US Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell appears to freeze up again, this …
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Rarely has one of Washington’s DC’s most powerful political operators appeared so vulnerable, aged and frail.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell froze on Wednesday, staring straight ahead in total silence for half a wince-inducing minute in the middle of a press conference.
It is the second time the prominent Republican has suffered an incident like this. The first one came just weeks earlier in July.
The episode has reignited concerns about how lucid McConnell is these days. He is 81, but still holds one of the most influential positions in America.
But more broadly, it highlights the age problem at the heart of US politics.
Joe Biden and Donald Trump are expected to be the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates in 2024. When Americans go to the polls, Biden will be 81, Trump will be 78.
On that note here are some of the oldest politicians still currently serving in top positions in the United States.
Joe Biden, 80
Biden is already the country’s oldest-ever president. While he’s never been too far from a gaffe, the octogenarian has become more error-prone than ever.
Who could forget when he fell asleep during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, in 2021? Or when he fell over while attending an Air Force graduation ceremony in Colorado?
Then there was his bizarre line of “God save the Queen, man,” when he ended a speech on gun control. Recently, he appeared to forget the name of the Hawaiian island of Maui, after it was ravaged by wildfires.
The president has also started using shorter steps to board Air Force One after a string of embarrassing stumbles while boarding the presidential plane.
Donald Trump, 77
If Trump gets in again in 2024, he will be in his eighties by the time he leaves office.
Even in his first term, seven years ago, his then-strategist Steve Bannon was reported to have thought Trump had early-stage dementia.
Of course, unlike Biden, who reportedly sticks to a morning workout routine of strength training and cardio, Trump is very overweight. He was reported as 243lbs, or 110kg, by the White House doctor in 2019.
Over the years, he has also grown more paranoid, more conspiratorial, and rambling in his speeches. He regularly makes basic factual errors such as seeming to forget where his father was born.
Dianne Feinstein, 90
Democrat Dianne Feinstein, 90, has served as senator for California since 1992. She was mayor of San Francisco from 1978 to 1988, and graduated from college all the way back in 1955.
Last month, she appeared confused during a vote on a defence bill, prompting another Democratic senator to step in.
Instead of saying the expected response of “aye” or “nay”, she began to give a speech expressing her support for the bill.
About 15 second in, an aide whispered in her ear, before Committee chair Patty Murray told her: “Just say aye.”
“Aye,” Feinstein said. Ouch.
Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders
Chuck Schumer is Mitch McConnell’s opposite number as Senate majority leader. At 72, he is a spring chicken compared to the others.
Nonetheless, Schumer, 72, last year whipped out a flip-phone during a speech on the senate floor and said he was “not very tech-oriented”.
Nancy Pelosi has now stepped down as House Speaker, but she is still a Congresswoman for Baltimore at 81 years old.
Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, recently said that Joe Biden “seemed fine” to him at a meeting a few weeks back. He would say that – he is 81 himself.
Bernie Sanders speaking to NBC's Meet The Press back in May
Are they just too old?
“America is not past our prime – it’s just that our politicians are past theirs,” Nikki Haley, 51, told a crowd of several hundred people in Charleston, South Carolina, as she launched her Republican candidacy for president in 2024.
She called for a “new generation” of leaders and said she would support a “mandatory mental competency test for politicians over 75 years old”.
Meanwhile, more than three-quarters of respondents in a recent US poll said Joe Biden was too old to be effective if re-elected president next year. And just as many people saw Trump, as “corrupt” and “dishonest”, in the same poll.