For John McCain, Age Ain’t Nothing but a McNumber

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Does presidential candidate John McCain have more years of experience, or just fewer years until he becomes senile? At the age of 71, McCain will become the oldest first-term president in U.S. history if he wins in November. In contrast, at age 46, Barack Obama is young enough to be McCain’s son. However, I am comforted by the fact that McCain’s mother, Roberta, is 96 years old. Therefore, he has a higher chance of a longer lifespan.
A May 14 Time.com article touched on a subject that many people have been wondering about for some time now. According to the article, “How Healthy is John Mccain?” by Michael Scherer and Alice Park, after losing the nomination to George W. Bush in the Republican primaries in 2000, he was diagnosed with stage 2A melanoma on his left temple. This “invasive form of skin cancer claims the lives of up to 34 percent of those diagnosed within 10 years.” Therefore, it was crucial that McCain undergo surgery to remove the infected patch of skin and lymph nodes (in case of the cancer spreading), which ultimately left a scar running down the left side of his face.
This, combined with his old age, has left many people questioning if McCain is healthy enough to keep up with this brutal presidential election. While opponents like Obama claim that “[McCain] is losing his bearings as he pursues the nomination,” McCain has made his age a plus with voters by focusing on his experience and reassuring them that his health is “at the very least not a negative.”
Of course, it is scary to think that if McCain served two terms as president of the United States, he’d be almost 80 years old. Sure, it’s frightening to realize that many of our grandparents are younger than him. Yes, he can look so feeble that I fear he is about to collapse. But despite my concerns, there is no denying that McCain’s experience is nothing short of impressive. His 23 years of experience in the Navy resulted in mental trauma and physical suffering that left him with many physical disabilities, making him appear to be weaker and feebler than he really is. In 1967, his plane was shot down over Hanoi, causing him to break both his arms and his right leg. “He has been stabbed twice by a bayonet, had his shoulder smashed by a rifle butt and endured the angry kicks and punches of the mob that discovered him.” As a result, he is unable to lift his arms more than 80 degrees and, depending on the weather, his right knee gives him a limp.
“Obviously, I think there will be a greater observance of me,” he said about his age while on a bus tour through Iowa last year. “Whether it has an impact or not will be directly related to my performance.” And with that, McCain has taken this election with alacrity, proving to voters and opponents alike that the issue of age is nonexistent. Most candidates “recline in privacy on the bus or on the plane,” but not McCain. He grabs a candy bar to get energized for an hour-long interview. He works 16 hours a day, six or seven days a week. He hikes with his family and treks 30 miles with his son through the Grand Canyon. It is clear that McCain is nowhere close to his deathbed, and with the encouragement and support of his aides and voters, his old age only means sapience, something that his youthful opponents do not possess.
Whether or not I’m completely convinced that McCain’s age is a strength, his wit and humor make it extremely difficult to think that this old man is anything close to senile. Recently, at a meeting with newspaper editors in Washington, McCain pretended to fall asleep when asked about his age. “I’m older than dirt—more scars than Frankenstein.” Having the ability to poke fun at himself proves a mighty man in my book, whether he’s 17 or 71.

Elysabeth Hahm is a second-year political science major and literary journalism double-major. She can be reached at ehahm@uci.edu.

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