We Live in An, Er, ‘Advanced Age’ of American Politics

Elections
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., January 15, 2019. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Late Tuesday, Senator Dianne Feinstein made a comment to reporters that certainly sounded like she was, at minimum, considering acquitting Trump in the impeachment trial: “Nine months left to go, the people should judge. We are a republic, we are based on the will of the people — the people should judge. That was my view and it still is my view.”

Shortly after the Los Angeles Times ran with that quote, she turned to Twitter to insist she had intended to say more or less the opposite: “The LA Times misunderstood what I said today. Before the trial I said I’d keep an open mind. Now that both sides made their cases, it’s clear the president’s actions were wrong. He withheld vital foreign assistance for personal political gain. That can’t be allowed to stand.” Apparently the reason the Times “misunderstood” is because the phrase, “nine months left to go, the people should judge” certainly suggests that the proper venue to judge the president’s actions is the coming presidential election, not the Senate impeachment vote. But hey, we all say things that don’t come out right at first.

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Several times in the past few years, Feinstein has said something, only to insist a short time later that she didn’t say it or meant the opposite — about Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility, about being pressured by other senators, and about her position on a bill to end the government shutdown.

She’s 86 years old and turns 87 in June. Some people disagreed with my mostly-in-snark comments about age limits for U.S. senators last night, but I’ll just make one more observation about our seasoned citizens.

Back in 1996, 72-year-old presidential candidate Bob Dole was considered unimaginably old, and the Democrats, media, and late-night comedians targeted him mercilessly over it. The New York Times wrote, “the grim inevitability of the actuarial tables of course demands a hard look at Mr. Dole’s physical and mental fitness for the job, especially since he has already been treated for prostate cancer. The injuries he suffered in Italy during World War II — which left him with a crippled right arm — do not make it any easier for him to age gracefully.” Not only did Dole live past 2004 — the age his second term would have been completed, he is still alive today at age 96, and going to watch the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl, God bless him.

Now we have Bernie Sanders running at age 78 and turning 79 on September 8, Mike Bloomberg at 77 and turning 78 on Valentine’s Day, Joe Biden at 77 and turning 78 on November 20, and Elizabeth Warren is 70, turning 71 on June 22. And Donald Trump is 73, turning 74 on June 14.

Suddenly a 72-year-old presidential candidate doesn’t seem all that old!

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