Senator Obama’s recent suggestion that Senator McCain was “losing his bearings” offers an interesting window into age and ageism in American society.
From the Times
“Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday that Republican John McCain was “losing his bearings” for repeatedly suggesting the Islamic terrorist group Hamas preferred Obama for president.
That brought an angry response from McCain’s campaign, which accused Obama of trying to make an issue of McCain’s age.
Age is a touchy subject for McCain, who turns 72 in August and would be the oldest person to be sworn in as president if elected.
The two senators have focused more intently on one another in recent weeks as Obama has moved closer to becoming the Democratic nominee. Thursday’s back and forth between Obama and surrogates for both candidates foreshadowed a likely argument for the fall campaign.”
The McCain campaign realizes that age is their “third rail.”
A recent ABC poll found that…
“Age continues to look like a major hurdle for McCain. Thirty-nine percent of Americans say they’d be uncomfortable with a president first taking office at age 72, far more than say they’d be uncomfortable with a woman (16 percent) or African-American (12 percent) as president.”
McCain’s campaign’s angry response accused Obama of trying to divert attention from a legitimate question by raising McCain’s age.
“He used the words ‘losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not-particularly-clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue,” McCain adviser Mark Salter said. “It is more than fair to raise this quote about Senator Obama, because it speaks to the policy implications of his judgment.”
Obama campaign’s fired back…
“Clearly, losing one’s bearings has no relation to age.”
Here is my take on the issue…
1) Age will play more of a role than race in this election.
2) While people can find real reasons to oppose McCain’s election, his age is not one of them. It is just not correct or accurate to say that McCain’s– by itself– should disqualify him as a candidate.
3) Our language and culture are LOADED with negative ageist stereotypes. Obama promises that he will not talk about age. He will find this an easy promise to keep. Deeply embedded ageist stereotypes will allow him to raise the issue obliquely. The “lost bearings” flap is just the beginning.