May 15th, 2008
10:20 AM ET

McCain: Too old for the White House?

Editor's note: Will age be an issue in November? If John McCain wins, he would be the oldest person in the nation's history elected to a first term in the White House. We explore all the angles, tonight at 10 ET

Gary Tuchman
360° Correspondent

Is it fair for John McCain's age to be an issue in this presidential race? Is John McCain too old to be president? These are touchy issues and thorny questions, but we decided to tackle it in a story because it is indeed being prominently discussed.

If McCain wins the general election, he will be the oldest man ever elected to a first term. We spent a day with Senator McCain in Washington State. He paid an environmental visit to a wildlife habitat and led a panel discussion on climate change and global warning.

As part of his visit, he donned his sneakers and a baseball cap and took a short hike in the woods. He certainly dressed like someone a lot younger than 72. But I think even he would admit that for the most part he does looks his age. A poll this week by the Washington Post and ABC News indicates that almost four out of ten Americans say they would be uncomfortable with a 72 year old being president.

So is McCain sensitive about this?
On the contrary. While hiking with him, I asked him if his age is a fair issue. He says it is. And he laughed about it too. You will have to tune in tonight to hear what else he had to say, but it's fair to say John McCain is using humor as a defense against the accusation that he is too old.

And we shouldn't be surprised he continues to try to be wry and sardonic about this, because this is the same man who called a New Hampshire high school student "a little jerk" when the student asked McCain if he was worried he might die in office.

Just last week, Barack Obama said McCain might be losing his "bearings." Obama denies that comment had anything to do with McCain's age. Some of McCain's people aren't so sure about the denial. Either way, this issue has legs. Spry, youthful legs at that.


TIME’s Michael Scherer and Alice Park write about John McCain’s bout with skin cancer and other medical ailments in "How Healthy Is John McCain?"  READ IT HERE

Filed under: Gary Tuchman • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Ella

    McCain is too old to be president. Envision the oval office with post-its everywhere. Nature must take its course.

    This country needs surgery and we need a young doctor with a steady hand and innovative ideas to implement a healthy recovery.

    May 17, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  2. Tammy L. Carter

    I really don't think that age is really a factor when Mccain is only 71, going on 72. People say the older the wiser, but then again there is that unknown factor of him dying in office, which I highly doubt. Whereas Obama is younger and the last time we had a young president, JFK, he led a good presidency, I have respect for that position despite the Cuban missile crisis and his assassination. I don't think age should be on any pedestal during this 08' election year.

    May 16, 2008 at 11:48 pm |
  3. Raymond Duke

    Np his age is not an issue . look at all the idiots we got in congress and how screwed up the country is by their wisdom. I heard the remark that Barack made about McCain losing his "bearings". I wouldn't make that statement anymore if I was Barack, he can't keep up with how many states there is in the U.S.. The way he was counting we would have 60 states. That don't speak to well of him handling his age to well.Any person the age of 60 with an eigth grade education could be in the middle of a stroke and know the right answer. If cnn would quite kissing his backside and open their eyes they would see real fast he can't handle pressure,point ,debates with hillary clinton and stupid remarks a third grader would know the answers to. Besides what do have a vice president for. Look at the primary results "old people don't buy that B.S. of Baracks" and we don't make excuses for him Like Pmsnbc or cnn does.

    May 16, 2008 at 11:40 pm |
  4. Michael

    Age is completely relevant in this election. If race and gender are up for debate, why shouldn't age and fitness be? No one is being cut any breaks here, so neither should a septigenarian who wants to be President.

    McCain should commit to ONE term and make it clear he WILL NOT seek a second term. Naming his VP NOW would also allow voters a longer period to develop a comfort level with the person who is "a heartbeat away from the Presidency." Is it possible that perhaps team McCain is avoiding any "compare and contrast" to a much younger VP they have decided on?

    May 16, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  5. Joy in Seattle

    There is always a chance the President will die. Roosevelt died in office. Kennedy was assassinated. There have been others and there will be more. Perfectly young, healthy men have heart attacks.

