Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric

Judd Gregg: The government goes geriatric
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE is 72. He will be 74 when his first term ends and, if reelected, 78 by the time he leaves office.

Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrat pushes for censuring Trump in closed-door meeting Trump: I don't have a racist bone in my body Ocasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump MORE (D-Calif.), almost certain to be the next Speaker, is 78. She will be 80 at the end of the coming Congress. She says she has no plans to term limit herself.

Rep. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerOcasio-Cortez responds to fresh criticism from Trump House Democrats introduce resolution condemning Trump for 'racist' comments Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity MORE (D-Md.), the incoming House Majority Leader, is 79. He will be 81 when the 116th Congress wraps up.

ADVERTISEMENT

The House Majority Whip, the number three person in the House leadership, will be Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is 78. He will be 80 when this incoming Congress closes its books.

Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure MORE (R-Ky.), the Senate Majority Leader as far back as one can remember and as far forward as one can see, is 76.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerNYT: Don't make Acosta a political martyr Charities say they never received donations touted by Jeffrey Epstein: report Schumer to donate Epstein campaign contributions to groups fighting sexual violence MORE (D-N.Y.) is 68.

When this next Congress is over and done, most of its leadership will be 80 or older. To be charitable, this gives new meaning to the term “senior leadership.”

Age, and the exposure to ideas and events that comes with it, can be useful, especially if it also comes with good health.

If one thinks of all that these folks have seen and lived through, it is an important and dramatic list of adventures.

The Cold War, the assassination of President Kennedy, the upheaval of the 1960s that drove the civil rights movement and the women’s movement, and the Vietnam debacle all took place during their formative political years.

The push for the Great Society that radically expanded the dependency society and the size of the federal government; President Nixon’s disgrace; the hyperinflation of the 1970s; and the restoration of America’s strength and promise under President Reagan were their middle political years.

The explosion of the internet and digital media; the strange goings-on of the Clinton presidency; the epochal attacks of 9/11; the financial meltdown of 2008 that led to one of the worst recessions in the nation’s history; and the arrival of the even stranger goings-on of the Trump presidency have been their years of primary political responsibility.

ADVERTISEMENT

Even this is only a partial list. It is exhausting, significant and should have had an indelible impact on the psyche of anyone who has lived through those times, as all these leaders of Congress have.

The question is, did it? And what does it mean if it did?

Are they just a bunch of folks who managed to navigate the minefields of politics for a long period of time by staying out of the way and being in the right place at the right time?

Or does their age and longevity give them the knowledge and the freedom to break the impasses that have bedeviled Congress for the last decade?

Are they freed by their unique experiences so they can bring real leadership to bear on our government? Will they be unfettered by a need to temper their action since this, no doubt, is the final phase of their careers?

The downside of age, of course, is that it can also bring with it an atrophying of ideas and a tendency to opt for the safe, previously-tried course.

Would it not be nice if this septuagenarian group gathered, maybe even started a caucus, with the purpose of taking their aggregate life experience, which has to exceed 400 years at least, and agreed to do something good as a lasting legacy?

The nation has problems. They are solvable but they require leadership and the courage to step beyond partisanship. It would seem a natural course for the Septuagenarian Caucus.

They should be able to agree on something so simple as maintaining the integrity of the nation’s population — also known as immigration reform. Both sides in this debate have real and legitimate concerns. But this elderly leadership should be able to reach a solution for the greater good.

They might also want to take on one of the biggies. One of the programs that is driving this nation toward bankruptcy (albeit long after the Septuagenarian Caucus will be gone) is Social Security.

A solvable substantive issue, it has been hung out for years on the scaffolding of politics.

It is time to fix it for good without impacting present recipients or most future recipients of moderate or lesser means. It is the poster-child issue for solution by concerned senior leaders who have nothing to lose. They can stand up to the political deceit that abounds in Washington when ways to correct the Social Security problem are proposed.

The list of arenas for action is long. All it takes is leadership.

If you are a septuagenarian leader, what do you have to lose? Deliver some real governing. Your time is running out. And, for that matter, so is the nation’s.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.