If an aging presidential candidate loses his car keys once in a while or absent-mindedly puts his shoes in the Frigidaire, it's OK by me. I know how it is. If you keep playing this game, you begin to slip.
So it is with John McCain, whose 72nd birthday is Aug. 29. New York Times columnist Frank Rich warns us to look out for McCain. He may be losing it. Rich reports from Josh Marshall's blog devoted to chasing McCain:
"McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries' names wrong, forgets things he's said only hours or days before and is frequently confused."
Sounds like a guy getting up there in years all right. My guess is old man McCain is going to win this election anyway.
However, his Republican advisers can't sit still while a leading columnist describes what he sees as the senility of the probable next president. The elephants have a plan to counter the "too old" talk.
Word around D.C. is that McCain will shortly announce that, if elected, he will serve no longer than one four-year term and will be done with the White House before he hits 80.
Please don't do that, John. A promise of term limits is the first sign that a guy is likely to turn out to be a really bad elected official, one who forgets promises as soon as they are made.
Just look at some of the giants among Georgia's congressional delegation:
Rep. Jack Kingston, star of TV's Comedy Central, has served almost 18 years in the House after promising his constituents in misty ancient times that he would come home after three terms.
Rep. John Linder made the same term-limits promise, and he's still running 18 years later, even shifting from district to district to follow his ever-moving constituents.
We could go on to mention Tom Price and Lynn Westmoreland and ... aw, what the heck. We don't want to bore.
A more famous promiser of serving only one-term: former Sen./Gov./Lt. Gov. Zell Miller. He practically pledged in blood in 1990 that he would seek only one term as governor. He just wanted to reform a couple of things and then get out of Atlanta as fast as he could. Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard believed him and geared up to run at the end of Miller's first four years.
Then Miller broke his word pulling the rug from under Howard. Miller ran for a second term saying it was at the behest of "the business community." I'll bet most Baptist preachers didn't vote for him though: Miller also said he never would allow state-sponsored gambling in Georgia and then ushered in the lottery. When he was elected later as a Democratic senator, he agreed to keynote the Republican National Convention - the one that gave us an encore Bush-Cheney performance. As for Pierre Howard, he served one more term as lieutenant governor and then retired from public life.
So, dear John, pay no attention to the likes of Frank Rich. He's trying to lead you astray. We old-timers know how it is to get fuzzy once in a while. That doesn't mean you'll be a bad president. Despite the New York Times, we know Jane Fonda never dealt you a hand of solitaire while you were imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton, nor are you starring in a reality remake of the "Manchurian Candidate."
We also have been around long enough to know that one-term promises are worth even less than most other political promises.
Don't buy into the sounds-good-but-works-bad idea of a term limit. Not only is the term limit a perfect example of the lying politician, it is also a stupid idea to begin with.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or Web address: billshipponline.com.