March 6, 2020

Trump is 73, the same age Bob Dole was in 1996, when he was treated as absurdly old, and Trump's Democratic opponents are 4 or 5 years older than that.

Do you remember the age issue as it was presented in 1996?



Bill Clinton handled that elegantly, skirting outright ageism and attacking the ideas as old.

A NYT column "Still Running/Is Age-Bashing Any Way to Beat Bob Dole?" from May 5, 1996 noted that indirect approach — "coded partisan formulations" — but also the direct attacks:
[T]he old-guy bashing of Mr. Dole in political cartoons and late-night comedy routines has reached an intensity that makes the jokes about Ronald Reagan in the 1980's seem like gentle kidding. Dole age jokes ("Dole is 96") are now as much a part of popular culture as gibes at Madonna's impending motherhood, and sometimes as mean-spirited.

"Bob Dole is calling himself an optimist," David Letterman said in a recent monologue. "I understand this because a lot of people would look at a glass as half empty. Bob Dole looks at the glass and says, 'What a great place to put my teeth.' "

"Bob Dole's senior aides are urging him to hurry up and make his list of potential choices for Vice President," Jay Leno commented in one of his many age-related digs at the candidate. "Searching for a Vice President doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that Bob Dole has senior aides. How old are they -- 90, 100? I mean, senior aides?"...

"Dole's more vulnerable to this than Reagan [who was 70 when he took office] because Reagan has a much more vigorous image as a person, more charisma, more sense of energy," said Robert H. Binstock, a professor of aging, health and society at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "I don't think it's an uncalled-for ageism. Plus, Dole feeds into it by evoking images of himself as a World War II person rather than a forward-moving person."

In contrast with Mr. Dole, Mr. Reagan was for the most part wildly successful in defusing the age issue. For most of his tenure, Mr. Reagan played the sunny patriarch and even managed to attract college students to the Republican Party. He had an ageless quality, which his advisers enhanced with photo opportunities of him clearing brush and chopping wood at his ranch.

With a well-timed comment, Mr. Reagan put the age matter to rest in a 1984 debate with Walter F. Mondale, the Democratic nominee: "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."

Mr. Dole offers his own version of that line, but his delivery is not as deft. He jokes that he will not make age an issue, even though, he says, his cholesterol count and blood pressure are lower than the President's. At virtually every public appearance, he also jokes self-deprecatingly about his plan to pick Senator Strom Thurmond as his running mate because the 93-year-old would bring generational balance to the ticket.

Efforts to appear youthful fall flat, as when Mr. Dole posed for USA Today on his treadmill last July, wearing unlikely fitness gear: a dress shirt and what could have passed for boxers. And for all of his efforts to portray himself as more seasoned than Mr. Clinton -- calling himself "the comeback adult in contrast to the comeback kid" -- the dour Mr. Dole has had difficulty turning age to his advantage.

Last month he remarked that "if something happened along the route and you had to leave your children with Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, I think you'd probably leave your children with Bob Dole." But when The Washington Post offered that choice in a survey, 52 percent of the respondents chose Mr. Clinton as the baby sitter; 27 percent Mr. Dole....

Democrats say the age issue for them is like the character issue that Mr. Dole has against Mr. Clinton. In the same way that Mr. Dole does not have to bring up Gennifer Flowers and questions of Mr. Clinton's marital fidelity, Mr. Clinton does not have to remind people that Mr. Dole would be 77 at the end of a four-year term....
77 at the end of his term.  Joe Biden would be 78 at the beginning of his. Bernie Sanders would be 79.

54 comments:

DavidUW said...

Yet Bob Dole is still alive.

tim in vermont said...

I remember well when SNL made fun of him for his wound received fighting Nazis.

Jeff Brokaw said...

Trump is a very young 73 — lots of people younger than that look less healthy than he does. Very sharp mentally, obviously. And the energy level! Makes me tired just reading about it!

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

negative stuff only counts for the R candidate.

The democrat party is the party of ultra wealth and consolidated wealth. Sanders and Biden and the rest speak of taxing the rich - but they will never tax the billionaire class that controls their levers.

Jeff Brokaw said...

I cannot remember *any* politician at that age who could keep up with Trump’s workload.

henry said...

all positions are adjustible to fit the needs of the mdeia/Democrat party "truth." Orwell would be proud. (Or more likely, disgusted).

daskol said...

There must be some sociological explanation for our turning, for reassurance maybe?, to elderly men at this time of uncertainty in our society. I mean, it's not just the DNC running a phantom candidate who can be controlled completely. People are voting for him.

rehajm said...

In 1996 the boomers were in their 30s and 40s so it was fun to make fun of older people. Now that boomers are old people it is fun to think of old people as young and vigorous.

daskol said...

Never trust anyone over 35, unless it's a fellow boomer. But that doesn't work because Biden and Bernie are too old to be boomers.

rehajm said...

Warren Buffett is 89 and has a schedule that would kill most people. Charlie Munger is 96 but he's really a turtle.

