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History As It Happens

Mar 28, 2024

How old is too old to run the country? Donald Trump will turn 78 in June. The incumbent Joseph Biden will turn 82 shortly after the November election. Biden is already the oldest president in U.S. history, succeeding Trump who had been the oldest (70) at inauguration in 2017. Rarely have age and mental fitness been such prominent issues in a presidential campaign. But past candidates for the White House successfully dealt with questions about their health and wits. Dwight Eisenhower, then in his mid-60s, suffered a major heart attack the year before he won re-election in 1956. Ronald Reagan faced questions about his age as early as the mid-1970s. Getting old can be either an asset or liability depending on the candidate, as can youth. JFK, Clinton, and Obama all parried accusations they lacked the experience to handle the job. In this episode, presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky tells us which politicians handled the age question the best -- and how they did it.