    As long as John McCain picks a good VP, it doesn't matter how old he is. In fact, his life experience is a strength that he can draw upon.

    May 16, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  6. Basil

    Obama recently referred to McCain as losing his bearings and the McCain camp linked the terminalogy to age. McCain's reference to Obama's inexpereince and navete is likewise a referencie to Obama's age. Both of their ages carry risks. If one is young they may not have the knowledge required and If one is old then the knowledce maybe lost.

    McCain's battle with cancer and his confusion between Shite and Sunni is the concern I have. He maybe physically fit but mentally challenged.

    May 16, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  7. Janet, American in Canada

    Mc Cain, is yesterday thought. For America to acheive goals for the future generation they require individuals who see beyond and above.

    As a senior 63 white female, even in my time and now, every mil-second the world has evolved and the e/generation are moving at a pace Mc Cain and others cannot even blink an eye!

    May 16, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
  8. Miss M

    I agree, 2 "old"...Out dated ideas, hope he looses to Ms. Clinton.

    May 16, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  9. GG

    This is the best the repubs can do. McWar is senile and stuck in his ways. It's his way or no way. He acts like a tempermental kid when someone says something he doesn't like he has a temper tantrum. Is this who the repubs want in office. Everyone keeps hollering about experience, what experience does McWar possess. He is shell shot and will use the Presidency to play War games. No one has experience of being a President until they have held the office. Therefore neither of them have experience, so let it go and vote for the person that you feel will best serve the American people. It is not like the person that holds the president slot will be by themselves in this, they will have a cabinet of the best and brightest. Folks stop making excuses for not voting for the best candidate. I really feel for whomever takes over after the dumb bell that we have now. When the next president leaves office, he will be blamed for all the errors of our current administration. McWar will probably not make it through a first term and I doubt he will be the president.

    May 16, 2008 at 10:11 am |
  10. Judy

    Age is an issue, at least with me. John McCain is too old to be elected and he knows it. I do think he is sensitive about it but he is insensitive to the American public in persuing this mission just to satisfy his own selfish ego.

    May 16, 2008 at 12:46 am |
  11. Andrew

    McCain's age is a valid concern because of the economic state of the US right now. It's going to take sharp, innovative thinking, and a totally new approach to foreign relations and the economy to get America back on track. I don't think he can handle that pressure at his age and he's clearly not in touch with the level of harm that the Republican party has done to America's image overseas. He may seem fairly sturdy now, but health at that age declines without warning and a single fall due to a misstep or a stroke brought on by stress or one of his temper tantrums could put him in a coma, as has happened to Israel's leader Sharon. His mother being still alive means nothing. He has only half her genes and has not lived her life so he can't claim her longevity. It's not going to be easy for him to relate to foreign leaders of allied countries because he's from a different generation and the average age of world leaders today is significantly younger than his – this will reduce his overall influence. His approach is just like that of Bush, which will further contribute to the falling favorability ratings of the USA, currently at only 30%. His stance on Iran and Iraq will serve to continue that downward trend, thus making America less and less safe as the anti-US rhetoric gains greater credibility in the eyes of many. America knows what it needs to do, but few around the globe believe that she has the guts to actually make the smarter choice rather than the usual choice. I'm expecting McCain will win the November elections due to America's inherent political and social disunity, which will further alienate the US on the world stage and foster the development of the European Union, China, India, Russia and Brazil as future economic superpowers as traditional US markets continue to leave the US dollar behind.

    May 16, 2008 at 12:13 am |
  12. Tereska

    McCain is far too old- any doctor will recomend him retaiment for his age and his medical history...His stress as a President can be very harmfull for his condition......This is readiculus decision he made...and his party....should loose big......

