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Random Thoughts

Four items were in the news, four items prompted column

Published: Friday, Oct. 19, 2012 4:57 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — Four bite-sized thoughts on last week’s news:

1) Old Joe, Young Ryan

After their debate last week, a lot was made of the age gap between Vice President Joe Biden and the man who wants his title.

Old Joe Biden, the Democrat, is 69. That suggests he’s experienced and wise — or geriatric and rooted in the past.

Young Paul Ryan, the Republican, is 42. That suggests he’s naive and raw — or fit, energetic and ready to vault into the future.

It’s nice to think that age should never be a job qualification, but it comes into play in almost every field, ideally only to the extent that it’s a reflection of a person’s ability to get the job done.

Are you at least old enough to have acquired the techniques necessary for the job, along with the wisdom to apply them? Are you so old that your technique has atrophied?

In some fields, these questions are easy to answer. In professional baseball, where statistics are the judge, you’re over the hill at 40. In politics, at that age, you’ve just begun to climb.

In the political arena, too young and too old are largely a matter of public perception. So what are the viable age boundaries for vice president or president?

Forty to 70? Thirty-nine to 75? Your answer here?

For the record, four years from now Hillary Clinton will be 68.

2) Good wishes, Jean-Claude Brizard

Give him credit. He tried. But when Brizard accepted Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s offer to come run Chicago’s public schools — a post he left last week — he was like the guy who’d been invited to a party where he didn’t know the guests and hardly knew the host. It wasn’t entirely his fault if he had trouble fitting in.

3) Mr. Biden and Bibi

Here’s another thing that left last week’s debate-watchers in a churn: Vice President Biden referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “Bibi.”

Harrumph, the critics said: Publicly referring to government leaders in such a way was bad form, and not only because, in Biden’s case, it implied a coziness designed to reassure the voting masses that the Obama team is in control of foreign affairs.

Listening to that criticism of Biden, I thought of an email I received recently from someone upset that I’d called the president “Barack” during a radio show chat.

“Just wondering,” he scolded, “when it became proper to refer to the president of the United States by his first name?”

I don’t know. Back when Dwight Eisenhower’s slogan was “I Like Ike?”

Calling people by their first names can be a show of disrespect, and there’s a long, ugly history of white people belittling black people by using only their first names. But we live in a different world now, and in a less formal one, and there are moments when referring to important people by their first names seems entirely reasonable.

If I occasionally say “Barack,” it’s out of a sense of our president as a fellow Chicagoan.

And, incidentally, the catchiest bumper sticker I’ve seen in this campaign is the one that says simply: “Mitt.”

4) “Nashville”

This show, which premiered last week to critical raves, qualifies as news only if you’re a fan of top-notch prime-time soap opera, which I am.

It stars Connie Britton (“Friday Night Lights”) as a middle-aged singing star trying to hang on to her country crown.

By Nashville standards, she’s old. But she’d still be a whippersnapper if she were running for high office.

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