Republican Dilemma: Is the Best Candidate Too Old?

The present choice of presidential candidates is the worst the Republican Party has offered to the people since George W. Bush ran for renomination alone and unopposed in 2004.

If it weren’t for John McCain, thinking Republicans would surely be in a state of deep depression. Imagine the frustration of a serious party loyalist faced with choosing, without McCain, from among the other primary winners, Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney, or the apparent candidate for president of Florida, Rudy Giuliani. South Carolina has pretty much eliminated Fred Thompson and the rest.

First, we have Pastor Huckabee, who would come to the presidency secure in the belief that God created the world in six days, despite what those scientists say. Among other things he promises in pursuit of the Lord’s work as president is a constitutional amendment recognizing marriage between a man and woman. For that is clearly what the Lord intended, in the view of Huckabee and his Evangelistic base, when He created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Everett.

Defeat in South Carolina has fortunately rendered this otherwise personable candidate a one-state wonder, but he remains a scary vice presidential choice, especially if the septuagenarian McCain is the nominee.

Next, there is the candidate most adept at faking sincerity, Mitt Romney, who — and this is true — campaigns with a to-do list composed of what polls show the voters want to hear, like cutting spending and lowering taxes. He is fresh from victories in two states where the other top candidates didn’t run and a victory in Michigan won by telling the voters of that depressed state he would restore their prosperity by pumping $20 billion into the auto industry. Romney runs on the proposition that Washington is broken without ever once hinting that a Republican president with nearly eight years in office might have had a hand in the breaking.

And then there is the missing-in-action Giuliani, whose disappearance from the campaign being waged by the rest of the guys to concentrate on Florida has only been interrupted by news reports concerning the corruption of his associates and his sometimes peculiar conduct as mayor of New York.

The New York Daily News has been watching Giuliani’s Florida strategy and last week found the thrice-wed mayor in the unusual venue of a Sunday Mass, where he revealed in a most proper setting that he “sensed God.†We can hope Florida will prove America’s mayor to be, as H.L. Mencken once said of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, “an old fraud who is fading satisfactorily.â€

I can recall hearing Giuliani being interviewed on WTIC by Colin McEnroe several years ago when the former mayor was shilling for the pharmaceutical industry. McEnroe asked why he opposed allowing the importation of less expensive drugs from Canada and Giuliani said terrorists were likely to be poisoning imported drugs.s When McEnroe asked why terrorists weren’t tampering with other Canadian imports, Giuliani mumbled a hem and a haw, prompting the listener to ponder how despicable it was for Giuliani to be exploiting terror to profit his drug company clients. He hasn’t changed much.

This leaves McCain, that rare candidate whose supporters cite honesty and integrity as reasons for giving him their votes. But if he wins, McCain, at 72, will be the oldest man ever inaugurated president. That is a problem that will have to be explored more seriously, now that McCain is a front-runner.

Most of our presidents were in their 50s when elected and even Ronald Reagan was younger — at not quite 70 — than McCain would be at his inauguration next January.

Until Reagan, the oldest man elected president was William Henry Harrison, who was 68 when he was inaugurated on March 4, 1841, and 68 when he died on April 4, 1841. It was said the cause of death was pneumonia, which Harrison developed after catching cold following the delivery of his two-hour, 8,424 word inaugural address. It would be 140 years before a wary country would elect a president older than 68.

Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired television journalist. E-mail him at

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