Senior Democratic candidates need youthful running mates

The best place for a young, ambitious Democrat to be in 2020 is on Bernie Sanders’ or Joe Biden’s short list of vice presidents.

Bernie Sanders is not only the oldest candidate running but would be the oldest presidential candidate ever elected. Joe Biden is not far behind.

People thought Ronald Reagan was old when he left the presidency at age 77 in January 1989. Bernie would enter the job at age 79. Biden would be 78.

If Bernie won and ran for re-election in 2024, he would be 82 years old, and 86 years old following completion of a second term.

In addition to his age, Bernie is walking around with two stents in his heart following a heart attack on the campaign trail six months ago.

That was when he was rushed to Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, where doctors opened a blockage in his coronary artery.

Following the procedure, the doctors gave Bernie a clean bill of health. Not only was his recovery uneventful, they said, but that he had “the mental and physical stamina to fully undertake the rigors of the presidency.”

Be that as it may, The Wall Street Journal quoted former President Jimmy Carter, 95, who, was defeated by Reagan in 1980, saying a year ago that: “If I were just 80 years old, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was president.”

This is not a knock on old people. I’m old. Many of the people I deal with are old. Living a long time is a good thing, given the alternative, and if you are healthy, have all your marbles and can take the nursing home jokes.

Growing older reminds me of when a strutting young reporter asked if he would look like me when he got to my age. “Yes,” I replied, “If you’re lucky.”

“You’re going to look like me one day, Pete — if you’re lucky,” is what Bernie, a disheveled exception, could have said to a frightened Pete Buttigieg, 38, had the ex-candidate brought up the age issue.

Or, if Bernie were quoting Ronald Reagan rather than Fidel Castro, he might rework Reagan’s putdown of Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential campaign. That was when Mondale, then 56, implied that he would not make Reagan’s age, then 73, an issue.

Said Reagan, “I also will not make age an issue of the campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” Even Mondale chucked.

Still, it is a wonder that all these septuagenarians running for president have not yet been ruled too dangerous to drive, let alone drive to the presidency. Perhaps they think that if they can drive a car, they can run a country.

To be on the safe side, though, they all might consider appointing a designated vice president on the continuing primary campaign trail like they would appoint a designated driver.

That way the public would be reassured, before the convention, that senior politicians, like Bernie, 78, Biden, 77, or Mike Bloomberg 78, would get to their destinations safely and on time, and also have a younger successor on hand.

Also, if Bernie Sanders chose California Sen. Kamala Harris, 55, a woman of color, as his designated running mate before, he not only would have done better in the South Carolina primary, he would have soared even higher in California, if possible.

It would be reassuring if Bernie and Biden had someone like Harris, Booker or even Mayor Pete on hand in case Bernie fainted during a feisty television debate or Biden forgot what state he was in.

Biden was the vice president for eight years under Barack Obama, so he knows what the role demands.

Bernie early on promised to release his medical records. He said people have the right to know “whether the person they’re going to be voting for, for president, is healthy.”

Bernie now is as enthusiastic about releasing those records as President Trump is with his income tax returns.

Bernie has forgotten that promise, just as Biden forgets what he is running for or where he is.

So you can see how important it is to name a running mate early on.

But maybe they’ll forget to do it. Or forget that they did.

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