Age or Pride Comes Before the Fall?

It is a question we are being asked with distressing regularity by those who should have known the answer before it was asked.   When does age matter? Four people come to mind.  The first is Pauline Newman.

Pauline is a federal judge appointed to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit by Ronald Reagan in 1985.  At the time she was appointed she was 60 years old.  Today she is 95. She is the oldest sitting federal judge in the United States.  Some of her colleagues have questioned whether she is able to discharge all the duties of office because of mental or physical disability.  The Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit has said that Pauline has, among other things, missed filing deadlines, been slow to issue opinions, shown signs of cognitive and mental impairment and, as a result, should no longer sit on the Court in an active capacity.  Pauline is fighting back.  She says she is as productive as any of her colleagues and has filed suit attacking the allegations made against her by her colleagues on the Court. She has no intention of stepping down or accepting removal. The good news is that  whoever is right in this dispute, the only losers are those whose court cases are in front of her awaiting resolution.

Dianne Feinstein is a United States Senator.  She has been a United States Senator since 1992.  She was elected when she was 58 years old.  Today she is  89 years old.

Dianne is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Before any candidates for a federal judgeship are presented to the Senate for confirmation, they have to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and their nomination has to be approved by a majority vote of the committee.  The trump appointed more federal judges than any of his predecessors had done in their first term. As of this writing Republicans had appointed 51 percent of appeals court judges compared with 43 percent appointed by Democrats. Few things are more important to the Democrats than the ability to appoint more federal judges.   Because of Dianne’s absence from Washington from February until May 9, the committee’s work was stalled and has only now resumed.

Dianne’s friends say that as a result of her age and her shingles she has difficulty following conversations and remembering names.  They say she is frequently confused.  There is, however, one thing about which she is not confused.  She will not leave the Senate until her term expires at the end of 2024 regardless of the adverse effect her continuing to serve has on her party or the country.  Whereas Pauline’s refusal to resign affects only those with cases before her Court, Dianne’s refusal affects the entire judicial system.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is no longer with us.  She remained a brilliant Justice on the United States Supreme Court until the day she died. Brilliant though she was, she refused to resign before her death, confident that her presence on the Court was more important for the country than the possibility that her death while the trump was in office would enable him to appoint her successor.  Time will tell whether she was right.  She died while the trump was in office.  The Supreme Court has as her replacement Amy Coney Barrett, a reliable conservative who has now given the conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court Court a 6-3 advantage over the liberals.  The winners in this case are the members of the Court with whom she vigorously disagreed and their vociferous supporters.  The losers are the rest of us.

Lest I be accused of limiting my criticism of those refusing to step down when the time has come to women, I can add one man to the criticism and there are many more that I could name.  But the obvious one is Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is 80 years old.  When he runs for reelection in 2024 he will be 81.  If he is elected again he will be 82 years old when he is sworn in and 86 years old when his new term comes to an end.  Joe Biden may believe he is as mentally competent now as he has ever been and that the advancing years have done and will do nothing to affect his physical or mental abilities. He is dead wrong.  As someone who has long since passed both of those milestones,  I can tell the president from my own experience, that,  his self-confidence notwithstanding, age takes its toll and it will affect him just as it affects  all the others who have passed those milestones, notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary.  Nothing he can say or do will prevent that from occurring.  Sadly, the price to be paid for the toll age takes on Joe will be paid not only by Joe and his family, but by the United States of America. So sad.

Christopher Brauchli can be e-mailed at For political commentary see his web page at