    May 16, 2008 at 12:07 am |
  13. Chanel

    I'm far from a McCain supporter, but I don't think that attacking his age is fair. It's like saying "what can you do, you're almost dead." Ouch... that's harsh. However, considering his age, I do not think his new "change you deserve" slogan is going to hold. Not only is that a slogan from an anti-depressant, but when you have been in the game that long, change is unbelievable.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  14. Aldrin, MD

    How can we be talking about advancing this country and have an old 72 year old republican as president. The last time I had a conversation with my 73 year old bad he was still trying to get around using his DVR. Go figure!

    May 15, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  15. Annie Kate

    McCain's age shouldn't be a factor – age discrimination is suppose to be illegal. Considering the age of his mother McCain will probably be with us long enough to serve his terms and if he isn't then as long as he picks a good Vice President we are ok.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 15, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  16. Lou

    He is definitely too old to govern this great nation. The current adminstration has us on a course that given his age and abilities it would almost be impossible for him to change the course or for that matter accurately know what's wrong. Most Americans will retire way before the age of 70. He's too old to even be effective as a Senator, he has one of the worse attendance records, he would be a part time President or even worse he may even expire while in the office. although his mind may still be intact physically you can tell he appears a little fraile, he's a Senior citizen with tremendous credentials, at best he should be a mentor or advisor.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  17. TeddyAnn

    This guy is too old, and he will never change. He and those Republicans allowed Bush to run our country into the ground. John McCain is old, and he has old ideas (Bush ideas). He does not have to worry about feeding his kids, putting his kids through college, or losing his house. He is married to Mrs. Money bags, and he is out of touch with Americans. He is old, and we can't even understand what he is saying. Why don't he just go to an old folks home, and let America regain its bearing? He can question Obama's experience, but that's what have got us in trouble–experience. It is called insanity when you keep doing the same thing over and over. And electing an old timer who is antique in Washington we will get the same results–more poverty, more war, and more trouble in our nation. You better believe this–everytime John McCain and the Republicans attack Obama - their attack boomerang on them and the Republican party. It is as if the the Republican Party is bringing damnation on itself. Soon no not soon, but they are now turning on themselves. When you compare yourself to unwanted dog food there is a problem, and Bush and Mc Cain (McBush) are attached at the hip. There is nothing new under the sun. McCain and Bush are the cause over 4000 men and women have died in the war. Can we forget this, no? Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers who have buried their dead need to remember that John McCain was the source of your pain. And if he is give chance to be our president more will die, gas prices will soar, and poverty will continue to overtake our nation. John McBush is out of touch with the people of the United States,and he is an old white man that is ready for retirement.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  18. Greg Erie PA

    It's fair to bring up but i dont think McCain will mind. To many voters his age is an asset.
    On the other hand it also fair to bring up Obama's inexperence, his Senate voting record, his foreign stratagy, his faith, his associations.
    I'm sure Sen. McCain is ready for the debate.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  19. Dee

    It is a fact that as we age, so do our bodies and mind. However we don't all age at the same rate.Most athletes, dancers, etc. accept that they have a limited time to perform. Still there are many people who more productive in their later years than in their youth. If McCain were running for the president of a company, applying to be principal of a school, wanting to start up his own business – I'd not be as apprehensive as I am about his running a country...making decisions that can impact the rest of the world. I just don't have confidence in his sharpness. I don't know what he was like before so I can't say if it is age related. I just think he is out of touch with the way the world is today. And I feel the same way about George W – even if he's younger! However I do have respect for the man – McCain that is.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:13 pm |
  20. Jo Ann


    Loved your blog about John McCain. I have no trouble voting for an old person or a young person as long as he or she is qualified to do the job. I think that it is mistake to vote for or against any candidate based on age. McCain is older and he has been through a lot, but he has also shown a resiliency many younger people do not have.

    If he chooses an equally qualified younger VP I don’t think anyone would have a problem voting for him in November.

    In many cases age is just a number. I know many young people who act old and I have older family members who act like teenagers. I think attitude and outlook is what is most important.

    I can’t wait to see your report tonight!

