But occasionally things just pop out of their dentured mouths, as if the filters inside their heads had atrophied. As if old age brings on a kind of Tourette’s syndrome. They just say whatever the hell they’re thinking.
Helen Thomas, the very senior White House correspondent, with 57 years working for the wire services, was coming up on her 90th birthday when she made those crotchety remarks about Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians that led to her resignation. It was a scandal. But I kept thinking, “She was 90. What will I be mumbling about when I’m 90?”
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright was past retirement age when that crazy stuff started coming out of his unfiltered mouth. The poems that deluged Nobel laureate Günter Grass in controversy and got him declared persona non grata in Israel were written when he was 85.
We’ve got plenty of local politicians getting up there in years, competent public servants, but whose public pronouncements are just generally ignored by the local media. Miami-Dade Commissioner Javier Souto, born in 1938, comes up with communist and Muslim conspiracy theories at meetings. Everyone listens politely and goes on to the next topic. Maybe that should be the national model.
It must be that we’re living longer. And working longer. And doddering old powerbrokers and cultural icons stay in the public spotlight, making news for saying what shouldn’t be said.
Time was, that would have been just old grandpa, sitting in his rocker, muttering away about one slight or another, talking rude. We’d just shake our heads, shrug and ignore the old fart. Now we’ve got the same thing, except the whole country’s listening to grandpa’s mutterings.
But they should be reported with an asterisk.
Of course, this is one column, with any luck, that I’ll live to regret.