Bloggers' Roundtable: Too Old for the White House? Is Sen. John McCain, 71, too old to be elected president? Some say the question is a matter of "age-ism," but others say it's a fair discussion. Debating the week's headlines are Ambra Nykol, John McCann, and Jim Collier.
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Bloggers' Roundtable: Too Old for the White House?

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Bloggers' Roundtable: Too Old for the White House?

Bloggers' Roundtable: Too Old for the White House?

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I'm Farai Chideya. And this is NEWS & NOTES.

Ronald Reagan was the oldest man elected to the presidency. He was 69 when he took office. But Senator John McCain is already 71 years old. If voters ask is he too old? Is that ageism or just a common sense question in the race for the presidency? I'm going to flip those questions and a few more over to our Bloggers' Roundtable.

Joining me now, Ambra Nykol. She blogs at Also John McCann who runs the blog, Book of John; and Jim Collier. He's blog is

Hey, everybody.

Ms. AMBRA NYKOL (Blogger, Hello.

Mr. JOHN McCANN (Blogger, Book of John): (Unintelligible) people.

Mr. JIM COLLIER (Blogger, Hi, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know, it's big news this week. So, let's start out with McCain, the Arizona senator is the GOP frontrunner. And survey from several months ago found that his age could make things tougher for him.

Jim, why don't you tell me a little bit more about the survey, and what you think about the issue?

Mr. COLLIER: Well, Farai, you know, to help us understand this, Newsweek posted a political poll by Pew Research comparing attitudes towards age versus gender and race. And interestingly enough, what they found is 48 percent of people were less likely to vote for a candidate in their 70s, while 45 percent said that age didn't matter. Now, if you jump over to gender, only 11 percent were less likely to vote based on sex, while a greater 75 percent said sex didn't matter. And finally, when you back that up on race, a mere 4 percent said that they were less likely to vote based on race while 88 percent said that it didn't matter.

And I think it just points out, first of, one of the problems with isms, you know, racism, sexism - that all isms are not created equal. For instance, ageism has a large component of objective factors influencing it versus it also has subjective factors that we need to understand versus where if you jump over to race, race is almost completely subjective and has very, very little objective factors. But this just sort of gets lost in our polling.

CHIDEYA: Well, you know, objective versus subjective. Can also subjectivity - actually poses a question, Ambra, can these subjective factors rule as just as much as logic? I mean, when you're passing by and you're, you know, going by a shop window, it's like, logic may tell you to keep your credit card in your wallet. But then your emotions run rampant. So is any of these - there are all these factual bases to the questions, but is that really what you think rules people's minds or is it more emotions and gut feelings?

Ms. NYKOL: I think emotions and gut feelings play a pretty large role. I mean, I don't know if all of you have been following the debates - but I know when you watch the debates and you watch sort of the energy level of McCain, it's quite apparent that, you know, he is significantly older and it does raise questions in your mind; Is he going to be able to sort of, well, you know, be fortified in the wake of what could happen in this country?

CHIDEYA: Now, I'm going to go to you, John. There's another factor, which is health. Much has been made, for example, over the past few years, about Vice President Dick Cheney's heart problems. But Senator McCain has had three bouts with melanoma. It's a kind of skin cancer that can be deadly. He appears to have a form that is contained and shouldn't affect him in the future. But what about things like that? You know, the health records have, at certain points, been used heavily in how people view presidential candidates. Should his health record, should the other candidates' records be taken into account?

Mr. McCANN: No, I mean, what do we ask in a man who - to try out for the NBA? I mean, nobody is asking McCain for two terms. They want somebody to come in right now and fix the current problems that we have. I mean, if it's about health - I mean Obama smoke cigarettes, right? But nobody is saying that - all the things we're saying about Obama is that maybe a white racist, you know, will knock him off. You know, nobody is saying anything about possibly lung cancer killing him. Well, you know, President Bush, he's in great shape. But he still gets hated on.

And so the thing about this age thing is that, you know, it's a strange dynamic in that, you know, in this country we're told that, you know, not to discriminate based on race and gender and age when it comes to stuff like, you know, housing and employment. But it still seems that there's at least one job in this land where you can discriminate based on age and even race and gender and - as the president of the United States.

Ms. NYKOL: I think there's a lot more jobs than that you can discriminate upon those things but any way.

Mr. McCANN: Yeah. But I mean, come on. I mean, if it's all about age, then I guess, Hillary Clinton was hands down because Barack Obama is too young and too inexperienced. And John McCain is over the hills. So do we just give a thing to Hillary Clinton?