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    May 15, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  21. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think most people think age is an issue if they're young and feel empowered. The way we are going in this country with youth obsession, most of the people writing here will be obsolete, downsized and ancient by 30. What goes around comes around. Today's youth will be in a blink of an eye, old. But I bet when it happens, they will want to be President at 70 too.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  22. Tenerife

    Such a statement to state that someone is too old to be president is being a racist and Unconstitional. Thsi is not what teh united States is all about. Not to mention, it is being racist and a violation of employment laws.

    Thisis an obsurd statement, not to mention question.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  23. Rachel, LV, NV

    I'd be suprised if he was still alive and kickin by the end of his 1st term, if he was elected

    May 15, 2008 at 3:27 pm |
  24. Debbie, NJ

    Aging is more than feeling. There are a lot of things going on inside your body that you cannot stop. Organs, tissues start deteriorating. Brain cells start dying off. I don't think McCain flip flops. He doesn't remember what he said. Its a joke to put someone that old in office as the President but the Rep. are using him to get in the door. He is a little less conservative so they feel he may appeal to some Dems and independent voters. Watch who is VP is. They are the person who will take over when McCain has another cancer episode. That's the person they really want in office.

    May 15, 2008 at 3:06 pm |
  25. Ricardo Urruela

    I think Mr. McCain age is not a problem. I just remenbered former President Reagan, one of the best presidents that U.S.A. have ever had in it´s history. A man that returned the trust, the power, the leadership and the confidence in to this wonderful country. Why can´t we think that Mr. McCain will do the same as Mr. Reagan did back in the ´80s.??? I think with his experience, his knowledge and his trayectory he can be at least as good as Mr. Reagan was!!!!!!

    May 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  26. Paris

    Prejudice is prejudice.
    The only different is when its about color the media emphasizes on it and calls it racism and doesn’t dare to joke about it.
    But when it is about age the media makes it amusing and it becomes a joke.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:50 pm |
  27. Bev C NY

    McCain is too old to handle the stress that goes with being President of our country. I agree that 20 years ago he would have been formidable. He changed once Bush came into office. He was his own man before then, but I lost all respect for him when he kissed Bush and towed the line, even after what Bush did to him in the primaries.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  28. Dave

    It's not a candidate's numerical age but his or her intellectual ability and physical stamina that matter. Age diminishes those attributes at different speeds in different people. Americans who can accept his proposed policies have until November to assess McCain's abilities. I'm not one of those Americans.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:25 pm |
  29. Larry

    Should congress set a limit on maximum age for presidents, as they do for the minimum age?

    Maybe we should just follow the lead taken in the film 'Wild In The Streets' 🙂

    May 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm |
  30. Helmi Dreesen-Ludwig

    Absolutely, Yes. John McCain is too old for the U.S. presidency.
    There are plenty of positions within the power structure he
    has been active during his public life where his experience and
    foresight can be of value. So far I do not recognize a great man evolving out of John McCains long years of chance (to become such a man ) in Washington. He has his Hero-Status as POW, yes, but he
    is not the only one who can claim that status. There are all those
    who are silent and deserve attention as well, but are not operating in the public, needing or searching velvet treatment for their wounds.
    We need young men and women to have a chance to start fresh,
    without the burden of longtime influence by Washington, family connections and the buddy-system. America is still young and deserves better than what the steril politicians have offered in the
    last few decates. Education for the young must be available and
    offordable,now, so this country can shine again. Republicans and Democrats wake up, work together; America for Americans of all
    levels and for all our young and those in the middle and with the help
    of those in the later phase of their life.
    Helmi L. Wilmette, Il.60091

    May 15, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  31. Renee

    I say go for it McCain! I will take a 70 year old's experience any day compared to the chanting of "yes, we can!". I am about over the chanting from Obama and have to mute him most of the time.

    AC 360 has taught me many things and one quote directly from Anderson hope is not a plan.

    Hope is not a plan when I am trying to lose 20 pounds! Moving the body on a regular basis is a plan.

    Hope is not a plan when I am trying to fix a flat and getting those lug nuts off in a business suit and pantyhose and pumps. Having a AAA card is plan and Buddy the tow truck's phone number in my cell phone is a plan.

