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Vernon News

THOMPSON: The job of American president shouldn't be about age

March 04, 2024 - 12:00 PM



In November, Americans will choose between two men who are 77 and 81 years old to serve as president of the United States. More news stories have been written about the ages of Donald Trump and Joe Biden - especially the older Biden - than any policy issue. Stories on their ages outnumber stories about abortion rights, outnumber stories about immigration, outnumber stories about the wars in Ukraine or Gaza.

This should give Americans pause about what’s most important in governing a democracy in trouble. What are your priorities? You won’t get much agreement between Republicans and Democrats, about anything. The Republican Party - hijacked by a small but loud, and dangerous group of folks - has proven less interested in governing than simply tearing apart the fabric of the nation.

Maybe what should concern Americans isn’t so much the age of the candidates, but what they represent. Last week, Jack Posobiec - a Right Wing activist and so-called news correspondent for One America News Network - opened the 2024 Conservative Political Action Conference with this gem.

“Welcome to the end of democracy. We are here to overthrow it completely,” he proclaimed, adding with a raised fist holding a crucifix. “We didn’t get all the way there on January 6, but we will endeavour to get rid of it and replace it with this, right here. All glory is not to government. All glory to God.”

Former Trump White House adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon - pardoned for his criminal fraud charge by Donald Trump hours before leaving the White House - stood nearby. He laughed and answered, “Amen!”

There were fewer news stories that day about the Right-Wing controlled Republican Party plan to end democracy…than Joe Biden’s age. If you’re like most free-thinking Canadians you’re probably wondering…misplaced priorities? And you’d be right.

Asking about age - a bigger red herring than ever netted off the U.S. Atlantic Coast - really misses the mark…but to mix metaphors…it’s easy, low-hanging fruit. We have all known adults - young and old - whose judgment and abilities fall beneath those of a competent teenager.

But age really is a number. It is - by and large - somewhat meaningless taken out of context. Whatever being “old” might mean…it doesn’t necessarily disqualify someone from doing an important job…even being a world leader.

Ask a 10-year-old child what’s old? You’ll get someone who’s 25 or maybe 30 years old. A 20-year-old might think someone in their 40s…is, well, old. They’re not wrong…they’re just trapped in their own perceptions. I have a sister who’s 87 years old…and I trust her experience, judgment and, oh, yes, energy more than most 50-year-olds I know.

We’re not all created equally. I know 60-year-old men and women who probably shouldn’t dress themselves. But I’m 73, and last week I umpired four high school baseball games in five days - one of them a four-hour, 13-inning affair - so questions of energy can be and usually are...mostly bullshit.

Being president requires competence…experience, judgment and the ability to seek balance in an unbalanced world. Joe Biden is 81…can he serve four more years as president? Well, look at what he has done the past four years.

More people are working than at any point in U.S. history. More goods are manufactured in America than ever. He led the rescue of the economy - which is now the world’s best - and changed the course of one of the world’s worst pandemics. He is rebuilding much needed infrastructure…adding millions of jobs. I could go on…but you can learn more at

Compare that to Donald Trump…eight years ago when he was 69…and in the White House.

He gave big tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. He put three judges of dubious quality on the U.S. Supreme Court. He defrauded America…conspired and led an insurrection. He was impeached…twice. He is charged with 91 felony counts. I could go on…but you get the idea.

I mentioned age being a red herring earlier…because America has lots of issues to come to grips with…and all of them require a leader with experience, judgment, wisdom and the respect of other world leaders. Trump doesn’t have any of that…and only a fool would pretend he does. Joe Biden posses all of those qualities.

Besides, Donald Trump has repeated aloud the voices in his head that he intends to embrace authoritarianism in the White House. Trump has robbed lines from Adolf Hitler, advanced horrifying and fascist policies he’d pursue, and talks about being a dictator on “the first day” of his new term. This time Trump will surround himself with nothing but sycophants…no guardrails. This guy should be nowhere near the case with nuclear codes.

Trump’s allies in Congress - the majority of Republicans - are willing to throw out the rulebook for him. Senator J.D. Vance and Representative Elise Stefanik - on the shortlist for Trump’s vice presidential candidate - have stated publicly that they supported the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

It’s long past time that Republicans and Independents admit reality: Trump and his supporters are not speaking rhetorically, they mean exactly what they’re saying.

Reasonable folks worldwide have no say on who will lead America. But, boy does it matter. Like it or not, Americans’ decisions on who will be president effects millions…actually billions…of people throughout the world.

By the way, America’s 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has long provided a remedy for a president whose health or mental faculties are failing. That’s why the vice president exists.

That said, the job of president of the United States should never come down to simply a question of age.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines.

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