Opinion

Should Aging Leaders Step Aside?

More from our inbox:

  • Hunter Biden’s Indictment and His Dad’s Campaign
  • Seniors Struggling With Bewildering Tech

Credit…Kent Nishimura for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Romney Hopes to Lead the Way Into Retirement” (news article, Sept. 14):

Senator Mitt Romney recently announced that he will not run for another term, saying it is time for younger leadership. Given Senator Dianne Feinstein’s refusal to step down, Nancy Pelosi’s decision to run for another term at age 83, and the 20 members of Congress who are 80 or older, this is not the norm.

Some European car rental companies restrict drivers over 75 from renting, with a few exceptions. They know that our reflexes, eyesight and decision-making ability decline as we age.

A 2015 study, “The Impact of Age on Cognition,” states: “The most important changes in cognition with normal aging are declines in performance on cognitive tasks that require one to quickly process or transform information to make a decision.”

The role of president, Supreme Court justice or member of Congress is demanding, yet too few take Mr. Romney’s position. If you are restricted from renting a car abroad for valid reasons of declining reflexes and cognition, you shouldn’t be making decisions about the future of our nation.

Carin Whitaker
Laguna Niguel, Calif.

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Is Really Old, Too,” by Frank Bruni (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 13):

Yes, Donald Trump is “really old.” He’s only three years younger than President Biden, and unlike Mr. Biden, is overweight, eats what amounts to a toxic diet and has a family history of Alzheimer’s disease (his father).

While Mr. Biden’s health is an open book, Mr. Trump’s might as well be written in hieroglyphics. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician, ludicrously pronounced in 2018 — in words that sound as though they were personally dictated by the former president — that if Mr. Trump had a healthier diet he might live to be 200 years old.

If, knowing nothing about either man except his age, lifestyle, family history and available health records, I had to decide which man would be more likely to survive another presidential term and be in functioning condition at the end of it, I’d pick Mr. Biden in a heartbeat.

Eric B. Lipps
Staten Island

To the Editor:

Frank Bruni is a wonderful writer and astute cultural and political observer, but his comparison of Nancy Pelosi’s situation to President Biden’s misses an obvious distinction.

When Ms. Pelosi, 83, stepped down as House Democratic leader, she knew that the position would be filled by, and remain with, a Democrat. If President Biden declines to run, there is no guarantee that the presidency will remain Democratic, or democratic.

President Biden has a track record that others don’t — he beat Donald Trump before.

John M. O’Connor
Montclair, N.J.

To the Editor:

Frank Bruni quotes Bob Kerrey as saying that President Biden is “cognitively up to the task” of running again but wishes he wouldn’t. I agree.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was “cognitively up to the task” until the day she died. But her refusal to give up her place at a good time damaged her legacy by enabling Donald Trump to name her successor.

I hope that Mr. Biden’s refusal to step aside will not similarly damage his legacy and leave all of us with another Trump catastrophe.

Paul Eklof
Petaluma, Calif.

To the Editor:

The United States has become an ageist country. If you want to admonish a person, diminish their standing, or destroy their career, just call them “old.”

The attacks on President Biden for tripping when he goes up a flight of stairs or appearing tired after a long day of international meetings are examples of how we use age to disparage. We saw similar age-related attacks when Hillary Clinton ran for president in 2016 and she was only in her 60s.

The United States is a youth-obsessed country. Ironically, however, America is rapidly aging. According to the latest U.S. census data, one in six Americans is now over 65.

How old should a good leader be? You cannot place a value on a human being based on their age alone. Many other factors should be considered to determine a person’s competence to hold office.

In the healthiest societies, elders are held in the highest regard. Young people look up to them for their wisdom, experience and maturity.

I grew up in an America in which children were taught to “respect your elders.” We are not that country anymore.

Fay Reiter
Princeton, N.J.

Hunter Biden’s Indictment and His Dad’s Campaign

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Hunter Biden Indicted on Three Gun Felonies After Failed Plea Deal” (front page, Sept. 15):

As has been widely expected, Hunter Biden was indicted on Thursday on charges of lying about his use of narcotics when buying a firearm. Yes, this is a felony indictment, but seemingly more of a technical violation of the law than a truly “serious” charge.

President Biden will not disavow Hunter; he will, as he always has, stand by his son. Most Americans will view this kindly, as simply an expression of a father’s unconditional love for his child.

The Republicans will try to use this indictment to hurt Mr. Biden’s political standing. This will largely fail.

Hunter’s shortcomings are not those of his father and not due to any failure on the part of the president.

Ken Derow
Swarthmore, Pa.

To the Editor:

The indictment of Hunter Biden on gun charges marks a new moment of decision for President Biden and his campaign. Joe Biden has defined himself as a family man, and despite his lack of charisma and oratorical polish, most people value him for his fundamental decency and commitment to family.

During previous family crises, Mr. Biden elevated comforting his family over personal ambition. This seems another moment for the president to set aside his aspirations and end his re-election campaign — to be the father and husband his family needs.

Of course it would be galling to allow his less-principled adversaries to drive him from the field. Though there’s no denying that many (including many Democrats) dread a bloody rematch of senior citizens.

There’s still plenty of time for an open primary to determine a Democratic nominee.

Joe, you can once again do the right thing for your embattled and beleaguered family. You have nothing left to prove to the rest of us.

Leonard L. Glass
Newton, Mass.

Seniors Struggling With Bewildering Tech

To the Editor:

Re “Entrepreneurs Who Pay Attention” (column, “Can America Age Gracefully?” project, Sept. 10):

Farhad Manjoo laments that the tech sector is ignoring seniors. I don’t think he goes far enough: It is actively frustrating, alienating and actually jeopardizing the well-being of seniors in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

My 90-something father is a retired college professor, a very bright, resourceful man who now finds it impossible to navigate the health care, financial services and entertainment portals toward which all of us are now being herded, stockyard-style.

If tech entrepreneurs cared about seniors, they would design simple, intuitive interfaces specifically for seniors, and spare them the bewildering array of bells, whistles, fear-inducing alerts, dual and triple verification requirements, and relentless “updates” that make the experience such an ordeal for older folks.

Sean Clarkin
New York

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