17 June 2019

NOTE FROM NORM: The wrong reasons to not support a candidate for office

In the contest for President of the United States of America there may be many factors that qualify, or disqualify, an individual for the job.

In the minds of many Americans the relative lack of experience of any single candidate may be seen as a positive asset as it suggests that, if elected, a candidate might take a new and different approach to problems – and opportunities – facing the country.

Others may see that lack of experience in the single most important CEO job on the planet as terrifying in a world of multiple threats and challenges to the safety and security of America and the world.

How a candidate voted in a previous job, who they have publicly supported through the years with their words and money or how they responded to a crisis or problem in the past could also be criteria used by voters.

But, the gender, age, religion, color of one’s skin or sexual orientation of a candidate for President shouldn’t be included on that list of criteria that any American uses to judge their decision on who to vote for public office.

In America’s relatively brief history as a nation we’ve experienced campaigns for President, and a multitude of other political offices, in which a candidate was vilified because of these very attributes of who they are, or were, as a human being.

Catholics, Jews, Muslims, women and candidates of color have all been subjected to scurrilous attacks through the years as they campaigned for a variety of public offices in America.

John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism, Jesse Jackson’s race, Joe Lieberman being a Jew, Geraldine Ferraro a woman and Barack Obama as a perceived Muslim and Keith Ellison as a Muslim are all relatively recent examples of what happens when anything but the character or record of a candidate is used to assess his or her fitness for public office.

In a debate with Democratic candidate for President Walter Mondale in 1984 President Ronald Reason, who was 73 years old at the time, was asked if he was too old to be President.

In a response typical of Reagan, and one that likely ended Mondale’s hope of using Reagan’s age against him, Reagan responded: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

Today, President Donald Trump is 72 years old.

The current leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, Vice President Joe Biden, is 76 years old.

Both men have a lifetime of achievement and accomplishment.  Both have had moments of great personal and professional success and failure.

It should be these matters of public record related to how they have conducted themselves in and out of public office that should be what voters, and the press, use to assess their fitness for public office.

Barring some undisclosed health issue that could jeopardize their physical or mental health for the job there’s nothing else that ought to immediately disqualify them from public office.

Yet, barely concealed in the increasing attacks against Joe Biden in the Democratic fight for the party’s nomination are suggestions that Biden’s age should be a legitimate issue in this campaign.

Nobody has come right out and said it so much.  But, reporter, media institutions and Biden’s opponents are stepping closer and closer to the line of calling Biden too old for the job.

The New York Times recently published a story recently with the headline “How Old Should a President Be? With so many choices, Democrats Are Sharply Divided.”

The Washington Post got the age question off to a start in 2018 when it published a story title “In the 2020 elections, an age-old question looms.”

Publicly, there hasn’t been a leading Democrat or Democratic activist that has come right out and called Biden too old.

Well, I guess if you think Rosie O’Donnell is a leading Democrat, then you might consider her tweet that “Joe Biden is too old to run…” as evidence that Biden’s age, not his qualities as a candidate, will be a major attack against him sooner rather than later.

But other Democrats aren’t quite yet ready for that hay to be let out of the barn quite yet.

They use different phrases and terminology – Joe Biden’s politics are too old, too tired and too tied to the past.

They refer to the need for “generational change.”

You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig.

And, at some point Democrats running for President – failing to stop Biden by attacking his voting record, his views on the world perhaps not being far enough left for them or some other party insider game—will increasingly challenge Biden’s age.

They will wait until someone with more credibility than Rosie O’Donnell says it first – perhaps some “analyst” on CNN, MSNBC or other liberal media entity does their dirty work.

Once it has been raised as a “legitimate” issue all gloves will come off.

In its wake other candidates for the party’s nomination, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, will be hustled off, along with Biden, to the political equivalent of the Old Folks Home – they will become respected “Party Elders.”There are a Lot of reasons why I won’t vote for Joe Biden: I served with him on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he has continued to be wrong on almost every major policy issue we faced.

He was convinced the surge in Iraq would never work; he supported the Iran nuclear deal that paved the way for an Iranian nuclear weapon and gave $150 billion to support terrorism throughout the Middle East; and he admitted that he would have not taken out Osama bin Laden when the opportunity presented itself.

But his age is not a disqualifier.

The need for committed and effective individuals to run for public office in America has never been greater.

If we wish to see our government, at every level, continue to be responsive to the needs of its citizens, we need to welcome Americans of any background or life experience to enter the arena.

If we permit the line to be crossed that says candidates for public office are too old to effectively serve our nation there’s no line that someone won’t cross to disqualify someone else to serve.

That’s not progressive.

That’s just wrong.