August 1, 2023

Aging Legislators

“Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell briefly left his own press conference [last] Wednesday after stopping his remarks midsentence and staring off into space for several seconds… After sitting down in his office for several minutes, McConnell later returned to the press conference and answered questions from the press.” AP News

An apparently confused Sen. Dianne Feinstein began launching into her remarks during a vote on an $823 billion military budget [last] Thursday, and had to be prompted by colleagues multiple times to simply vote ‘aye.’” CBS News

Here’s our previous coverage of Feinstein. The Flip Side

Both sides argue that it’s time for McConnell and Feinstein to resign:

“The medical explanation might be unknown, but this clearly wasn’t nothing. It isn’t fair to ask us to watch. We feel your pain, even if you don’t, Senator. McConnell’s brain stepped out for a stroll and, very likely, will again. He and others of advanced years — he’s 81 — have a duty to their country, not to mention their families, to walk away while they can still do so with dignity

“Given that the average age of U.S. senators is 65 and the average U.S. citizen is 38, it’s fair to say that old people clinging to power are depriving the country of fresh insights and representation. I hope McConnell is fine, needless to say. But he should know there’s no shame in recognizing when one’s job is done.”
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post

“Ailing, aging or incapacitated politicians is hardly a new issue. Woodrow Wilson had a stroke and his wife secretly took the reins, FDR hid his failing health, and Ronald Reagan’s son has said the Gipper showed signs of Alzheimer’s while in the White House. But in [the] new climate with social media, cable news and ubiquitous cameras, there is no curtain to wedge between the public and a faltering public servant. Politics is now a full contact sport with an eager audience accessing every cough, spit and stumble…

“As a hopefully future old person, I wouldn’t want the lasting image of me at my most fragile and vulnerable. Anyone who has watched a loved one fall into the throes of a physical or mental ailment can attest, the process is heartbreaking and dehumanizing. The atrophying of a once great mind shouldn’t be on display for public consumption. This isn’t simply about freeing up long-held seats to allow fresh blood and new voices in the halls of government. It’s also about giving humans their dignity.”
Kirsten Fleming, New York Post

“McConnell, for his part, has insisted that he is ‘fine,’ though both he and aides have declined to comment on his medical status. Earlier this year, McConnell suffered a traumatic head injury from a fall. While his office disclosed details of the episode, they did not mention a reported second fall two weeks ago and that he sometimes uses a wheelchair to get around…

“As a member of the so-called Gang of Eight, McConnell, a Republican, is routinely briefed on the most highly classified intelligence that the U.S. government possesses. This makes questions about his mental fitness perhaps more important than for most other members of Congress.”
Ken Klippenstein, The Intercept

“McConnell and Feinstein’s back-to-back cognitive incidents should serve as a wake-up call: the advanced age of America’s top politicians isn’t normal and it isn’t healthy… To be clear: it’s not age in itself that’s the issue here. I have no doubt that some of the octogenarians in government (81-year-old Bernie Sanders, for example) have way more energy than I do. The issue here is the sheer number of octogenarians who have been in government for decades. The ridiculous number of career politicians who seem to have no intention of ever leaving office unless they’re carried out in a coffin…

“I’m not sure if there should be age limits in government but there should certainly be term limits. A healthy democracy requires a constant stream of fresh blood and fresh ideas. It requires mechanisms that stop people becoming complacent in their ivory towers. What we have now, however, is a cozy club of multimillionaire boomer lawmakers who have been hoarding power and who refuse to make any space for a younger generation.”
Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

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