McCain Age ‘Code’ Talk
Some supporters of John McCain accuse the Obama campaign of using “code words” to imply that McCain is old.
“It is code; there is no question it is,” Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist who helped lead President Ronald Reagan’s 1984 reelection campaign, said when age surfaced as an issue. “They are trying to raise doubts.”
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough repeatedly argued on his show last week that the Obama campaign was portraying McCain as a “doddering, old, confused fool. He needs to go to Miami Beach and play checkers.”
To Democrats, however, Republicans are imagining slights and smears where there are none as part of an attempt to silence any discussion of McCain’s vigor. “They are definitely trying to just put a lid on the kind of language we use,” said Democratic consultant Jonathan Prince.
Obama aides deny any strategy to highlight age, and Obama, 46, himself told reporters last month that age should not be a factor. Indeed, he used to compliment McCain’s “half-century of service” to the country as a Vietnam War veteran and a member of Congress, but after McCain campaign manager Rick Davis argued that it was a sly way to inject age into the debate, Obama dropped the reference in February.
Aside from that instance, the article makes no reference to what “code words” Team Obama is using, making it difficult to judge the merits of the charge.
But the whole thing is silly. Nobody, least which John McCain, denies that McCain is old. At 72, he’d be the oldest first-term president in history. And, thanks to five and a half years being tortured by the Viet Cong, it wouldn’t be a young 72. They say it’s not the age, it’s the miles. Well, McCain has a lot of miles of him. Hard miles.
Is McCain’s age, health, and vitality a legitimate issue? Or course it is.
A Gallup poll a little more than a year ago showed that Americans were much more likely to vote for a black man than a Mormon and much more likely to vote for a Mormon than a 72-year-old. Indeed, the only groups that polled worse were homosexuals — who were well within the margin of error — and atheists.
Beyond that, concerns about McCain being “too old” are much less about prejudice than honest fear that he won’t be up to the strains of the job. Rather than whining about how unfair it all is, it’s up to Team McCain to demonstrate that there’s no reason to worry.
A 72-year-old Ronald Reagan managed to do it with a single, disarming quip in 1984: “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” I doubt McCain’s going to have it that easy. But it’s up to him to find a way.