By J. Michael Willard
Let’s hear it for the old men (and women) — the crotchety, the arthritic, the stooped and the straight as an arrow, those with bellies that roll like ocean waves and the salt and pepper bewhiskered guys as thin as beanstalks.
Yes, we are old. “Hear me roar,” as Helen Reddy once gave voice to a nascent woman’s movement 50 years ago. It is the yellow leaf generation’s battle cry, regardless of gender.
We rule, or at least one of us seniors (oh, how I despise that term “senior citizen”) has the potential to be what once was called — though rarely these days by both friends and enemies — “the leader of the free world.”
That once-grand term has been devalued and is on sale at the two-dollar book bin at Barnes & Noble. It once had a majestic sound to it, but today it is as an echo in a rusty drum, and frankly, often ridiculed.
How I once loved to hear freedom ring with that expression, knowing even through the decades that the house could only stand as long as there was a modicum of wisdom, whether from Republicans or Democrats.
It has always been, however, a house of papier-mache’ where a huff and a puff given the right conditions could cause it to collapse. A perfect storm of a simple-minded leader and a cowardly party could bring it down.
Today, it is in imminent danger of being trampled asunder by a historic blow-hard, one with the emotional intelligence/temperament of Little Lord Fauntleroy and the intestinal fortitude of the bully who hollers while whimpering.
Up until now, the median age of anyone going the distance and putting a right hand on the Bible in front of the US Capitol Building to become US President was 55 and a couple of monthly clicks.
But a legion of septuagenarians are poised in 2020 to hold the barbarians at the gate: Bernie Sanders, 78, Mike Bloomberg, 77, Joe Biden, 77, and Elizabeth Warren, 70. The rest of the field are mere youngsters with Tom Steyer, 62, Amy Klobuchar, 59 and the baby, Peter Buttigieg, 38.
The previous oldest president to take office was Ronald Reagan. He was elected at 69, and skeptics questioned the wisdom of elevating someone of such advanced age to America’s top job.
The youngest president was John F. Kennedy, elected at 43. However, the presumed front-runner today, Sanders, is the old man of the field by a year. Though he had a minor heart attack last year, he appears fit as that proverbial fiddle.
Bernie could, I supposed, surprise we skeptics, but I doubt the American spirit will accept a social democrat whether a septuagenarian, a millennial or the Biblical hoped for Second Coming. This, while cashing their Social Security checks.
It’s a fact, given empirical evidence, the MAGA tribe denies the basic principles handed down in the Sermon on the Mount. You know the ones: They begin with that oh-so-trite “love thy neighbor” type of fluff.
With Bernie, the barbarians will walk through, over and around the gates.
As for me, I am heartened by this older folk posse. There is an inspiration in their moxie, their energy, and the fact that all — even the youngsters — have more going for them than the current President.
The rap against my personal flavor of the day, Bloomberg, is that he is buying the election with his billions, having spent already $300 million in advertising through the New Hampshire primary.
It’s his dough. He earned it fair and square while Trump was born on third base and given a mega allowance by papa. Then, he felt he had to steal home plate with Russian help during the 2016 election.
Somehow, someway — even after multiple bankruptcies, his cheating employees, paying off indiscretions and fraud galore — Trump crawled into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
It was a dark, Disney-esque moment.
On the money issue, I give Bloomberg a pass. I worked for a John D. Rockefeller — no, not №1 but №4 — and he spent $13 million to win his US Senate seat in West Virginia, about $35 per vote he secured.
When running low on campaign funds, then Gov. Rockefeller would call Uncle David, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, and the spigot would open up for this state with less than two million population.
Still, It was a squeaker, but Rockefeller went on to serve the state and the nation with distinction for three decades. He was a fine one that Rockefeller, and I was proud to serve him.
He was the exact opposite of Donald John Trump. He was, and is, someone to whom a grandchild can look up.