Trigger warning: politics ahead.
Discussion here relates only to a particular subset of 2020 presidential competitors hoping to remain in — or begin occupancy of — a certain neoclassical Washington mansion with 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators and a kitchen adequate to feeding 140 guests (1,000 if only hors d’oeuvres are served).
Ah, the White House.
Specifically under consideration are Republican Donald Trump, the incumbent; and Democratic primary aspirants Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Bet you can tell what’s coming next.
These folks are in their … 70s!
Warren is the younger, having hit the LXX mark on June 22. Trump is 73; Biden, 76; Sanders, 77.
Don’t start with the “ageist” stuff.
I’m not saying eligibility for higher office diminishes with each birthday.
I’m saying: Wow.
Can you imagine being a national candidate at this point? Playing centerfield for the Mets seems less daunting. Logrolling in Oregon, maybe. Window washer at the Empire State Building, another possibility.
But running for president?
This would involve endless 14-hour days, many of them aboard aircraft large and small.
Let’s stop for a moment and consider just that aspect of big-league campaigning.
No matter if the airplane is part of a commercial fleet, or some sleek private jet, you, the candidate, are thousands of feet aloft in a sort of flying Long Island Rail Road car with restrooms configured for people still able to play “Twister.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” John F. Kennedy urged in his 1961 inaugural address but dashing to Iowa from New Hampshire before breakfast and then, at sunset, to Wisconsin and Michigan in search of swing state votes may be expecting too much from folks who might otherwise be in jammies streaming the final season of “Downton Abbey.”
Also, there is the matter of handshakes.
Putting aside hygiene issues — Trump, remember, describes himself as “very much a germaphobe” who drinks through a straw and washes his hands continuously — working the rope line would be tough for anyone, but what if your knuckles are twice their original size and arthritis won’t let your pinkie finger unfold? Pumping the flesh for hours would be no fun, especially if the flesh looks increasingly like phyllo dough.
While we’re at it, let’s discuss diet.
There are a million jokes about politicians on the “rubber chicken circuit” — a reference to the generally dismal quality of banquet food served at fundraising dinners. But for the serious candidate, far worse awaits.
Can you imagine telling the gerontologist that, in the past few days, you sampled bacon-wrapped caramel apples, deep-fried Girl Scout Cookies, Krispy Kreme sloppy joes, spaghetti ice cream, SPAM curds, hot beef sundaes and taco cheesecake at state fairs from California to North Carolina? It would take cholesterol medicine with the cleansing power of Comet to rehab your arteries.
And what about naps?
Oh, sure, those endless plane rides offer opportunities but what if you are not in the air? What if you are in some Pennsylvania or Rhode Island diner trolling for votes among the late lunch crowd? Here lies another grave challenge to any septuagenarian political career.
At the computer just a little while ago, for instance, I became aware that my chin had dropped to my chest and hands slipped off the keyboard to settle in my lap — not a cardiac event but signal that it was time for my midafternoon snooze.
No harm in a brief siesta, right?
I am back now, refreshed, but you cannot pull a trick like that on the campaign trail. You cannot be selling yourself to a citizen in Harrisburg or Providence, briefly lose consciousness and ask if you can curl up in the corner of the cafe for 15 or 20 minutes.
Even the most kindhearted constituents are apt to think: Gee, what if this happened at a big international trade summit? This guy could start dozing off and give away our auto industry in exchange for a tariff on fountain pens.
All in all, looks like there is no chance of a presidential bid in my future.
I will be on the sidelines, awe-struck, by those stalwart 70-somethings who have the pep and intestinal fortitude to pursue the nation’s highest office.
More power to them, but, for me, civic responsibility has its limits. With apologies to JFK, I am drawing the line at deep-fried Girl Scout Cookies.
For more stories about retirement, visit newsday.com/Act2.