In two months on the job, President Joe Biden has sparked debates with his lax immigration policy, his COVID-19 plans, and his promotion of “equity,” not equality, as the end-all, be-all of government’s existence, just to name three.
But despite his staff’s best effort to contain Biden – such as refusing to have an actual press conference for 64 days, stopping appearances which exposed him to unscripted questions, for example – his performance so far also has stoked a debate about his mental agility.
Accordingly, conservative commentator Matt Walsh has suggested we need to impose an upper age limit on the presidency.
“We’ve only just begun to experience the consequences of having a mentally and physically unfit person as commander in chief,” Walsh said on his show on Friday, in commenting on Biden’s inaugural press conference the day before.
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Walsh said even with the reporters’ obsequiousness in questioning him, Biden “stumbled, mumbled, bumbled” through the event.
As one example, Walsh played a clip of Biden discussing the filibuster and saying, “We should go back to the position of the filibuster that existed just when I came to the United States Senate 120 years ago.”
In another instance, Walsh played a clip of Biden just stopping in mid-thought and shifting into a different gear.
“It now seems to be a question not of whether (Vice President) Kamala Harris will be the one finishing out Biden’s term, but when exactly she will take over,” Walsh said.
“All of the ingredients for a catastrophic constitutional crisis are present. They were already baked into the cake the moment that a 78-year-old man was inaugurated. And this ought to be the last time we allow that to happen. In a sane country, laws and amendments would be passed to ensure this does not happen again.”
“There can never be a good reason to put a person so old into the highest and most important political office in the land,” added Walsh.
He pointed out that 1 in 7 Americans over 70 have dementia, and its mental decline becomes more prevalent as people age further.
The Constitution says no one can become president before age 35. In 1787, when the document was drafted, 35 years old was well into middle age, if not beyond, since the average life expectancy at the time was around 40.
“If we’re ruling out the 32-year-old on the basis of his age alone, it doesn’t make any sense that we refuse to rule people out on the other end of the spectrum. There should be an upper age limit on the presidency just as there is a lower limit,” Walsh said.
Walsh admitted the idea would never pass because politicians in Washington would never support such a “self-limiting” policy, and because Americans view it as unpopular because our culture is in denial of our own mortality, and Biden’s election is evidence of that.
But, he added, “Is there any good reason to keep the cap off?”
“Only a culture in denial about death and mortality could be stupid enough to put a 78-year-old man in office.”
Walsh was not the first to raise this issue focused on Biden before the election, although it was framed within the context of electing him or former President Donald Trump, who is now 74.
In November 2019, Derek Muller, a law professor at the University of Iowa, maintained that America needed a new constitutional amendment saying a president had to be elected before turning 75.
In March 2020, Gary Schmitt, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote, “It’s obvious that we are living longer and are generally healthier as we age than previous generations. But it’s also true that the vast majority of us slow down, both mentally and physically, as we head into our eighth decade. Why this fact of life should not be a matter of constitutional concern given the incredible sway, authorities, and importance of the American President is unclear.”
He added, “If it’s reasonable to discriminate against youth, it does not seem out of bounds to put a cap on how old one can be and still be elected President.” That, he continued, would prevent a constitutional crisis, as Walsh alluded to, created if a debilitated president who did not appear that way to the public would contest his benching under the 25th Amendment.
Last October, Reuters columnist Rox Cox noted, “About three-quarters of S&P 500 Index enterprises have bylaws stipulating a mandatory retirement age, generally around 65. A similar percentage of companies have established maximum ages for directors, albeit at around 72.”
“Companies have mostly come to a view that younger chiefs are better suited to lead. As Americans choose between two of the oldest men ever running for president, it’s worth asking whether Uncle Sam should also set retirement limits for its bosses.”