Over at PJ Media this morning, our colleague Stephen Kruiser published his morning newsletter with the title, “Biden Makes Best Case Yet for Presidential Age Limit.” (You can subscribe to that newsletter here and it’s free.) After a long walk down memory lane with Joe Biden’s various shortcomings and awful behavior, Kruiser gets to the meat of the issue. Various proposals have been made about age limits for the Presidency, and there is little question among any honest observer that Joe Biden would indeed be the poster child for such an idea. His failures in office have been many, but his seeming cognitive failures on the world stage have likely made our adversaries far less afraid of the United States with many examples of the obvious results showing up in the headlines on a daily basis. Here is the summary as to why either an age limit or at least some sort of cognitive test would be an idea worthy of consideration.
There has been discussion lately about mental competency tests for members of Congress over a certain age. It’s not a horrible idea. When my paternal grandfather was in his 70s, he told me that he thought all people his age should have to take a behind-the-wheel driving test to get their licenses renewed (he could still drive just fine, by the way)…
Still, we have age parameters for all sorts of jobs in the United States. The only reason that we’re not seeing “AOC 2024” campaign paraphernalia all over the blue states right now is that she’s not old enough to run for president yet. (UPDATE: People are piling on with emails pointing out that AOC will, in fact, be old enough to run in 2024. NOTED! Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.)
It’s not unreasonable to think about an upper age limit for running for president. The longer elected officials hang around Washington, the more out of touch they become. Joe Biden has been there for over half a century now.
None of his time spent there has been good for America.
For many of us today (and I’m not just talking about conservative Republicans), Joe Biden makes such ideas tempting. When you have the guy holding the nuclear codes repeatedly trying to shake hands with invisible people or looking for dead people in the crowd during a speech, it has to give you pause.
But both of the ideas in question come with their own issues. Let’s start with the idea of an age limit and the most obvious barrier to such a plan. The Constitution sets a minimum age limit for Presidents and members of the Senate. The Founders did not see a reason to set a maximum age limit, perhaps because people in that era were far less likely to live long enough to become extremely senile. It would require a Constitutional amendment, a process that would take decades if it were even possible, or a Constitutional convention. (Even less likely.)
Putting aside the Constitutional impediments, is it even a good idea? And what would the age limit be? We’ve heard the age of 75 being discussed recently and that would be very convenient in terms of booting out Joe Biden. But how much support would your proposal have if you suggested that? You would also eliminate Donald Trump. Democrats won’t support it because you would not only knock out Biden but Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well. It’s a non-starter.
So how about a cognitive test? And at what age would such a test be a requirement? Would 75 be appropriate for that as well? Frankly, I think both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would pass such a test today (Trump took one voluntarily and passed) while Biden would fail miserably. But those exceptions also prove the rule. There are people who begin to lose their cognitive abilities long before 75 while others retain them far longer. (I call one of our cats by the wrong name at least once per week and I’m still in my sixties.) If you want to apply a cognitive test that is mentioned nowhere in the Constitution to presidential candidates, it seems that you would have to apply it to everyone regardless of age.
There are other problems with this idea as well. There is absolutely no legal requirement for presidents to take an annual physical exam of any kind, to say nothing of a cognitive test. It’s simply a tradition and a relatively recent one at that. Traditions are broken all of the time. (See: Trump, Donald J.) People, including political candidates, are entitled to a certain degree of privacy in terms of their medical information. There is a huge body of settled law out there supporting that fact. You can’t force candidates or presidents to reveal their medical information, though voters are able to see such a refusal as a negative and vote accordingly.
The bottom line here, at least for me, is that this is an issue without a viable solution. It all comes down to common sense, and sadly, that is in short supply these days. In a more rational world, nobody would support Joe Biden for another term after watching his performance thus far. For that matter, nobody in Pennsylvania would have voted for John Fetterman. The problem isn’t the candidates or the elected officials. It’s the voters who are so wedded to one ideology or the other that they would vote for the headless horseman if he had the “wrong” letter after his name. (My apologies in advance to the headless horseman if he/she is trans and I just misgendered them. I’m a terrible person.)