Posts Tagged 'age'

Grampa McCain wants to take Obama’s ball away …

While growing up in a St. Louis suburb, a bunch of kids who lived on my street would often get together in my neighbor’s backyard to play some soccer. Occasionally, the ball would be kicked too hard and roll into the yard next door, and sometimes all the way to the back of that house, which sat perpendicularly to our soccer field. This was always a dicey, somewhat traumatic moment for us, and we would usually argue for quite some time about who had to go retrieve the ball.

You see, the guy who lived in that house and the source of our fears and consternation was a mean, nasty, grouchy old man, a regular Grampa Simpson-slash-Ebenezer Scrooge who would yell and scream at us if he caught us in his yard, and threaten to take the ball away if he ever got it first. For a bunch of nine- and ten-year-olds, the dude was just plain scary.

I’m bringing this up because John McCain has lately been reminding me of that scary old man (and Obama’s the kid with the errant soccer ball). The real odd thing is, I think it’s the image he’s trying to cultivate.

How else can one explain McCain’s recent behavior and ads, where he basically mocks Obama’s lofty, inspirational rhetoric, and derides his popularity as a symptom of our shallow, celebrity-based culture (comparing him to both Moses and Britney). I know what he’s trying to say – that there’s no there there with Obama – but to me, he just comes across as a crotchety old guy with no message of his own, nothing positive to say, so all he can do is complain about those darn whippersnappers.

McCain isn’t the first person to try this strategy with Obama; in the primaries, Hillary Clinton often questioned Obama’s substance and occasionally mocked his speeches, and I thought she too looked petty and shrill while doing so. But for McCain, who already has an age problem, this will prove to be a particularly unhelpful tactic because in addition to being mean-spirited, it also makes him look old and out-of-touch.

Or have we truly gotten to the point where we automatically scoff at terms like hope and change, pass them off as more Camelot myth-making, just part of an impossible and foolish dream that will end up doing more harm than good.

I’d like to think that after eight years of George W and his cronies, and now mired in a rather depressing economic situation, most of America is looking for someone with a vision and fresh ideas, someone who is more interested in unity and compromise than party and ideology, a leader who can inspire and motivate us and help us become that more perfect union our forefathers intended (Well, I tried, but Obamaian rhetoric is hard to do without sounding cheesy!!).

Now I’m sure an Obama presidency will likely fall short of the ambitious, lofty vision he espouses in his speeches. The real business of politics and governing can be gritty, even dirty at times; The way Obama is alternatively shifting to the center (offshore drilling OK) and pandering to his base (windfall profit tax for oil companies) may not be very appealing, but it also shows that he’s not a total idealist, that he understands this aspect of the business as well.

And in any case, I’d much rather a leader start with his head a bit in the clouds and fall short of best intentions, than have him begin in the gutter and try to rise up out of it.

In other words, I’d much rather vote for a Ned Flanders than a Grampa Simpson…

p.s. speaking of grandpas, my mom just called and reminded me my grandfather’s 97th birthday would have been today. he died about ten years ago from complications after a stroke. until he got sick, there was a guy who knew how to do the old thing right!! what a sweet beautiful man. happy birthday zeydeh!!

Ageism may just be the -ism that matters most this election …

Many of my liberal friends and family (and since this is New York City, that means basically everyone I know) believe there is no way Barack Obama will win the presidency this fall. Partly, they feel conservatives will at the last minute find or fabricate some scandal that torpedoes Obama’s campaign (tho I can’t imagine how to top Reverend Wright), but mainly they are convinced that America is just not ready to elect a black man to the top office in the land.

Now, I’m not about to deny or underestimate the prevalence of racism in this country. I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with why recent polls show this contest remaining close (With George W’s incompetence, a nasty economy and an unpopular war, almost any Democrat not named Hillary or Barack would likely have a double-digit lead).

But I’m making the call now that it will be McCain’s age and not Obama’s race that ends up mattering more and giving the White House back to the Democrats. The Arizona senator turns 72 this week, and I’ve noticed several occasions during this campaign where he is looking and sounding at least that old.

People who disagree will obviously point to Reagan as evidence that old age doesn’t matter, either in terms of voter perception or performance in office. But remember, Reagan was still in his 60s when he was first elected as President; i believe if he hadn’t built up such goodwill in his first term, people would have been much more critical of his health and state of mind during his reelection campaign. And in terms of performance, well, there’s still a lot of debate about when exactly Reagan began suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

McCain walks and talks like a man in pretty good shape, and he has certainly handled the grueling campaigning schedule well so far. But he’s had a tough life, and there are moments when you can really tell how old the guy is, and it makes you wonder if he’s up for the most stressful job in the world.

The gaffes so far have been minor – slip-ups of the tongue, some general misspeaking – nothing that can truly be called a senior moment. But his health has been an issue – the latest example being a biopsied mole on his face, which raised fears of skin cancer recurrence. And he looks absolutely lost in front of a teleprompter (I’m not sure if you can chalk that issue entirely up to age, but that’s how I think a lot of viewers will regard his scripted speeches).

The rubber will hit the road when McCain and Obama go head-to-head in the debates. Obama isn’t the greatest debater – he often strays off message and gets caught up in reeling off facts and stats – but the stark difference between Obama’s health and vitality and that of McCain will come through crystal clear through the magic of live high-def television. I guarantee you at some point McCain will stumble and bumble through an answer, spend too much time searching for a name, and the implication will be obvious: He is not fit for the job of U.S. president. The late night jokes will run rampant, and McCain will not be able to slough it off by trotting out his 95-year-old mother or using self-deprecation.

That may not be a fair response; I know I forget things and do my fair share of stumbling and bumbling, and I’m almost forty years younger than McCain. But that’s the thing with -isms: They have nothing to do with being fair.


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