RONALD REAGAN celebrated his 84th birthday last week. The House of Representatives celebrated by passing one of his pet bills, the line item veto.
Next year, on his 85th, or surely by his 90th, maybe the balanced budget amendment, another of his pets, will have been ratified.
Reagan will see 85, and probably 90, if history is any guide. All four ex-presidents who turned 84 lived to be at least 85. James Madison died at 85 and three months. Harry Truman made it to 88. John Adams and Herbert Hoover made 90.
All of them lived a long time after they left the presidency. Adams was 65 when he left. Madison was, too. Hoover was 58. Truman was 68.
Reagan was just under 78. He was the oldest man ever elected president. He was two weeks shy of 70 when he first took the presidential oath in January 1981.
Age has become something of an issue for the 1996 presidential campaign. Sen. Bob Dole is off and running for the Republican nomination. He'd be 73 in January 1997, which led him to say he might pledge in advance not to seek a second term.
That's stupid. Reagan was nearly 74 when he started his second term, and let's face it, he could have won a third term in 1988, at the age of 77 going on 78, but for the two-term limitation of presidents. Heck, he might've been re-elected in 1992.
If Dole fails in his bid for the presidency, don't blame it on his age. Don't forget, he lost out in 1988 to a man less than a year
older (George Bush) and in 1980 to a man more than 12 years older.
In an era in which the president of the United States is 48 years old and the vice president is 46, perhaps it is too much to hope that a mature man or woman will be the next president. Certainly no senior Democrat is likely to challenge Bill Clinton. (STOP THE PRESSES! Bulletin: Former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, 63, is reported considering entering the Democratic primaries!)
On the Republican side, there are several potential presidential candidates who are 60 or over:
Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana said last week, "I'd like to run for president." He's 62. California Rep. Robert Dornan announced his candidacy last week. He's 61. Sen. Arlen Specter of $l Pennsylvania is actively running for the nomination. He's 64. And a Republican congressman said last week he wants George Bush, now 70, to run in '96.
How about that frisky old goat Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, 62? Just kidding, but seriously how about Gov. George Voinovich of Ohio, the best Republican at getting the minority vote? He turns 60 next year? The man I still believe has the best shot at the 1996 Republican presidential nomination is 61 now: Gov. Pete Wilson of California. My favorite long shot is Dole's fellow Kansan, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, 62, daughter of 1936 Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon, who lived to be 100.
Then there's the kid on my list. Colin Powell. He'd turn 60 less than three months after his swearing in.