Happy Birthday, Mr. President

In between reminders of the esteemed senator’s POW experience, the McCain campaign has spent the last few months making sure everyone knows exactly how young Barack Obama is.

For the record, Obama is 47 years old, and McCain just had his 72nd birthday.

That’s a big disparity. Like it or not, age will play just as big a factor in November as race will.

When asked about McCain’s future health, the GOP tends to beat the dead horse with the Reagan shtick. If Reagan could handle the country in the eve of his decrepitude, why not McCain?

Yet Reagan, who left the presidency at the age of 78, began showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease a few years later. Some say he exhibited these signs while still in the presidential office, citing his vacant behavior during the Iran-Contra investigation and various press conferences.

The only other president who comes close to McCain’s age is William Henry Harrison, the three-month wonder. Elected at the age of 68, Harrison gave his hours-long inauguration address in the rain, caught pneumonia, and kicked the bucket. Not exactly an encouraging example.

By contrast, Obama’s historical roadmap looks terribly promising.

Take Theodore Roosevelt, to whom McCain once foolishly compared himself-a blueblood, a loose cannon, and a Republican in name only, not to mention the youngest president in U.S. history at 42. Against all expectations, his youth and idealism resulted in one of the most successful presidencies to date.

Only one year older at 43, JFK was another Cinderella story: as a Catholic, he suffered prejudice and skepticism from those who believed his allegiances lay with the Pope rather than the Constitution.
Sounds familiar-wasn’t it only last week that NPR interviewed a woman who wouldn’t vote Obama because of his supposed subservience to Islam? Or was that another Fox News story?

Moreover, Obama appeals to the younger generation, which is becoming more and more diverse each second.

His age tells them that he does not suffer from the same prejudices that characterized their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Certainly, he would never refer, as McCain did, to Vietnamese people as “gooks;” and with the influx of Hispanic people in the country, would hopefully never make the same gaffe as our current president, who insisted that all children ought to get an education, whether they speak English or Mexican.

McCain’s age works against him.

He looks like the definition of The Man; he represents just another old white guy on the GOP ticket. And where his radical approach to conservative issues might have saved him before, now he’s rescinding all those former opinions in the hopes of snagging another few hundred thousand Christian hard-line conservatives.

Obama, with his Roosevelt-like youth and enthusiasm, gives us visions of an administration where diplomacy is no longer a dirty word and cronyism is a filthy one.

The GOP can wail about experience until Nov. 4, but we’ve experienced eight years of what McCain can give us.

We’re ready for something different. Something better. Something young.