The U.S. is experiencing a time in which a fair number of its public servants are charging into public office well into their 70s and 80s. USA Today contributor K. Ward Cummings wrote an op-ed published Friday morning illustrating why this needs to stop. Cummings’ main argument is that traditionally, when it comes to businesses, investors’ immediate concern is with the health of a company’s CEO. He questions why our country shouldn’t be similarly invested in the leader of the free world—more than a fair point.
The life of a CEO resembles that of a president. Both have punishing schedules and enormous 24-7 responsibilities. Both types of leaders are blamed for the mistakes of subordinates when things go wrong and get all the credit when things go right. They are each answerable to their own particular version of a constituent.
But take a moment and search your memory for the last time you read about a CEO of a Fortune 500 company over the age of 70. Actually, don’t bother. There aren’t many. In the corporate world, advancing age is often viewed as a disqualifying factor when considering a candidate’s elevation to CEO.
That point makes more sense than ever with Donald Trump as President. Somehow, owning and operating his eponymous company was the highlight of his career, and whatever you can call the job he’s doing now is his version of a victory lap. Trump is 72 years old, and though age isn’t an immediate disqualifier, it’s notable for him. Bob Woodward’s new book reports that Trump’s staff frequently have to make up for his age deficiencies, per The Hill.
Cummings asks readers to “consider the many accounts of Trump’s deficiencies in office. Criticisms of his mercuriality, poor memory, weak powers of concentration and unreliable energy have been cited as reasons a secret society of unelected, unvetted advisers has emerged to run the government behind his back.”
However, Trump isn’t the only one facing challenges that come with age. Thursday, Charles Grassley, Orrin Hatch and and Patrick Leahy all sat on the judiciary hearing committee that heard the testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, despite their respective ages of 85, 81 and 78. Senator Diane Feinstein sat on the committee as well. Currently 85 years old, she’s running for reelection in California and would be 91 by the end of another term. It’s also noteworthy that for every year after the age of 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s increases greatly. Even in its early stages, the deterioration can begin to show its effects in memory loss and physical weakness.
Age may not always be a disqualifier for government officials, but it is a concern that should be on voters’ minds. A president, senator or representative experiencing cognitive decline halfway through their term would be chaos. Supreme Court justices are especially susceptible to age and also serve to cause the most change. As we saw in midterms, there are young politicians eager to fill these positions. Whether by legislation or by choice, we cannot expect our public officials to push themselves well into their late years.