    Hope is not a plan when I trying to educate my children. Making my children participate in Mom school is a plan.

    Hope is not a plan when I had 4 hurricanes and small children. Packing up my children, securing my properties and heading north is part of the plan.

    Hope is not a plan when I am stuck in an airport. Renting a car, leaving the airport and driving home is.

    Hope is a fallacy coming from a world leader! Practice and experience is a plan! Age, action and experience are part of the plan!

    May 15, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  32. Deb n Texas

    That he is – too old for the White House. That is why he wants Obama to join him in Town Hall Meetings – because he doesn't want the public to know how dementia he really is. We(the American People) will see just how old he is at the debates. I can't wait!

    May 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm |
  33. Kent, Illinois

    McCain is an honest and honorable man. But, I cannot vote for him in November. I liked him 20 years ago when he was strong and a real fighter in Washington. Today he is a shell of that man. The Republicans picked the wrong candidate to run this year. They will rally behind him................they have to. He cannot just all of a sudden be a good speaker, understand the economy, and appeal to people who want CHANGE. He represents old people, old ideas............................old Washington. Everyone sees this if they just open their eyes................

    May 15, 2008 at 12:41 pm |
  34. Nirvana

    Old....conservative and only representing the affluent.........

    May 15, 2008 at 12:28 pm |
  35. batguano101

    Anything is better than Hillary.

    May 15, 2008 at 12:21 pm |
  36. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    Although I don't believe anyone is ever too old for President (because the wisdom, experience required take decades to develop), I'm not in favor of McCain, Obam, or Clinton.

    Their ideas are OLD.

    America wants change–but the changes offered by any of the current two party candidates offer only continuing the expansive growth and involvement of the central government in our lives.

    Why not an alternative that offers real change...and a complete 180 degree shift from the pandering BS of the two major parties.

    Vote Bob Barr, Libertarian for President.
    Us Independents–really believe he'll make some change–that will benefit Americans across the boards (not the social/financial/government special interests who have them by the short hairs).

    May 15, 2008 at 12:04 pm |
  37. Brenda from California

    I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain because I voted for him when he run against Pres. Bush, but I switched to being a Democrat when Bush became the president. I truly admire Senator Hillary Clinton from when she was the First Lady. I admire her hard work at the White House, I truly admire her strong desire to help all the citizens of America especially the middle class people, young, middle aged, and senior citizens. I believe in her desire to change our policies on medical insurance for everybody and I still remember the good economy that we all enjoyed during the Presidency of Bill Clinton. I also believe that most of his success during those years are attributed to Senator Hillary Clinton, there's a saying that behind a man's success is a good woman (Hillary). If Senator Clinton does not win the Democrat's nominee for President, I will come back as a Republican (like my husband) and vote for Senator McCain; he's more experienced, and has the ability and experience of make important decisions for our country. I will vote for Senator McCain if Senator Clinton is not the nominee for Democrat. I hope and pray that Senator Clinton will be the next President of our beloved America. She's like a loving mother to everybody, I admire her longevity and not wanting to back down, she's always full of energy and I know that she will not quit because we, her people, do not want her to quit, perseverance pays a huge dividends.

    Anderson, my family is always watching your show, keep your fairness always. Thanks for your straightforward questions and answers.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:59 am |
  38. Christine

    I really don't think McCain's age should be a factor. Also just because he has had some health issues doesn't mean anything. I know people in their 40's who have had major heart attacks. So people could ask questions about Obama too. He did cocaine in his college days, and that will affect your heart this I know as fact. Hillary probably has gone through menopause and should be very careful about risk for heart attack also.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:51 am |
  39. Ron

    Please consider age relative to life expectancy. If you do, you'll see that McCain would not be the oldest president by that fair measure.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  40. JT

    Obama, No experience!!

    May 15, 2008 at 11:43 am |
  41. JT




    His mom is 95.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  42. Will Gates

    Age should not be a factor for a Presidential Candidate! Period! The Question should be, will the media make it a problem?

