Does the US need to learn from the USSR, what can happen when top leaders get too old to govern?
Age and experienced leadership are not identical concepts, especially when it comes to the American political leadership. The question that more and more Americans are asking these days is “Why do politicians want to hang on so long, when they are in obvious mental and physical decline, and why they don’t want to turn the reins over to a newer generation?”
As a recent article in the UK’s Guardian describes things so well. Regarding the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, the BBC reported how the 81-year-old appeared to freeze for the second time in just over a month this week, while speaking to reporters. Even Democrats are reluctant to associate his health issues with his age, and the ability to serve in public office.
It is obvious as to why when Joe Biden, at 80 years of age, is America’s oldest president. The question of age is one that both party establishments in America have ample cause to avoid. If he Biden wins re-election, he would be 86 by the end of his second four-year term.
It is like the colloquial expression, “The Old Grey Horse ain’t what he used to be” which is a popular line from an old folk song. It’s often used to describe someone or something that has aged or deteriorated over time.
It would be nice to think that, unlike the USSR, where the transition of leadership from one aging leader to another was often characterized by secrecy, lack of transparency, and power struggles within the Communist Party, that the USA would be different. Ageing leadership sped up the collapse of the USSR. Some lessons could be learned about aging Soviet leaders during the Soviet Union and how the USSR was pushed in a wheelchair along the “road-of-good-intentions, paved-with-old farts!”
Warning Sign for the US
This title says it all, and the US should take note:
“Old men helped cause the Soviet Union’s collapse. Historians say it’s a warning sign for the United States. One Soviet historian told Business Insider these US politicians “seem to hold on to office like grim death.”
In 1981, the average age of the powerful 14-man Politburo that ruled over the USSR was 69 — a solid 13 years more senior than the average age of Reagan’s Cabinet that same year. Now it is 65 in the United States.
Hanging on to power for the right reasons would be understandable. However, it seems that current aging politicians are clinging onto power for the “ill-gotten gains” they have been raking in, and are making hay whilst the sun shines the brightest—and they are profiteering off the war in Ukraine and the New Green Deal hidden under the Inflation Reduction Act, which means the exact opposite, being the engine of inflation due to the seemingly endless printing of fiat currency by the Federal Reserve.
As the WSJ writes, Biden has an ‘iron grip’ on the Democratic Party despite ‘mental infirmity and incompetence’ and this is buttressed with ‘Hunter Biden revelations and would have generated calls for resignation in a time of more sanity,’ claims Barton Swaim, a staff writer quoted by Fox News.
Compared with Soviet leaders, Biden and Trump, as well as many senior politicians, are over the hill: “till-the death do us part kind of politicians”- and they should be held accountable. If they had been born in a different age, they should already be long dead and buried.
Compare them with the Soviet leaders, Leonid Brezhnev, who led the USSR for 18 years, died at 75 in 1982. He was followed by Yuri Andropov, who died in 1984 at 69. Andropov’s successor, Konstantin Chernenko, died in 1985 at 73
Desperate Old Men, Grumpy Old Men & Women
I think that is why US politicians are ever more threatening, being desperate old grumpy men, as the US needs to continue this war for upcoming US elections, and will hold onto them for the very purpose. Also, their much touted campaign promises have not lived up to their billing.
It is also becoming a campaign issue: “The Senate is the most privileged nursing home in the country,” says Nikki Haley, who is also running for the president on the Republican ticket. Haley, 51, has focused her presidential campaign on the argument that America needs a new generation of leaders. The average age for members of the US Senate is 65.
Ms Haley, a former UN Ambassador and South Carolina governor, is the most senior Republican to speak out about Mr. McConnell’s health concerns. “I mean, Mitch McConnell has done some great things and he deserves credit. But you have to know when to leave.”
All the rhetoric and face-saving of the ageing political class is another factor to consider. It would be interesting to compare some of their statements and predictions then with the reality now. Then lead into how desperate the west is and how they project their own fears onto the “enemy” (Russia is running out of weapons when it’s really the west. The Russian economy will collapse, when it’s really the west, Russians don’t want to serve, when it’s really the west, etc.).