Ann Althouse said...

A quarter century later, Bob Dole is still alive.

CJinPA said...

The Simpsons: “Ladies and gentlemen, 73-year-old candidate Bob Dole.”

Ann Althouse said...

(Just seeing that DavidUW made the same observation in the first comment.)

Ann Althouse said...

Jokes about Bob Dole at the time acted like it was bizarre that he was even alive or like he was dead but somehow dug up and reanimated.

narciso said...

Th3n they discovered the greatest generation two years later.

Ann Althouse said...

"Never trust anyone over 35, unless it's a fellow boomer. But that doesn't work because Biden and Bernie are too old to be boomers."

Yeah, I was just thinking about that the other day: Biden and Bernie are not baby boomers. They are the older generation. Biden was born during WWII and Sanders was born just before the U.S. entered the war.

Hagar said...

It is something that though commanding half of the votes of a nation of ~340 million, the Democratic Party cannot come up with a plausible presidential candidate - not even just plausible.

Meade said...

For President 2024: Bob Dole vs Jimmy Carter. Hey, they'll both be eligible (as long as they're still alive)!

wild chicken said...

Dole was quite funny, too. Not dour. They never really knew him. But I remember his acid humor back in the 70s when he ran for VP.

These kids don't know shit.

Temujin said...

73 is the new 65.

daskol said...

Defining geriatrics down.

Bob Boyd said...

Trump's energy is amazing for his age. He goes like hell burning Big Macs and Diet Coke.

Biden wishes he could still successfully process and eliminate solid foods.
He keeps asking his nurse if non-dairy Ensure comes in Big Mac flavor. She's told him no a million times, but...

traditionalguy said...

The Kansas tough Dole was cut in two by German MG42 machine guns in a useless Italian campaign stuck at Monte Casino. It took3 years to get him that restored. Trump is still 100% supercharged mentally and physically. Deal with it.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Jimmy Carter was all in on the "Russian stole the election from poor Hillary"

You're never too old to eat the BS.

dbp said...

If Tulsi can get on the debate stage with Bernie and Biden, she should (fairly easily) trick Biden into challenging her to a push up contest. He will die of a heart-attack or from embarrassment and she will win the nomination.

Rick said...

The media thinks age is not an issue because this cycle it doesn't work to Dems benefit. It's as simple a that. The next time it does media will treat it as a serious issue.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

After 20 years of boomer Presidents, we long for the quiet competence of the silent generation.

Xmas said...

I said on my FB page that I give Gabbard a 10% chance of winning the nomination because Biden is going to kiss a COVID-19 carrier at a rally and then shake Bernie's hand at the next debate.

Tom T. said...

Dole was yesterday's news in 1996 partly because he'd run unsuccessfully for VP 20 years earlier. He looked really old; he was gaunt and withered. Certainly, that's because of his injuries, but it didn't help the age issue to argue that he's frail because of a war that happened 50 years before. Finally, Dole sounded old. He was cranky and spoke in impenetrable legislative jargon that made him sound out of touch. Trump is none of these things; he's a fresh political presence who's physically vigorous and completely plugged in to the modern world.

Michael K said...

Tom T has it right. Dole looked and acted much older than Trump.

Char Char Binks said...

I wonder how people born in 1945 felt about being a generation older than those born in 1946, or feel, if they still can.

rcocean said...

Bob Dole has a withered useless left arm due to his war wound. Surprisingly, that was due to being shot in the shoulder not in the arm. Anyway, I agree with everyone up thread. Its not just that Dole was a Republican, Clinton was only 50 and Dole has a grumpy, sardonic demeanor that made everyone think of their Cranky Grandpa. And of course, Dole was a old-line "Moderate" DC-insider, Jerry Ford Republican, who had nothing to offer, and no vision for the future.

He also fell off a stage, and was pathetic in the debates. All I can remember from his campaign is Dole Croaking "Where's the outrage?" and snarking to DC Press buddies that he hadn't read the Republican Platform. Norm McDonald did a hilarious impersonation where Dole shares a house with a bunch of 20 somethings.

rcocean said...

A good example of how worthless Dole was. When he ran for President, the Press complained he shouldn't be a Senate Majority leader AND run for President. It wasn't fair to the Senate and the people of Kansas. So he didn't run for Senate again. Of course, no Democrat has done that. They keep their seats. And so did McCain.

Bill Harshaw said...

Dole seemed older because of his WWII injuries. He couldn't ride horseback or swing an axe as Reagan did.

Carter Wood said...

On the Dragnet radio show in the early '50s, Friday would at times interview a woman in her 50s, and the actress would adopt the voice that today sounds like a doddering, frail octogenarian.

Swedish housekeepers were also a stock character. Those, I miss.

Birches said...

I think our three Boomer Presidents are a window into the souls of the Boomer elites. They saw Clinton and Bush as their peers. They were young and vibrant. McCain reminded them of their mortality and their unwillingness to fight in Vietnam. He reminded them of their age and they didn't like it. Trump makes them feel young again. I can't see Biden holding up well as a reflection of their mortality.

