Last thing they need is an ag­ing can­di­date in 2020

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - OP/ED - BY PAUL MCHALE Paul McHale is a for­mer mem­ber of Congress ( 1993-99), for­mer as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of de­fense (2003-09) and a re­tired Ma­rine colonel with more than 30 years ac­tive and re­serve ser­vice. He wrote this for the Philadel­phia In­quirer. Read­ers may

The sum­mer of 2017 was a good one. My wife and I packed up our two grand­chil­dren — waved good­bye to their par­ents (with earnest prom­ises of fre­quent Face­time)— and took off on a month-long camp­ing tour of the na­tional parks.

Along the way I had the chance to teach my grand­son and grand­daugh­ter how to roast hot dogs and marsh­mal­lows over an open camp­fire, and it re­minded me that there is more to life than the ma­ni­a­cal threats of Kim Jong Un. In the years ahead the grand­kids won’t of­ten think of their Papa’s many years in pub­lic of­fice, but they’ll re­mem­ber that camp­fire.

We trav­eled 7,100 miles, wore out two sets of RV tires and crossed Amer­ica one DQ at a time — but ul­ti­mately, the real jour­ney was one of the heart.

There’s a les­son here for some of our would-be pres­i­dents. You’re too old.

To state it bluntly, there are bet­ter things for you to be do­ing at this point in life than doggedly pur­su­ing pub­lic of­fice — bet­ter for you, your fam­ily and most im­por­tantly, bet­ter for the coun­try. There’s a whole gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship stand­ing be­hind you. They need to step for­ward, and you need to step out of the way.

This past week a num­ber of Wash­ing­ton pun­dits be­gan their 2020 pres­i­den­tial ru­mi­na­tions. It seems that Bernie San­ders, who is 76, is the rec­og­nized Demo­cratic front-run­ner. Joe Bi­den, 74, is keep­ing his op­tions open. And al­though she’s clearly got a touch of pres­i­den­tial fever, El­iz­a­beth War­ren sup­pos­edly won’t run if Bernie gets in the race (you can split the so­cial­ist vote only so many ways), but as­ton­ish­ingly, at 68, she’s the voice of youth­ful vigor.

At this point, about all the Demo­cratic Party needs to en­sure yet another cat­a­strophic fail­ure is for Hil­lary Clin­ton, who turns 70 next month, to pledge a come­back.

A rich and ful­fill­ing life doesn’t have to be lived in the Oval Of­fice. A camp­fire will do quite nicely.

When it comes to ag­ing am­bi­tion, I have con­sid­er­able em­pa­thy. I’ll be 70 when we hold our next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. We baby boomers have ben­e­fited from stun­ning ad­vances in health care that now al­low for an ac­tive life many decades longer than our par­ents could ever have en­vi­sioned. I’m in no great hurry to im­ple­ment my liv­ing will. In fact, my cur­rent plan is to go back to school full time in 2019, hope­fully in Ire­land, to earn a mas­ter’s de­gree on the GI Bill. I don’t want to preach the gospel of life­long learn­ing, I want to live it.

And then, with luck, I’ll come back home from Ire­land in 2020 just in time to vote for the Demo­cratic can­di­date for pres­i­dent.

My prayer is that the 2020 Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee will rep­re­sent — in­deed, em­body— the in­tel­li­gence, com­pas­sion, ci­vil­ity, en­ergy and courage of an en­tirely new gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship. You won’t get that from Bernie, Joe, El­iz­a­beth, or Hil­lary. In fact, it seems to me that even Kirsten Gil­li­brand and Sher­rod Brown are start­ing to look a lit­tle long in the tooth. Late-stage potty mouth is a sure sign of ag­ing in­se­cu­rity.

So let’s clear the bench of our cur­rent pres­i­den­tial con­tenders and, in­stead, over the next two years (dur­ing the cru­cially im­por­tant mid-term elec­tions of 2018), look for po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates who are very smart, very se­ri­ous and in their 40s. OK, maybe their 50s. But don’t trust any­one over 60— they be­long in the Se­nate.

Let’s find a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date who has (and can force­fully ar­tic­u­late) a true pas­sion for so­cial jus­tice, com­bined with a real­is­tic un­der­stand­ing of the eco­nomic en­gine needed to pay for it. That’s not likely to be re­treaded so­cial­ism.

And fi­nally, let’s elect a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent in 2020 who can thank Trump’s gen­er­als for keep­ing us out of nu­clear war (they carry a very heavy load in their ruck­sacks), while rec­og­niz­ing that in a healthy democ­racy se­nior civil­ian of­fices should be filled, well, by civil­ians.

We have now been at war against ter­ror­ist fa­nat­ics for more than 16 years. That war has been fought by young men and women half my age.

In 2020, let’s elect one of them pres­i­dent.

In the years ahead the grand­kids won’t of­ten think of their Papa’s many years in pub­lic of­fice, but they’ll re­mem­ber that camp­fire.

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