Opinion | The Aging and Health of Our Leaders

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To the Editor:

“Aging Leaders Raise a Tough Question: How Old Is Too Old?” (Political Memo, July 29) asks the wrong tough question.

The question to ask is this: “Does the person have the cognitive skills needed to do the job or task in question?” Otherwise there is an assumption that simply by reaching a certain age, people become less capable, and that is not necessarily true.

When there are signs that a person has become cognitively unable to do their job (which is being suggested in the cases of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell), there should be a neuropsychological evaluation as part of a full medical work-up, thus assessing their cognitive abilities and overall ability to do their jobs. This allows for decisions to be made on evidence, not opinion or an age picked at random.

Cognitive decline is a real thing; it is not something that just happens automatically, and it does a disservice to limit people based solely on their age. In fact, it is age discrimination.

Tracy Carroll
Leeds, Mass.
The writer is a certified dementia practitioner.

To the Editor:

The problem of aging members of Congress who can no longer serve effectively could be solved, for the most part, by enacting 18-year term limits.

Instead of the gerontocracy that controls the agenda now, term limits likely would keep a younger coterie of citizens flowing through the chambers on Capitol Hill.

Oh, and while we are at it, let’s enact the same limits for members of the Supreme Court. That way we would have term limits on people serving in all three branches of the federal government.

Gregg Smith
Stanfordville, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Many think it’s better for actors to retire one performance too early than one performance too late. This adage applies to politicians, too, including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Mitch McConnell, and possibly President Biden.

Now, instead of Senator Feinstein being remembered as a pioneering woman in politics, she will go down in history as an enfeebled old woman who refused to step down from her Senate duties when she obviously — to everyone’s discernment but her own — could not carry them out.

Senator McConnell’s performance is now also suspect. President Biden seems to be beating expectations and perhaps his Republican opponents, but no one is getting any younger.

I can understand their reluctance. I was reluctant to retire, too. But it was time for me, and it is time for some of them.

Daniel Fink
Beverly Hills, Calif.

Donald Trump vs. Jack Smith: Has Trump Met His Match?

To the Editor:

Re “Old Trump Habit Is Seen at Heart of New Charges” (front page, July 29), about a pattern of trying to stymie prosecutors:

Donald Trump may have finally met his match in Jack Smith.

The battlefield is asymmetric. The Justice Department mantra is that it speaks only through court filings. Mr. Trump doesn’t have such constraints. He can hammer away daily on various media platforms, a tremendous advantage that Mr. Trump uses to the fullest. In contrast, the special counsel holds all the advantages in the courts.

Jack Smith has shown a keen understanding of how to prosecute his case. So far, the score is Smith 2, Trump 0. While Mr. Smith has a commanding lead, history shows it’s way too early to count Mr. Trump out. He’s a wily competitor with a wicked counterpunch. If Mr. Smith leaves an opening, undoubtedly Mr. Trump will take full advantage of it.

Donald Trump is a master marketer and a master manipulator. Too many people, including many talking heads, underestimate him. They don’t understand the game he’s playing, let alone see how phenomenally good he is at it. They underestimated him in the past and will likely do so in the future.

History also shows us that if Mr. Trump feels threatened, he will do everything in his power to avoid defeat and will not hesitate to take us all down with him in the process. No one can predict what that future might look like. No one can imagine the convoluted shenanigans Mr. Trump will devise when backed into a corner to this degree. He won’t go down without one hell of a fight.

David Zolt
Lakewood, Ohio

He Was a Russian Soldier

To the Editor:

Thank you so much for having the guts to put Tyler Hicks’s photo of the remains of a Russian soldier on the front page of The New York Times on Monday.

I’m sure that some will condemn The Times for its decision, but it’s critical for everyone to see the death and destruction brought about by Vladimir Putin’s war of aggression. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Joe McGloin
Sheridan, Colo.

To the Editor:

I am sure that many readers were shocked and appalled by your decision to feature a large front-page color picture of the remains of a Russian soldier.

By now your readers are well aware of the brutality of this war of aggression. Was it necessary to add this gratuitous and gruesome photo to your front page, or any page?

Presumably this dead soldier had a father, a mother, siblings and others who loved him. The Times’s action was more than insensitive; it was inhumane.

Gerard Rosenthal
New York

Save a Bipartisan AIDS Program

To the Editor:

Re “Popular AIDS Program Faces Threat as G.O.P. Seeks Limits on Abortion” (news article, July 29), about the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR:

As a Republican, I am frankly ashamed of my party’s willingness to subject PEPFAR, a bipartisan program that has saved 25 million lives worldwide since it was created in 2003, to partisan culture wars.

That we cannot agree that PEPFAR, perhaps the most successful foreign aid program in our nation’s history, deserves to be spared from partisanship truly reflects how broken our nation’s politics are.

This disheartening politicization of issues that broad swaths of both sides of the aisle support leads us on a dangerous path that undermines our values, diminishes our global standing and neglects the humanity we’ve so ardently sought to protect.

PEPFAR, as a testament to American leadership and compassion, has been a beacon of hope for millions suffering from H.I.V./AIDS worldwide. To turn this lifeline into a political tool is a travesty.

As Republicans, we must commit ourselves to protecting PEPFAR and strengthening the lifesaving work it has done for 20 years, and if we fail to do so, then shame on us.

Kiran Bhatia
Brookline, Mass.

Freedom to Read What We Choose

To the Editor:

Re “What Book Bans Mean for a Public Library” (Opinion guest essay, July 23):

It saddened me to read Emily St. James’s essay. Some of my fondest childhood memories, as an avid reader, were going to the public library, a magical place where characters came to life and became your childhood friends.

It was a place where you could travel the world from a comfy chair and learn that although another child may be dressed differently or have different hair, we are all essentially the same.

The library opened up the world in a safe and inviting space. In today’s often chaotic world, it is needed more than ever. As a society, the freedom to read what we choose is a necessity. No one should be denied the right to proudly carry home an armload of books of their choice!

Cora Berke
Lambertville, N.J.

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