Caligula said...

"Trump is a very young 73" Well, that's just it: some people at 73 are still vigorous, others are feeble, still others appear to have stopped learning and living ten years (or more) ago.

And, people everywhere are going to select vigorous leaders over feeble ones.

Bob said...

John McCain was 72 when he lost the 2008 election. The knock on McCain was that he might die in office and leave us with Sarah Palin as president. Yet he survived Obama's two terms and lived long enough to bicker with Donald Trump.

Age is a real thing, however. Even with good health, there's a risk you can fall off the cliff anytime in your 70's. It happened to Reagan to some degree. It could happen to Trump in a second term. With Biden and Sanders it could happen next week.

Really astonishing that with a huge Millennial generation, the leading two Democratic candidates are too old even to be Baby Boomers.

Birches said...

I fully expect Trump to drop off in his second term. I still prefer him or Pence to the alternative.

rcocean said...

I agree old age can catch up on you fast. There's no comparison between the Reagan of 1984 and 1976 or even 1980. He was much more vigorous. Of course the shooting took a lot out of him.

McCain was much more alert and energetic in 2000 vs. 2008. Dole slowed down a lot from 1988 to 1996. And Biden now seems decrepit and senile compared to 2012. Bernie seems to be going strong though.

rcocean said...

McCain dying in office and giving us Palin was a selling point.

rcocean said...

I've noticed rich people, hollywood actors, and some Pols are living forever. O'connor is still alive, so is Eastwood, sean Connery, Robert duvall, and Gene hackman. Jimmy Carter - God bless him - is one year younger than Dole.

Given Modern medicine we probably won't see the last of Billy BoB Clinton till 2046.

Rick said...

Age is a real thing, however... With Biden and Sanders it could happen next week.

Correction, last week.

Bob said...

Yep, modern medicine and mucho money can keep one going for a long time. I'm not sure how much "living" they all do, but, they're here. Of course, Clint made another movie recently (which I haven't seen), so he's not just home staring at the ceiling.

Yancey Ward said...

That is a reminder of Bill Clinton's political genius and ability to think on his feet and under pressure- that was the perfect answer to the question and rebuttal of Dole's own answer to the question.

Yancey Ward said...

"I've noticed rich people, hollywood actors, and some Pols are living forever. O'connor is still alive, so is Eastwood, sean Connery, Robert duvall, and Gene hackman. Jimmy Carter - God bless him - is one year younger than Dole."

Yes, but you aren't remembering the ones who died in the 50s and 60s- you are trying actively to remember the ones still alive. Of those in your list, the only ones I have seen in public recently, as in the last 3 years, are Eastwood and Carter, and Carter looked so feeble that I wasn't even sure he knew where he was.

According to IMDb, I see the last thing Hackman did professionally was a narration in 2017- he hasn't acted in anything since 2004.

Yancey Ward said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yancey Ward said...

Robert Duvall, though, does seem to have a starring movie role in a film in post-production right now, so he is still active at 89.

Vance said...

Ha, if you want to ponder something: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints(popularly known as the Mormons) is currently being run by a 94 year old man.

The guy is just as vigorous as Trump is, taking world trips and keeping a punishing schedule.

A previous leader, Gordon B. Hinckley, was 97 when he died... and he had been working up until two days before his death. Went to work Friday morning, went home early because he wasn't feeling well, and basically went to bed rest and two days later died. My personal thought is that he didn't have time to die because he was too busy. And when he finally went home to rest, his body was like, "Welp, I'm really going to rest!" and died.

Some of these old guys running large organizations are ok because they simply don't have time to be sick or get senile. Lots of daily concentrated work keeps them sharp, and they are always on the go so they get exercise and in general, are pretty healthy.

Someone like Biden, who isn't running anything, just declined because no stimulation. He's out there trying to run a campaign now, but what was he doing 2 years ago? And being Vice President is not stimulating, I would imagine.

Sebastian said...

"77 at the end of his term. Joe Biden would be 78 at the beginning of his."

Yeah, but that's different, cuz Dem and wisdom and shut up.

Even Dem ageism is situational.

rcocean said...

It used to be leading men died young. Flynn at 50, Tyrone Power at 46, Alan Ladd 52, Montgomery Clift 46, John Garfield 40, Robert Taylor 57. And "Young" per today's standards Cooper at 61, Tracy at 67, Gable at 60, Bogart at 57. I remember John wayne dying and thinking that was perfectly natural since he was "super old" but he was only 72.

rcocean said...

Mormons don't drink, smoke or ingest caffeine. They're high on life. And it helps them live to a ripe old age.

DavidUW said...

There are few Mormons in the urban underclass.

What you see in Mormon longevity is actually pretty typical lifespans for a white, middle and upper class suburban demographic.

They also live forever in Minnesota.


mccullough said...

Dole is now older than anyone who has ever been president.