is staying in office so long you have to be carried out by medical personnel, really serving their various constituencies?

If McConnell and Feinstein aren’t in condition to make that decision, then someone else must take action for them.

In both cases, that time is now.


Share on Facebook