Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Age Alternative

He's too old. He's forgetful. He doesn't know where he is. He's a doddering old fool with no business being in the race.

Sound familiar? Maybe not as familiar as you think.

These sentiments were uttered about Admiral James Stockdale in 1992 after a bad performance at the Vice Presidential debate. Compared to Dan Quayle and Al Gore, he certainly looked like it. Even though Stockdale had more gravitas than the two knuckleheads he was on stage with combined, he never got over the stigma of being "too old."

Now, Democrats are resurrecting these same arguments against John McCain. If the Democrats are successful, they won't need to "swift boat" McCain because they will have already "Stockdaled" him. And Republicans and conservatives have to figure out a way to counteract it or it will catch on.

The problem McCain faces is, well, he is older than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. With his medical issues, it's a second strike against him. And if nobody from the McCain side does or says anything to address these issues and calm voters' fears, it won't matter what McCain says. He will be framed by his opponents, and they will not give up ground to let him get back on his feet.

And, no, cries of "ageism" won't cut it.

The key to beating the Democrats on the age issue lies in the past and Ronald Reagan. Reagan managed to bounce back after a dismal first debate with Walter Mondale with a simple statement about him not making his opponents youth and inexperience against him. McCain needs a Reagan moment like this to put down the "he's too old" line once and for all. The sooner he does this, the better. Given the fact that Hillary and Obama are looking and sounding like immature brats, now is the time to strike.

The alternative? Looking like Bob Dole stumbling over his own website address during one of the debates in 1996.

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