Friday, January 22, 2016

More On Hillary Vs. Bernie

In terms of candidates, the Democrats have already won. The two finalists, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are both outstanding choices. No matter who wins, we win.

Ah, yes, but which one?

I'm growing more accustomed to the idea of a Sanders candidacy. Back in August, I argued very strongly for Hillary being the candidate. But, as I said then, if Bernie somehow wins, I'll back him 100%. I still feel that way. But I have some grave concerns which I hear no one in the media talking about, which, I feel, means that I and this little blog need to address them. At least all seven of my readers will be in the know.

In my August post for Hillary, I focused on her attributes and why we need them. In this post, I'm focusing on Bernie's faults. I do this not out of malice, but because they are genuine, and need to be addressed now before we take the Big Plunge with the Iowa Caucuses. Bernie seems to be the ideal leftist. But is he? Let me voice my concerns here so that I can backpedal over to the pro-Bernie side, if the time should come, knowing I did my dirty, but necessary, civic duty.

First of all, and I for one am not afraid to say it, Bernie is too old. The oldest president ever to start his inaugural term was Ronald Reagan, who was 69, and turned 70 only three weeks after being sworn in (he was born Feb. 6, 1911). Towards the end of his second term, he was manifestly beginning to show signs of Alzheimer's disease. By contrast, Bernie just turned 74 back on September 8 (he was born in 1941). Assuming he wins the nomination and the presidency, he would be 75 at the time he took office, and nearing 80 when running for his second term. The risks for dementia increase exponentially after 70, and this is a grave concern when it comes to our commander-in-chief.

Is Bernie a severe risk? Certainly, I don't want to be ageist, and if a man has all his marbles, he should be allowed to use them in the best possible way. But he is manifestly beginning to slip. In each of the four Democratic Party debates I've watched, Bernie has had a moment where he lapsed. In the first debate, a question was posed to all the candidates (there were five at the time), and then the moderator called upon Bernie Sanders to answer it first. He jerked up as if startled, and said, "Excuse me, could you repeat the question?"

Oh, dear.

Now, as gaffs go, getting caught woolgathering is pretty light. Hell, I've been caught woolgathering in class ever since I was five years old. But this man was on stage with all the world watching him as a man with a serious chance to win the office of President of the United States! That's no time to be daydreaming! And what's more, he'd done this in each debate. Granted, only once each time, and only a slight lapse each time, but on occasion, his focus and  his ability to hear things clearly have abandoned him at key moments. Now, if he can't maintain during a three-hour presidential debate, is it not fair to ask if he can do so over an entire four-year stressful grind as president?

Now, I should emphasize that I have no solid evidence that Bernie is losing it, nor do I have any inkling about whether or not he will go senile in the coming years. But it is not just his marbles I'm concerned with. The stresses of campaigning take their toll on the entire body. In the most recent debate (January 17th), Bernie was beginning to lose his voice towards the end. Sheesh! We haven't even started in Iowa, and Bernie's voice box is already going?

Back in 1996, when the 73-year-old Bob Dole was the Republican nominee, he was plagued with physical maladies which went beyond the old war wound in his right shoulder - one which forced him to always shake hands left-handed. A bout with the flu would take him out during a key campaign swing, or cancel a particular speech. At one point, he fell off the stage, leaving him with an awful eye-wound which turned the white of his left eye blood-red, making for a very gruesome picture to show the news cameras. Yes, voters might look past such things, but historically, they never have. Bob Dole lost by a mile to a younger and more vibrant Bill Clinton. Bob Dole was slightly younger then than Bernie Sanders is now. I would hate to see Bernie's campaign fizzle out in a similar way (although I highly doubt he is capable of polling as low as Dole did).

The media can't say it, but I can. A geriatric senator who has never had to contend with political rigors outside of relatively quiet Vermont might just be too far past his prime to be able to adequately perform on a nationwide stage.

And Hillary? She's no spring chicken, either. But assuming she wins the nomination and the presidency, she would be only slightly older than Reagan was when he took office. Factor in the biological fact that women live longer and hang onto their marbles a bit better, and age no longer becomes much of an issue.

Oh, and lest we forget, we Democrats were begging for Hillary to run ever since 2012. My, how fair-weather fans have bailed!

But I digress. The other factor not in Bernie's favor is money. Yes, he doesn't have any super-pac money. That's great in principle, and it just might work for getting nominated, but what good does it do to be the nominee when you get buried by the post Citizens' United avalanche of contributions from the ultra-rich? The Koch brothers alone have pledged half a billion! And while it's true that money can't buy you love (look at Jeb Bush, for example), it can buy up all the airtime available and price you out of the market. Bernie's voice could literally get washed out in the din of all the negative political ads.

Finally, there's the S-word: "Socialist." This one, at least, the media has been talking about. We who have been following things know that Bernie has drawn a distinction between "Socialist" and "Democratic Socialist." But will the electorate see things that way? I don't think society has cured itself of the stigma that it's held for Socialism, and even I, firmly on the left, have a knee-jerk reaction to the word. So have other leftists such as Chris Hayes, who famously ranted about it on numerous occasions. All the Republicans would have to do is play the "Red Scare" card, and Bernie could very conceivably lose. Yes, polls show him beating any Republican candidate more so than Hillary, but that's for now. Polls shift! And after a Red Scare tactic, they could very well shift a significant amount.

Hillary has baggage, yes, but she's strong enough to carry it. And she has many scars, but she's been battle-hardened. She has survived, and even thrived, on a national stage which has tried to knock her out at every opportunity - and failed. She'll win. Period.

That having been said, let me highlight my official qualifier. I'll still enthusiastically take Bernie over any of the idiots on the Republican side who are pretending to be candidates. A man with a good heart and a feeble mind or body is far superior to one with all his faculties and no heart whatsoever.