The Age of Infirmity


Enough with all this talk about age. I don’t understand why everyone keeps focusing on that word. The problem we’re dealing with is not age; it’s infirmity. It’s also pride and vanity, but let’s deal with one problem at a time. Both candidates are old. The real issue is, some old people are full of energy, enthusiasm, rage and lies, but are also mad as a hatter. Others are distinguished, accomplished, experienced and intelligent, but clearly exhausted and possibly ill.

What makes matters worse it that neither of these old men is the most qualified candidate in either party. So why do the advisors and aides and party hacks keep talking about them as if they were? The short answer is: Because the Republicans have lost their minds and the Democrats have lost their conviction. Both sides have been lying to us for so long about how qualified, able, and mentally stable their respective and anointed candidates are that they’ve forgotten how to tell the truth about it anymore.

As examples, I offer you almost everything JD Vance, Marco Rubio and Nicki Haley and any of the other bickering lickspittles have said about Trump, hoping he’ll take them to the prom. Most of what Biden’s close advisors and possible replacements (I’m talking to you Gavin Newsom) have been trying to sell us about his fitness for office is also carefully calculated crap. The arrogance of the current President’s pals and inner-circle honchos is becoming dangerous. No matter how long they go on about it, they have failed to convince me that I didn’t see what I saw on Dismal Thursday. Or that my reaction to that sad spectacle is somehow wrong or misguided. We are being lied to by both sides now. It’s not surprising but it is insulting. Maybe Dems can take some comfort in thinking that their assholes are better and truthier than that other asshole and his rabble, but really, this is pretty cold comfort.

It’s true that there are a few crumbs of truth being offered: “I don’t debate as well as I used to.” Dude, there are many things I don’t do as well as I used to. However, that does not begin to be a reason why I should be allowed to continue doing them. It’s a reason why I should move on to the things that I’m supposed to be getting better at as I age, such as shedding my pride and vanity and trying to summon some of the wisdom I was supposed to have been gathering over the years. Same goes for you.

I like Biden. Not nearly as much as I did before his craven abandonment of Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings (I’ll forgive him when she does, but so far, she has chosen not to) and even so, I am still willing to vote for him in a last-ditch move to save democracy. I’m just not sure that a whole lot of other people still are. And I don’t blame them. Even that old party-dog James Carville has advised his fellow political operatives to move Joe and his supporters out of their mutual misery: “Goddamn, in politics you gotta give the people what they want sometimes.” No kidding. It’s hardly a revolutionary idea and it’s certainly been working for the other guy who is running for President.

I watched some of the post-debate discussion on MSNBC where it was the former Republicans and political amateurs who offered the most succinct and cogent wisdom. Michael Steele brilliantly described Biden as “too facted up” to think straight, and woefully devoid of charisma or fight. But the mantra, the meme, the whatever-you-want-to-call-it of this election came from the self-described Republican voter gamely participating in a televised backyard-breakfast-bar post-debate forum in Arizona, who said that every time he looked at Trump he thought, “Hell no,” and whenever he looked at Biden, he thought, “Oh no.” All I can add to that is, “Me too.”

And yet, even as we scrounge around for suitable candidates, people are still talking openly and without much embarrassment about how America is not ready to vote for a woman. If that’s truly the case, then what is it that the rest of the world has figured out that we haven’t? Because they’ve been voting for and electing women to high office for a few years now, and with the pretty much the same results as when they used to choose only men. Does gender really matter? Because if it’s tough, mean and belligerent you need, I give you Maggie Thatcher and Marie Le Pen. If you’re looking for smart, pragmatic and compassionate, consider the Scandinavian approach to taking a chance on women leaders.

A puzzling assertion that I’ve heard many more times than I care to count is, “Kamala can’t win.” Or, “Please, anyone but Kamala.” What I haven’t heard is exactly what’s wrong with her. Would someone tell me, specifically please, what’s wrong with Kamala that’s not also wrong with virtually everyone else who has been mentioned or considered? It’s not that I’m stumping for her, because I would settle for anyone who possesses more visible vital signs than Joe and better morals than that orange alley cat. But I am stumped about the source of all the vituperation aimed at Kamala.

Is it her gender? Her color? Her take-no-prisoners glare? Her willingness to march forth and publicly fail to solve all the problems that the President and all his cabinet have privately failed to solve? It’s true that she could hardly refuse, because that’s every VP’s job, but she put on her game face and did it. Four years ago, the Dems chose her because they thought she could help deliver the win. They were right. And now I don’t understand why so many pundits—professional and amateur—are so dead set against her.

