A campaign blog.
June 5 2008 2:40 PM


If the first day of the general election foretold anything about the rest of the contest, it’s that McCain will be struggling daily to avoid "senior moments."

Yesterday, McCain had not one but two such moments. At a press conference in New Orleans, he claimed to have voted for every investigation into Hurricane Katrina, when in fact he voted twice against establishing a commission to investigate levee failures. "I don’t know exactly what you are describing at this moment," he told the reporter. Then, when asked why he called for divestment from Iran but never signed onto the divestment bill Obama introduced last year, he pled ignorance: "I am not familiar with it at all. I do not know if it passed the Senate or had any hearing or anything else."


Don’t discount superficiality, either. McCain’s age was on display Tuesday as he addressed a few hundred supporters in New Orleans. His speech gleamed on the page, but came off stilted and shaky in the reading. The garish green background and shoddy sound system didn’t do him any favors, either. (A colleague compared it to "bingo night at the hospice.") Compare that with Obama’s honeyed baritone and photogenic mug addressing a crowd of 20,000, and it almost doesn’t matter what either of them said.

McCain’s in a tough spot. There’s guaranteed to be a double standard when it comes to memory lapses, teleprompter snafus, and other stumbles mental and physical, as the media treats McCain’s pratfalls as part of a larger narrative. (No one blinked when Obama once referred to the "57 states"; if that had been McCain, it would be all over YouTube.) The McCain campaign knows this. That’s why his staffers  released 1,173 pages of the senator’s health records. Also see Mark Salter’s heated response when Obama said McCain was "losing his bearings." "He used the words 'losing his bearings’ intentionally, a not-particularly-clever way of raising John McCain’s age as an issue," Salter wrote. "This is typical of the Obama style of campaigning."

But if youth and inexperience are fair game, so should be age and too much experience. This year, the first national estimate on cognitive impairment found that more than one-third of people age 71 and older have some diminished mental function. McCain will turn 72 in August. Recall and mental agility are important qualities for younger politicians, too. But with McCain, everyone's senility-dar will be especially sensitive.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.


The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data


The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.


The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 4:03 PM You’re Doing It Wrong: Puttanesca Sauce
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.