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Fact of life: McCain isn’t getting any younger

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Rick Horowitz
October 28, 2008

They’re back on that “Ready on Day One” thing again.


John McCain and Sarah Palin, I mean—with some unintended help from Joe the Running Mate. About Barack Obama, that is, and how he’s sure to be “tested” by our enemies around the world, and how he supposedly isn’t ready to be commander in chief on “Day One.”


Now, I happen to disagree with them. (With McCain and Palin, I mean. Joe the Running Mate—aka Joe Biden—says he thinks Obama will do just fine when the tests come. McCain and Palin prefer not to mention that part.) I think Obama is ready—and, more important, so do individuals such as Colin Powell.

Leave aside the idea that Sarah Palin, of all people, should be questioning anyone else’s qualifications for high office. For high-fashion budget busting? Absolutely! But for high office? No way.


So leave Sarah Palin aside. (And by now, John McCain may be wishing he’d done exactly that.)


But here’s the thing: “Day One” definitely matters. But so does “Day 100.” And so does “Day 1,000.”
And you have to wonder: Is John McCain still going to be ready on “Day 1,000”? And all the days that follow it?

“Day 1,000”—that’s almost three years into the next administration, whoever’s in charge. So let’s do the math. On his next three birthdays, Barack Obama will be 48, and 49, and 50—physically and mentally fit, it’s reasonable to assume, and pretty much at the peak of his powers.


On his next three birthdays, John McCain will be 73, and 74, and 75.

Which is to say that the John McCain you’re seeing right now—a little cranky, a little repetitive, occasionally confused, a little repetitive—that’s the best John McCain you’re ever going to see from here on out.


He’s not going to get any sharper, or any quicker, as the years go by. He won’t be in any better control of his anger. He won’t find it any easier to cope with new issues, new concepts, new technologies, than he does right now.


Do you find that particularly reassuring?


It’s nice that he was able to tell Tom Brokaw last Sunday that he has the support of five former secretaries of state. Nicer still if he’d been able to remember all their names on his first, or even his second, try.


Do you really expect this sort of thing to go away as he gets even older?


John McCain will not be getting better as we move toward “Day 1,000.” He will almost certainly be getting worse. That’s what people in their mid-70s tend to do.


It’s not cruel to point that out. Cruel would be to ignore it. Cruel would be to count on the nonstop rigors of the modern presidency to somehow leave John McCain untouched, or even to rejuvenate him.


Everything we know—about science, about health, about history—says “no.”


There are plenty of days in a president’s term. “Day One” is only the first of them.


Give me the guy who’s still improving.


Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist based in Milwaukee. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

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