It’s been suggested that Gretchen Whitmer would be a good choice. I agree. She presents as tougher and meaner and more authentically herself than a lot of the guys who are running. She’s even admitted that she drank and caroused and made some bad decisions in high school, which is more than that creepy Kavanaugh guy was willing to do. It seems like every time we have a field full of qualified and capable women—Whitmer, Harris, Warren—there’s always a furtive search for at least one guy, to make it more…normal.

So maybe Josh Shapiro would be a good candidate. At least he has a penis, which is apparently an essential qualification for holding the highest office in the land. Okay, fine. You go, Josh; I’ve got your back! And if you get nervous, go stand next to Gretchen because she survived a kidnapping attempt and is still willing to do the work. I also like Gavin Newsom’s chances for the purely mano-a-mano reason that our glib, steely-eyed used-car-salesman candidate is so much smarter, wittier, more charming, and better-looking than theirs. At least his neckties don’t seem to be trying to telegraph some weird message about length. Anybody have any clue about what’s up with that or why it matters in an election where the survival of democracy hangs in the balance? Don’t ask me. I’m just a girl.

But all this debate-performance anxiety wilts in comparison to the terror I feel as I try to digest the sinister slurry of rulings that has been seeping out of the Supreme Court. Especially that immunity doozy, that king thing. Those five men and that one woman have handed a loaded gun to whomever the next President will be. If it’s Trump, even his voters—especially his voters—know full well that he will not hesitate to use it.

So here we are, older and presumably wiser. But what have we learned? The most useful thing I learned from that pathetic debate, thanks to one of its more ridiculous moments, is that if you want to hear a couple of old white guys go on and on about golf, just ask them what they think about the childcare crisis in America. And the most sobering thing I learned from the Supreme Court’s dark message about where their true intentions and loyalties lie is that none of this is funny anymore. On the bright side, at least they’re not lying to us.

Happy 248th birthday America. Congratulations to us. But aren’t we getting a little too old to be behaving like this?

Kathy Cain
Kathy Cain
Kathleen Cain began her career in Seattle writing and producing documentaries and talk shows for television and radio. She hosted a two-hour interview program on the notorious KRAB FM, was a contributing editor for late, great Seattle Weekly, and a writer/creative director at the legendary Heckler Associates for many years before starting her own communications consulting firm, Cain Creative.


  1. Go Kathy! This is f-ing Brilliant. “Bickering lickspittles” indeed. To mangle Joni – you’ve looked at lies from both sides now; from win and lose, and still somehow; it’s lies illusions you’ve recalled…

  2. A good read, if deeply discouraging. We are getting “carefully calculated crap” from all sides — including the media! The cyber-tsunami persists, and there is no road to higher ground.

  3. Holy Moly!!! this is hitting the nail on the head… What an amazing post Ms. Cain!!
    Send this to the NYTimes please!!!

  4. Good points, well made, Kathy. Especially appreciate your estimate of Kamala. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I reviewed the unauthorized bio of her by a California newsman. She has been consistently underrated. However, as you point out there are other promising Dems who could do the job. Anyone would be better than the crooked, lying turd.

  5. You’ve said much of what I’ve thought and kept to myself — and with far more verve and energy and one-liners than I could ever muster. Thank you! Now with whatever I might’ve learned from my experience, since I have the ‘age’ thing mostly covered, it’s time to think hard about what to do about this election mess. Truth be told, it seems to be all I can do to not succumb to complete discouragement.

  6. Great review of the situation we’re facing. I do think it’s healthy and positive that we as a party are having this robust discussion despite push back from the White House. The Biden for reelection train left the station 15 months ago. Maybe it’s in the intervening months that he’s shown a marked decline. I understand the extreme difficulty in changing course at this late date. And there’s the power/ego thing. But this is a unique situation that requires extraordinarily action. It’s not just about can Biden win the election but also can he still govern. After all the discussion and arguing if he’s still top of the ticket we all have to get behind him and hope for the best.

  7. OMFG. Kathy Cain has presented the absolute best of the best arguments for Joe Gotta Go. For much of this, I was wondering if she was reading my Facebook posts. Dayum Girl. You got game. Right now, the pundit class needs Cain & Carville against all comers.

    All Hail Kathy Cain!