Even the way that Biden’s press secretary reacts to questions is most revealing, Karine Jean-Pierre bristles when questioned on Biden’s age, about staff treating him ‘like a toddler’: ‘Ridiculous’ is her screeched reply. It is clear that many in Washington, for a range of reasons, want to keep Biden in Office, hell or high water.
I Will Finish My Term!
Mitch McConnell is getting the same velvet glove treatment by the media and his own party, perhaps so not to give the impression of a double standard. And with doctor’s statements… No evidence that he had a seizure, disorder, or what he experienced was a stroke, movement disorder, which to include Parkinson’s disease. He claims, no matter what, that he will finish out his term—come hell or high water.
The doctor attributed the freezing up spells to “Dehydration and a concussion McConnell suffered back in March”. This is good enough for most Senate Republicans, as McConnell serves their purposes too. But not all Republicans are buying, for instance, Rand Paul, also from Kentucky, as a MD himself, an ophthalmologist. He claims that “it does not look like dehydration to him, but it appears to be a focal neurologic event”.
Regardless, age is not a major political football that either party wants to run with. But some Democrats have called on 90-year-old Senator Dianne Feinstein to resign – so 81-year-old Biden is not alone in the Catch-22 age for those staying till the very end.
As not to forget the staying power of Senate Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, who recently announced that she too plans to seek reelection in 2024, when she’ll be 84 years old, was a fitting punctuation mark to a week in which a CNN poll found widespread concern about President Joe Biden’s age.
Too many scares!
Ukraine and recent health scares, (and a new round of COVID too!) raises many questions, especially in light of a recent health scare for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, which has reignited a debate about the age of America’s leading political figures. In the US, the average age in the Senate is 64 years old, while two of the leading 2024 presidential candidates – Joe Biden and Donald Trump – are over 75 years of age. Calls are being made, even amongst younger politicians running for office, for medical and competency tests to see if older candidates are fit for office.
In terms of Joe Biden, many are questioning whether he is all there mentally, or his mental status simply a device of subterfuge, as we have previously discussed at NEO. However, it would be more interesting to note if politicians can actually meet the character test, and are not just using public office to distance or protect themselves from high crimes and blatant corruption, which proved to be the case with Soviet leaders in many instances.
One would hope that voters would have the reasonable expectation that once a candidate begins a political career that he is able to complete it, and not be on his or her “deathbed” or has an appointment with the anxiously waiting grim reaper.
Damage Control Mood
Already claims are being made by MSM and CNN, “The Praetorian Guard” of corrupt politicians, and who both support the status quo, that Mitch McConnell did not have a stroke or seizure when freezing before cameras, with support from a Capitol Hill doctor. He needs to hit the whiskey trail while Congress is in recess.
That should fix him up—as no election is without lots of vote buying and election whisky being passed out in Kentucky, something that I have witnessed firsthand in my younger days. The branding of Mitch as Old Crow is rather fitting for the Honorable Senator from Kentucky.
It only gets worse, worse than ironic, with Vice President Harris dismissing REAL public concerns over Biden’s age in a recent Associated Press interview, intended to allay public concerns. But it had just the opposite, a deep chilling effect, by highlighting the concerns about his age and mental decline by her refusal to answer direct questions.
“Vice President Kamala Harris dismissed any questions” about President Joe Biden’s age Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press in Indonesia on September 2. This is a sad commentary considering that a recent AP/NORC (University of Chicago) poll shows that 77% of Americans believe he’s too old for a second term.
Apparently she is hopeful that his age and mental condition will work to her advantage, the sooner, the better—as she claims “she is ready and able” to step into his shoes—Heaven Forbid!
Statistically, few second term presidents, or Soviet Leaders had made it to 86, which will be Biden’s age if he makes it to the end of his second term. Ronald Reagan was 77 when he physically left office, and Trump 74. It is worth noting that eight of the 45 men who have served as president died in office — four by assassination and four from natural causes. Biden, is already the oldest-ever president; he turns 81 in November of this year.