    May 15, 2008 at 11:34 am |
  43. Lucy

    He may be too old just as Obama is too young. Not enough experience! He needs to go on and play basketball a little more and come back in about 12 years. Besides, if Hillary doesn't get the nomination (and she should by all rights) then most will vote for McCain. He isn't just now proud to be an American. He has fought for this country which is much more than we know about Obama.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  44. Kim, Missouri

    What is holding up the medical report for John Mccain. I expect nothing but transparency from him so we are still waiting for the report. Also Cindy Mccain would need to release her tax returns so we can confirm who really are the elists in this race.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:13 am |
  45. Michael, NC

    McCain's issue on age is inevitable, as is Hillary's gender and Obama's race. There are many unconventional angles on these candidates, and they are being prodded constantly. These arguments are more than fair, they are a large part of what influences a citizen's vote. That is the truth whether we like it or not. I wish the best of luck to all candidates, and hope that from here on out, it will become a race of issues and political standings, not external appearance.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:09 am |
  46. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Mr. Tuchman, get on your flack jacket, get ready to duck bullets.
    Obama stated that McCain was his losing his *bearings, as it pertained to being off course on an issue. He was pointing out improper conduct in a campaign, the 'Hamas' thing, not a reference to someone losing their marbles.
    *(8. Often, bearings. direction or relative position: The pilot radioed his bearings.)
    He was roundly attacked as a discriminator against the aged.
    GT, your post brings more closely into question the other definition of 'bearings'.
    (2. the act, capability, or period of producing or bringing forth: a tree past bearing. )
    Batten down your hatches!
    The other angle to this issue is why the GOP's are allowed to attack the youthfulness of the Dem candidate, and its 'hands off' about old age!? How spell nullification?

    May 15, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  47. Chevy

    I'm not too concerned with McCains age. He has a good grasp of foriegn policy and he gets it when the voters spoke with thier votes on immagration. I liked what he said. The voters have spoken, they want immigration reform but they want the boarders closed before anything else.

    What he doesn't excel in though is public speaking, but then again "talk is cheap". Experience is the most important qualification for the job of President. Hillary was right, John McCain has 30 years of experience, Hillary has 30 years of experience and Obama has a speech he gave in 2002 or when ever that speech was lol I didn't know who he was until he ran for president.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:08 am |
  48. Cindy

    I think that age is just a number and that you are as old as you let yourself feel. Saying that I see McCain as someone who acts and feels younger than his age. I don't think that will be any problem what so ever in his presidency. He has already said that he has a clean bill of health so that is good enough for me.

    His age shouldn't even be a factor in this election. This country has far more worse things to worry about than a candidates age. We need someone that can get in there and get this country turned back around no matter what age they are.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:57 am |
  49. Michelle

    I think there are a lot of voters who will consider McCain to be
    too outdated to be president. Around the world countries are
    moving on to the next generation of leaders. We are in Digital
    Age and I think style and how you come across on HDTV
    matters. Sometimes it is hard to listen to his speeches,
    he comes across as boring at times. People now make their
    own presidential music videos . Somehow I don't think
    McCain can be an internet superstar. The last 8 years a
    baby boomer has resided in the White House and another
    before he. Electing McCain would mean a generation older
    than baby boomers. I am not saying America's elders do not
    have a role in this country's future but it is time to turn things over
    to the next generation behind the boomers.

    May 15, 2008 at 10:43 am |
  50. Beverly

    MCCain too old? The answer is yes. The job of president ages people even further. Just look a picture of any incoming compared with a picture on their last day. Even Clinton looked haggered. At 72 how can we expect him to handle the rigors of the job. Will he depend on a younger running mate to shoulder the burden? I hope not, no one vote for the VP we vote for President. While it's acceptable when a VP (Cheney) spends more time in a hospital than on the job. The expectation of good health is greater for a President. BTW has he released his health records yet?

    May 15, 2008 at 10:39 am |
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