  8. Got it. My hat’s in the ring. Wait…I don’t own a hat. But I have everything else: I’m old; I’m male; I’m physically failing. Hey! my brain’s good. Just ask me. How can I lose? VP? How about Jane Fonda? Is she still alive? She was right about Viet Nam. She’s a woman. Wait….all seriousness aside. We’re screwed.

  9. Thank you for getting real…and this essay is real. Why is it that so many of us have been writing about it for four plus years, and all we get back is “When you get knocked down you get back up.” This is the same old, same old “malarky” we’ve been laughing about since he was VP. It was a joke then, it’s pathetic and scary now.

  10. Folks,
    Do you folks want to win? beat Trump?

    Or do you want to prove a moral point? And/or how virtuous you are?

    The author suggest that America is not ready for a woman POTUS. (And actually, I don’t agree, but whatever.)

    And then the author suggests that the Democrats should nominate a woman for President.

    Go figure.

    In fact, I think the USA is very much ready for a woman president, but not Kamala Harris.

  11. My observation is that Joe’s been doing a good job of mentoring Kamala. For all the negativity about her, Joe’s pushed her out into the world to begin nurturing relationships with other countries’ leaders and learning international diversity.

    There was a time I believed governors were best suited to become presidents because they had the public sector management experience a successful president needed. I’ve concluded I was wrong for two reasons: the federal government is infinitely more complex and arcane than any state and requires years of experience to develop competence (see Joe Biden, LBJ & FDR), and no governor develops experience & competence in the real world of international relations. The world is a complex place and regardless what we think about the complexity of Michigan, it ain’t the whole world. (Glad Ford’s restoring train station, though).

    Since the party only has till August 7th to certify a candidate for the Ohio general election and given the constraints of federal election law on transferring contributions from one campaign to another, I believe the party confronted with a binary choice: Joe or Kamala. For better or worse I chose Kamala.

  12. When I consider WHY we need an alternative to Joe Biden as President (or Kamala Harris as Vice President), I think about our growing conflicts with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. I think about the proliferation of hacking attacks on our infrastructure. I think of the increasing power of international gangs. I also think about the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the Chevron doctrine.

    Can Kamala OR Joe convince other world powers (and international gangs) that the US has no choice but to become more aggressive (and do the unexpected), when our opponents demonstrate the will and/or the increased ability to harm the United States?

    Can Kamala OR Joe convince would-be immigrants to comply with US law?

    Can Kamala OR Joe convince members of their own party to do what’s necessary to strengthen our Democracy? For example, can they convince Congress to stop devoting half its time to fundraising and instead invest that time into writing and passing good legislation?

    Can Kamala OR Joe convince Democratic Party leaders to stop doing things which break our Democracy – purportedly to save it? Party fundraisers are, after all, not elected, nor are they accountable to American voters. What they need to do going forward, is recruit better candidates for President and VP (rather then telling candidates that they will lose future party funding if THEY continue to run for office), create a pipeline of excellent candidates for the Supreme Court, draft proposed campaign finance reform laws which both parties can accept, and partner with television executives to write new rules for political debates which put a debater into “time out” if he or she blends half-truths and falsehoods into a high speed stream of blather: blather which is impossible for their opponent to rebut in the time available.

    Amy Klobuchar comes to mind as an appropriate candidate for President or Vice President. She is plain-spoken. She’s a doer, not a master of divisive-speak. Compared to other candidates, she strikes me as a relationship builder who can develop support for much-needed legislation. Can she defeat Donald Trump down in a debate? I don’t know. Unless the rules for debate change yet again, can anyone?

    • Yes – Amy. I like her in 2020 and I like her now.

      Solid middle of the country background, and she understands the voters who feel left out.
      Joe the plumber from Ohio might give her a vote if she was nominated.

  13. Kathy, what an excellent analysis. I am a devoted Democrat and would still vote for Biden if he was our pathetic, last-ditch nominee, but I believe in the depths of my bones that Kamala Harris is a much more viable candidate against the orange moron. For all the reasons you argue we need to replace Biden, hopefully with his courageous acknowledgement that it is time to pass the baton to a new generation. I’m counting on his innate goodness to bow out. If he doesn’t that is damning evidence of his unfitness to run in this consequential election.

    • I don’t care about the new generation stuff per se. (Lots of ”low information” people out there — both young and old.)

      The problem with Biden is not that he’s old but that he’s simply not vigorous mentally or physically.

