Clueless Old War Horses
Vol: 79 Issue: 18 Friday, April 18, 2008
Former Marine and one-time patriot US Representative John “Jack” Murtha [D-Pa] made headlines this week when he threw another group of Americans that he represents under the wheels of the ’08 campaign bus.
“This one guy running is about as old as me,” Murtha, 75, told a group of union members in Washington yesterday. “Let me tell you something, it’s no old man’s job.”
This brings up two immediate points. In the first, Murtha is two years younger than Ronald Reagan was when Reagan had concluded one of the most successful two-term presidencies of the 20th century.
The second point is that Jack Murtha has never been President of the United States, so he is talking out his, er, hat.
As to age, the average age, across-the-board for US presidents on election is age 55, the average age upon leaving office is 60. While that might seem young to the Gray Panthers of 2008, for most of America’s history, that was pretty old.
When the Social Security system was being formulated in the 1930’s the retirement age was set at 65 because most retirees weren’t expected to live more than another two years.
Today, a person retiring at age sixty-five can reasonably expect to live another 20.9 years to age 86. Statistically, having attained age 75, Murtha can expect, barring accident or major illness, to live to age another 13.7 years, according to 2004 US mortality rates.
Granted, John McCain, if elected, would be the oldest first term president in history. At age 72, he is already four years older than Reagan was in his first term. But he need only survive four years of his remaining 20.9 for Murtha to be as wrong about his fellow oldsters as he was about his fellow Marines.
Ronald Reagan not only survived his own two terms, but George Bush’s term, both of Bill Clinton’s terms, and died just five month’s shy of seeing George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004.
Reagan was one month shy of 78 when he left office. Eisenhower was over 70, Jackson, Buchanan and Truman almost 70.
The average age for presidents who die in office is 58. But five former presidents lived well into their 90’s, and the elder President Bush is over 85.
Herbert Hoover lived 31 years after leaving office, Gerald Ford 29 years, John Adams 25 years, Martin Van Buren and Millard Fillmore both lived an additional 21 years after leaving the Oval Office. And of the only five US Presidents not to live to see age 60, three were assassinated, Garfield, Lincoln and Kennedy.
There is a new website set up by Steve Rosenthal, a former political director at the AFL-CIO and executive director of America Coming Together, a massive soft money effort organized around the 2004 presidential race.
The website is called, “Younger Than McCain” and made a list of all the things John McCain is “older” than. For example, John McCain is older than the Golden Gate Bridge, plutonium, Coke in cans, Velcro, McDonalds, Burger King, color TV and FM radio.
(Starting with Velcro and moving forward, so am I — and I’m 55)
Here is how Rosenthal — and the group of twenty-somethings he worked with, see John McCain at 72:
“John McCain comes from another time, an old war-horse stuck in the past with an old-world view of things,” said Rosenthal. “Our videos — hopefully in a funny way — are aimed at pointing out just how old, out of touch and clueless he is.”
“Out of touch, clueless and a joke.” That’s what McCain’s experience really means — to America’s youth.
God help us.
What the website actually proves is how clueless and out of touch Rosenthal and his posse are. In the first place, why do we let twenty-somethings drive but don’t let 12 year olds? What do they have that 12 years olds don’t?
In a word, experience. How did they get that experience? By not dying. Why don’t we elect twenty-somethings to the White House? Lack of experience.
Does this seem like a difficult concept?
Nobody (under 40) is going to debate that a twenty-something is better qualified to lead the country because of his youth, any more than anyone (under 18) would argue that a 12 year old is experience and mature enough to navigate a six thousand-pound steel projectile down a busy interstate at 180 feet per second.
But my mother-in-law, who is eighty-six, still has her own car, her driver’s license, and has not had an accident in forty years. If I had my choice as to whose hands I’d put my life in on the highway, I’d pick my mother in law over my granddaughter every single time.
(Might take me a little longer to get there, but I’d get there.)
It is counterintuitive — age and experience wins out over youth and enthusiasm every time — it takes a conscious effort at self-deception to see it any other way. But, as we’ve explored in many previous discussions, self-deception is a major hallmark of the last days. When asked of His return, the first words from the Lord’s lips were these: “Take heed that no man deceive you.”
Describing the world as it will be when the antichrist makes his appearance on the world stage, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” (2nd Thessalonians 2:11)
Consider the power of the lie we are discussing here. Who would you prefer take out your appendix? A kid out of medical school? Or a doctor with forty years experience? You tell me.
But when it comes to leading the most powerful nation on the face of the earth, age and experience are a political liability.
(“Up is down, in is out, black is white, and would you like one lump, or two?” asked the Mad Hatter.)
Those of us who are old, out of touch and clueless today, remember a different world, the one run by old, clueless guys like Dwight Eisenhower. When old, clueless guys were in charge, the biggest problem facing teachers were kids chewing gum in class.
Growing up, I didn’t have a single friend whose parents were divorced. Being a Christian was something to be admired. We didn’t lock our doors at night — or even if we went out of town.
In the 1960’s attitudes about age began to shift. The new catch phrase was ‘Never trust anybody over thirty.’
Power began to shift as well, beginning with John Kennedy, (at 41, the youngest president in US history) and by the end of the decade, most of our lawmakers looked just as weird as their kids did.
The political shift toward youth and inexperience has been reflected in each decade since.
Youth and inexperience scream out at us through laws that blame guns for the actions of their owners, advocate abortion as a method of birth control, or propose legislation like ‘involuntary’ assisted suicide.
(Apparently, one must be ‘old and clueless’ before one recognizes the nuances that separate ‘involuntary assisted suicide’ from ‘murder’ don’t actually exist.)
It screams at us from our school systems, where the kids run the classrooms and the teachers run for their lives.
It screams at us from our practice of locking old people up in assisted living facilities, treating them like idiot children rather than tapping the deep wells of knowledge and experience that they possess.
John McCain is an old war horse, out of touch and clueless, because John McCain also remembers what it was like when the grownups were in charge.
One of the reasons that our culture has turned away from its elders is because it has turned away from the Bible and the wisdom it contains. The Bible, the argument goes, is also ancient, clueless and out-of-touch with modern times.
The Bible celebrates age — indeed, it commands we respect our elders.
“Thou shalt rise up before the hoary [grey-haired] head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:32)
“The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31)
Under Mosaic law, a child becomes a ‘man’ at thirteen, but cannot serve in a position of public responsibility until he has reached the age of thirty.
In 2nd Chronicles, we find that King Rehoboam rejected the counsel given him by the old men in favor of that given by the young. It is a fascinating story, in that it is so applicable today.
The counsel given Rehoboam by the old men went like this. “If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever.”
Rehoboam rejected this advice, forsaking “the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him.” (2nd Chronicles 10:7-8)
“And answered them after the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add thereto: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” (10:14)
Rehoboam forsook the advice of the elderly, hearkened unto the young men, and the result was that Israel divided into two kingdoms — the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah.
A generation later, the Kingdom of Israel had ceased to exist. The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel remain lost to history to this day.
There is a lesson in here, somewhere. But I’m too old and clueless to explain it to anybody under thirty.