The Washington Controversy Over Age Limits

SO BERNIE SANDERS MAY RUN? It’s difficult to shock us, but we were bowled over by a report yesterday that Sen. Bernie Sanders hasn’t ruled out running for president in 2024. He would be 83 years old then, running for a term that would expire when he would be 87.

THIS COMES AS WASHINGTON ENGAGES in another controversy over the age of many key politicians: Nancy Pelosi is 82, Mitch McConnell is 80, Charles Grassley is 88, etc. And of course it’s possible that Joe Biden, 79, may run against Donald Trump, who turns 76 this spring.

THE NEW CONTROVERSY is a cringe-inducing debate this month about the mental acuity of California Sen. Diane Feinstein, who is 88. Several news outlets have reported that she no longer recognizes close associates, many of whom told the San Francisco Chronicle that her memory appears to be rapidly deteriorating. She has resisted calls to resign.

THIS HAS REVIVED AGE-OLD CONCERNS about elderly politicians. This was a very big issue two decades ago, when Strom Thurmond left the Senate at age 98 and Robert Byrd died in office at age 92. Both were quite clearly suffering from cognitive issues. Many historians believe Ronald Reagan was suffering from early Alzheimers in his last full year as president, when he was 77 years old.

THERE ARE NO MANDATORY RETIREMENT RULES in Congress, unlike in much of corporate America and academia. There’s an age requirement, however, to join the House (25 years old) or the Senate (30 years old). Efforts to set age limits are widely supported by the public but have virtually no chance of passing in Congress.

NOW THERE MAY BE A DEBATE ABOUT SANDERS, the self-proclaimed Socialist who maintains a very loyal following. An internal memo from the Sanders camp, leaked to The Washington Post, says that Sanders “has not ruled out another run for president.” Sanders suffered a moderate heart attack in the fall of 2019.

SANDERS AND HIS ADVISERS insist that he would not run if Biden seeks re-election but it’s worth noting that Biden and Trump have both said recently that their desire for a second term could be thwarted by a health issue. We’re on record as predicting that Biden will not run; he would be 86 at the end of a second term.

THE RELATIVE YOUNGSTER EMMANUEL MACRON, who is only 44, seems to be pulling ahead in his re-election bid this coming Sunday. Polls last night after his debate with Marine Le Pen showed that a majority of viewers gave him positive grades (although they agreed that Macron appeared arrogant).

A MACRON VICTORY would be a relief to NATO members, who worry that Le Pen might begin to move France out of the alliance. A victory by Le Pen would be viewed as a blow to the unified Western stance on Ukraine. And if she wins, it would be a signal to politicians everywhere that inflation and living standards are dominant themes with increasingly restive voters.

Related: Russia’s Morale Problems Are Growing — On the Battlefield and Back Home

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