      The interview with Stephanopoulos was truly sad because Biden doesn’t even understand, or won’t address, what people are complaining about.

      Heaven help us, but it never has in the past.

  14. Hey, ABT.
    Strongly written .
    Bur Kamala Harris: Not. And not a gender issue.
    She dropped the ball on the the most important issue she was given… early on. The border. And she didn’t even symbolically go to the border until public pressure.
    There were other women – and men – qualified but Biden went all in and signaled his decision early on.

  15. Please rethink that last comment about Kamala Harris. Her approach to the border was similar to the stand of the president for whom she worked. VPs seldom buck the boss. In fact, the VP role is, as we’ve been told, “not worth a bucket of (believe it was — spit, but could have been something else.) Judge Kamala on her considerable accomplishments as a state AG and a prosecuting attorney. She has potential if given the role of leader.

  16. I agree with Carol and Jean about Harris. I think she had been unfairly criticized. Yesterday, I asked yet another person to explain to me what’s uniquely wrong with Kamala. He declared that she failed to solve the border problem. Fair enough, but so has every president, governor, congressman and US senator since well before she took office. They’re all either dithery and ineffective, like Biden and most of the Dems, or loudly and cruelly performative but essentially impotent, like Trump, Abbott, and several others.

    Given that so many people have failed to fix the border/immigration mess for so many years—and some of their policies and propaganda have made it even worse—why does Kamala get the blame? As VP, she has had no real power to do anything on her own except show up and repeat the position of the administration she works for. If she is nominated and gets elected, she may also fail to solve the problem. But that puts her in a pretty crowded field. And as Jean mentioned, when Harris held positions of real power, she exercised it intelligently and impressively.

    Harris is not the only person I’m suggesting to replace Biden. I will vote for anyone who runs against Trump, and there are many very good candidates. But I’m tired of listening to people who repeat the memes about her—and other candidates—that are floating around without examining whether they have any real meaning or relevance. And I’m also tired of the intransigence, excuses, and entitled arrogance of Biden and his bros. The man is not well. They should stop worrying about holding on to their power, choose a viable replacement for him, and start worrying about helping him retire with his legacy and dignity intact.

  17. The border is a handy stick to beat Democratic leaders with, and if Harris is getting beat with it, it just shows someone feels a need to beat on Harris. It’s a serious problem, but it isn’t Harris’ serious problem. The only thing I know of against Harris is the toxic staff story. Not that I would put a lot of weight on that, as part of the general predictable downside of being a VP.

    • If Harris wants to be POTUS, she should want to compete in an open Dem convention.

      Otherwise Harris will be stuck with the (accurate) characterization of her as an affirmative action anointment.

      The Republicans will not forget that she is vice president only because Biden specifically said he wanted a black woman as VP. You can’t get much more affirmative action, in the worst possible way, than that. I really like Biden, but sometimes he sure has poor political judgment.

  18. Re: the border. I just finished reading Farrell’s bio of Ted Kennedy. From the time he was elected US Senator from MA to the time he died, he was constantly working on two issues: health care and, wait for it, immigration reform. This is an issue that both parties have taken from a human rights crisis to political football for over 50 years. It ain’t up to Harris to “solve it.” Matter of fact, there are significant interests in this country who don’t want it solved (here is looking at you pear and apple growers in the Wenatchee Valley et al…favorite sign in September 2020 along Highway 2 in Cashmere was in Spanish “pickers wanted” and a Trump 2020 sign in English right next to it). The confusion in what is happening at the border benefits more than the folks trying to come to the US, it benefits every single American. Powerful interests, as I said, don’t really want it solved they just want to hammer politicians over it.

    Harris is DJT’s nightmare, IMO. He will bungle her name, make racist comments, sexist comments…and every woman who has endured that will vote. Just like every woman cringed when DJT stalked HRC during the debate. We have all been there.

    I go back and forth on Biden withdrawing and releasing his delegates. There is a reason our elders cautioned us about changing horses in mid-stream. The Biden family, all of them including Jill (and I about exploded when the NYT reported Hunter was sitting in on WH meetings….family meetings, yeah, but WH?) need to step back and ensure Biden listens to “the room.” I think “the room” wants him to move on.

  19. Where are the calls for Trump to withdraw? In addition to being an out-and-out fascist/criminal/rapist he’s also visibly suffering from dementia in a way that makes Biden’s occasional lapses pale into insignificance.

    Vote blue no matter who.


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