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Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Anna Quindlen's Theory

She channels Chuck Norris for us, but where Chuck believed that each year as a president ages a person three years, Anna ups the stakes:

Here's my unscientific theory about the presidency: it ages a person in dog years. Each year in office is roughly equivalent to seven years in the life of an ordinary citizen.

Well, of course she's using this measuring stick to beat John McCain with, but does she really want it applied, say, to Hillary Clinton? Using Anna's aging formula, the Hillster would be 89 after her first term. Even the relatively youthful Barack Obama would be 103 after two terms. 103!

And the notion that presidents age extraordinarily while in office buts up against reality. Ronald Reagan was 93 when he died. George HW Bush is still alive at 83, as is Jimmy Carter. Gerry Ford had only a short presidency, but he was 93 when he passed into the great beyond. Richard Nixon died at 81. LBJ died fairly young at 65, but Dwight Eisenhower made it to his 78th birthday. Harry Truman lived to 88. FDR died at 63, but Hoover survived to 90. (Note: Kennedy is obviously not relevant to the issue.)

Presidents as a rule live longer than other people. Yes, they probably have better medical care than you or I, but you can see the problem; if you buy Quindlen or Norris' calculation you're arguing that they would have lived even longer had they not been president--Ronald Reagan to 149 (!). I think the myth that they age greatly while in office is caused by juxtaposing carefully posed and made-up campaign photos with unflattering photos chosen for this purpose.

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