The vast majority of other US presidents, out of 46 in total, were in the mid-to-late 60s when leaving office. It is no longer a National Security Secret that Ronald Reagan was not able to perform his functions as president because of mental decline and spent his last days in office watching movies while others attended to pressing matters of the president, including global affairs.
Fountain of Youth
Unless Biden has found the proverbial fountain of youth, I would [suspect] Los Vegas or UK bookies would not be betting on him to finish a second term in office. However, in my humble opinion, the actuality tables are stacked against him. Also, he is not likely to win the election if Trump is allowed to run on the Republican ticket. So why does he insist on running, and insisting that he is in sound mind and body?
Quoting from Forbes, “In spite of what Nikki Haley says, [some claim] longevity science and recent evidence indicate it’s likely Joe Biden will live well beyond a second term”, which means beyond 86 plus.
The article goes on to make a case for how people are living longer, as Biden has already reached the barrier of 80 and is in good health [he can go on and on]. I would suspect much of any claim to longevity and staying power has more to do with skillful taxidermy than anything else, tongue in cheek.
The quoted Forbes article does not make a convincing argument with its “Likely” statements, with qualifications: depending on as to whether they’ve ever smoked, their current height and weight, their exercise habits, and so on. And the latest longevity research shows that people with above-average income and educational achievement generally have significantly higher lifespans compared to the general population; these two characteristics both apply to President Biden.
Golden Parachute in his Golden Years
He has an education alright, based on cheating his way through university (plagiarism) and even got caught a time or two, and for sure, even lifting speeches off British politicians during his political career. For sure, he has a substantial income, thanks to his lifelong career feeding at the trough of US politics and being in the right place at the right time. Naturally, he can claim that his golden parachute in his golden years is based to astute investments, which we would label insider trading. It has nothing to do with a business savvy son—especially when it comes money made off Ukraine and China.
I guess Biden has cut a deal with the devil and will live a long time before the Devil collects his due. Others are as old too, but not senile. He is mentally unfit. However, the Democrats don’t care because he is just a figurehead for their agenda. As for McConnell, he needs to just give up boozing or to start—naturally, to overcome his dehydration.
It is as if they [both democrats and republicans] can’t find anyone better to represent their party, and we know why! It is about distractions, whether it be Biden or Trump. And to carry on the dirty business of Washington Insiders and Outsiders as always – both candidates are great distractions, especially Biden and his son Hunter, and Trump with all his legal woes.
Too many Americans forget how all the other democratic candidates dropped out all at once and closed ranks and endorsed Biden. If the primaries had continued, Bernie Sanders probably would have won. Their plot, which should have been obvious to the unwashed masses, was to immediately use him as a well-known name, grandfatherly type, non-controversial (like Bernie or Buttegig for example).
Biden was presented as a sort of generic safe image they could put up against Trump, who was portrayed as crazy and divisive to the average middle-of-the road voter who would buy into the collective illusion that he was the best option for stability in the country after Trump. Not many saw it exactly for what it was, but they were naïve–the American public, not being able to see through it. Millions fell for it.
Then, using Covid as an excuse, hid him in the basement, and he didn’t do political rallies or give hardly any public interviews, so they wouldn’t have to worry about Biden making a fool of himself with his gaffes and dementia.
This scenario is even worse than was the case during the decline and collapse of the USSR. I suspect the landing will be much harder for Americans than it was for Soviet citizens. It was not just the economy and social safety net instructions that collapsed, but the wholesale anarchy which resulted.
In the wake of the Soviet collapse, all kinds of armed conflicts both in, and between, former Soviet Republics broke out, some of these continue to this day, Armenia and Azerbaijan, for instance, and many others are permanently frozen.
The Gerontocracy that now dominates the US will cause a collapse an order of magnitude worse than the fall of the USSR, and there will be no power block ready and able to keep a lid on the chaos that ensures.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.