Don't elect anyone under 60
I experienced one of those epiphanies, the kind you get in the middle of the night while you're stumbling down the hall to the bathroom. That occurred after the first epiphany when I resolved to never again drink two cups of coffee after 8 p.m.
I finally realized why Barack Obama is not one of my favorite presidents. It's his age.
For years, I've been telling people Obama is "nothing more than a good talker." I still believe the president's communication skills vastly exceed his leadership abilities, but I might be able to get past that if he hadn't been elected at the age of 47, a mere whippersnapper.
Obama is the first president who happens to be younger than I am, and, yes, that's an issue.
I certainly realize that with every passing year, members of each succeeding generation must assume their rightful places in our society. I'm the last person to tell people over 60 they have to retire; mature people have a lot to say, they've accumulated a lifetime of knowledge and expertise and they can still accomplish a great deal. But, realistically, we don't want a bunch of gals who once wore poodle skirts and old coots who actually remember when Eisenhower was president to still run everything, do we?
It bothers me not at all that my physician, my pastor, the kid from the store who connected me to the Internet and the cop who stopped me because my taillights were out are all younger than I am. That's because I never seriously aspired to perform any of these occupations. But to be perfectly candid, until 2008, I still entertained some hope that I might yet be president of the United States.
Although he may not be the most stellar example, I am compelled to point out that Warren G. Harding, one-time publisher of The Daily Star in Marion, Ohio, went on to become the 29th president. True, he was also a major player in Ohio Republican politics, a U.S. senator, and he emerged out of that famous smoke-filled room, but nevertheless ...
The election of a guy who was entering first grade when I happened to be finishing high school is a bit disconcerting. It's like Beaver Cleaver winding up making more money and having more success with women than Wally.
I've been secretly waiting around all these years for some smart people to "draft" me as a candidate for U.S. Congress or the governorship. That would have been the best trajectory toward the White House. I even had "the speech" prepared. ("My fellow Americans, I stand before you filled with a heart that's about to explode with gratitude for all the little people I stepped over as I climbed the ladder of success.")
Count me among those aforementioned people who have a clear recollection of Eisenhower in the Oval Office. At the time, his critics accused him of only wanting to play golf. I say, it was reassuring to have a distinguished grandfather type at the helm. JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush 41 were all my father's age or older.
Clinton was like the "class valedictorian older brother" type who was skilled at charming everyone (women included; especially women) with a demeanor that was folksy and sophisticated at the same time. Bush 43 reminded me of a fun-loving, well-meaning and very loyal older brother who, against all the academic odds, managed to obtain a college degree. I think both, as cool older brothers, could have been relied on to toss their kid brothers the keys to their convertibles on prom night.
Presidents 35 through 43 all had their individual failings, to be sure, but each of them did some good and they all had the good sense to be older. I'm sure history will likewise credit Obama with many accomplishments, but, of course, he will never overcome the fact that he is younger.
Just between you and me and my best attempt at humming "Hail to the Chief" on key, whether he was 47 or 74, Obama never had much chance of edging out Theodore Roosevelt in my presidential estimation. Not only did TR read books, he actually wrote books - himself - without a ghost writer. And he wrote, with mastery, about such diverse topics as the naval War of 1812, the life of Thomas Hart Benton, travels in Africa and Brazil, the history of New York City, wilderness hunting and the Wild West.
As great as he was, Teddy was made for the times he lived in. If TR was president today, he'd be knee-deep in all kinds of trouble. He was such a big ham, you'd never be able to pry him away from a functioning television camera, and from continually talking about his favorite subject (himself), all the while flashing that toothy grin.
(Betz is an assistant editor of The News-Item.)