Although 80-year-old Joe Biden’s frequent gaffes and apparent confusion have sparked speculation about his cognitive health since well before the 2020 election, he is far from the only elderly public figure whose behavior has come under scrutiny in recent years.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who turned 90 last month, had to be told to “just say ‘aye’” during an Appropriations Committee vote on Thursday and later started to vote against another measure before an aide instructed her to support it.
As in response to other concerning acts by aging politicians, the senator’s handlers attempted to downplay the apparent confusion.
“The senator was preoccupied, didn’t realize debate had just ended and a vote was called,” a spokesperson claimed. “She started to give a statement, was informed it was a vote and then cast her vote.”
This incident came on the heels of a troubling appearance by 81-year-old Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who appeared to freeze during a press conference earlier in the week.
Here is footage of when McConnell seemed to just stop mid-sentence pic.twitter.com/4o8xKdWiwc
— Acyn (@Acyn) July 26, 2023
He later addressed the incident by declaring that he was “fine” but without offering additional details about what happened.
One of McConnell’s aides indicated that he “felt lightheaded and stepped away for a moment” but “came back to handle Q-and-A, which as everyone observed was sharp.”
These troubling incidents have led to mounting calls for implementing age limits for public officials, requiring cognitive assessments, or both. Twitter CEO Elon Musk made such an argument in the aftermath of McConnell’s episode.
“We need a constitutional amendment,” he wrote in a tweet that shared a video of the incident.
Although that post did not offer any specific recommendations, he previously expressed support for “some kind of basic test like, ‘what is your job and what year is it?’”
In 2021, Musk signaled his belief that political candidates should be constrained by an upper age limit, writing: “Let’s set an age limit after which you can’t run for political office, perhaps a number just below 70.”
He followed up the next year with a tweet recommending that “the legal maximum age for start of Presidential term should be 69.”