CHIDEYA: I guess, really, you know, again, Jim, the question is when people go into the voting booth, it's also what they say in a poll may not match what they have actually going to go into the voting booth and do. We've seen that time and time again. People may say they're pretty racially enlightened and then walk into the voting booth and have history and baggage with them. Likewise, do you think that this whole age thing could possibly be overhypes that it poses a big issue but people won't really take it into account.

Well, I mean, I think it definitely poses a big issue partly because we're just getting older as society and we're well kept in terms of the health industry, people are living longer. And like in Cheney's case, they can keep you living longer if you've got an ambulance. It follows you everywhere you go. So, the reality is, is that backing all of these sensitivities, our voting constituencies that people are trying to appeal to, and that's one of them. I think Bush and Cheney kind of confused things because Bush is kind of young and Cheney is sort of old. And it's kind of hard to make sort of used of well, what's the real benefit or challenge here because, you know, they sort of, kind of rewrote the book on age.

I think McCain, you know, he - like someone said, he's there for one term. And the question really comes down to, is age a proper surrogate for good mental and good physical health? And so far, the guy presents himself as being pretty good mental and physical health.

CHIDEYA: All right.

Mr. McCANN: Well, you know, that's…

CHIDEYA: I actually want to flip us to another political topic, which is…

Mr. McCANN: Okay.

CHIDEYA:…going to put you in the driver seat, and you can certainly go ahead and jump in first. So, the president has a plan to fix the economy. The Senate has one. The House has one. There's this potential checks that could go out, 600 bucks, 1,200 if you're married. Drop it in the bank, spend it, what would you do if you got your check, your stimulus check? What would you stimulate?

Mr. McCANN: Well, if I got a check, I don't think I would do much to stimulate the economy because for my money, I will have to tuck that money away. I mean, again, I know this is not going to stimulate the economy. But you've got to understand that I drive a 1993 Honda Civic two-door. Now, that thing could break down any minute. I need that money on standby to keep myself rolling.

CHIDEYA: So you are saying that you would probably spend it on car repairs but not right now. You'd hold on to it.

Mr. McCANN: Yeah. I think I want to sack it way. Again, I know the whole (unintelligible) behind this thing is to put it into the economy, stimulate some jobs, spend at the mall, keep that mall manager from, you know, laying all or firing some workers. But, you know, I may have to hold on to it.


Mr. COLLIER: I think, I…

CHIDEYA: Sorry, go head, Jim.

Mr. COLLIER: I'm sorry. I think the point is well taken in that. You know, as an endurance athlete, you know, if I just, like, take sugar and pour it onto my body, I'll get hype for a second but then I crash and burn. You know, versus if I look around and thoughtfully, you know, grab a banana, you know, that might sustain me for hours on a ride. And this is the same sort of thing, you know? You know, dumping money in people and then have them run out and do a short-spending spree is just like sugar in the veins.

CHIDEYA: Ambra, what's your check - where is your check going if it even happens?

Ms. NYKOL: I - well, I think it's a bit of joke, because I think Americans overspend and were deeply in debt. So I mean, obviously, most people are going run out. We probably represent the minority here, but I know for me, I'd figure a way to flip the money and create a profit. So it would either go towards debt or go towards a business acquisition of some sort.

CHIDEYA: Like what?

Ms. NYKOL: Oh, I mean, I don't know. I'm - I pretty - I'm an entrepreneur so I'll figure out a way to turn $600 into $1,200 or whatever the case may be. I'm married so we get double. But whatever the case may be, I'd figure out a way to flip it and not put it towards being consumer but rather being someone who's creating a profit.

CHIDEYA: At the same time, though, and you know, Jim, John, one of you two may be can weigh in on this. The whole idea of consumer spending is it drives so much of the economy. This check in some ways, according to economists, is meant to be spent. I guess, I'll go to you, John, very briefly.

Mr. McCANN: Well, that's the thing. I mean, will in fact, this economic stimulus package, is it the panacea? I mean, will it really work out? You know, I've wrote a column recently, you know, I'll (unintelligible) that maybe we should take some of these money and, you know, put it toward mentoring programs instead of, you know, me spending it on myself. Let me take my check and put it toward a mentoring program. But then I pull back from that and say, well, hey, I'm not going to give my check to mentoring if everybody else is not going to do it.

CHIDEYA: All right.

Mr. McCANN: And I think the same thing applies here overall. Is everybody going to stick them into the economy or some folks are going to hold back?

CHIDEYA: All right. We're going to have to end it right there. Thanks, guys. We are talking with John McCann who runs the blog, Book of John. He was at WUNC in Durham, North Carolina. Also Ambra Nykol. She blogs at, from KUOW in Seattle. And Jim Collier. He's blog is He was at the studios of the University of California, Berkeley.

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