How Many Old Goats Are Too Many Old Goats?

Let me start with a story. I was part of a lobbying mission to the Senate on an issue long gone from my mind. There was a break in the action so I found a comfortable wall and leaned up against it. I happened to be next to the door of Senator Strom Thurmond’s conference room. It was open and this is what I heard.

Two aides came in to discuss the Senator’s coming meeting with constituents. They agreed that he would be brought in, sat in his chair, propped up with a pillow from the office couch. He would make a statement. He would listen to the statement of the delegation leader. He would take no questions. The meeting would last 15 minutes tops.

I heard movement and looked in to see the Senator, now close to 100 years old, looking like he’d died a week ago, and put into place. The group trouped in.  The meeting was run exactly as described above. At the time the world was calling for Thurmond’s retirement. I disagreed. If he was what the people of South Carolina wanted then he is who they should have. I’ve adjusted that thinking a bit.

Now let’s move to the Ringling Bros. show that has been taking place at the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. I offer you a statistic. Chairman Grassley is 83 years of age; Ranking Member Feinstein is 80. That means the two of them represent 163 years of life, a lot of it spent in the Senate. Add Senators Hatch and a few others and you’ve got a lot of people who’ve been around for a very long time. Again a lot of it in the Senate.

There is a valid argument to be made that seniority is important, especially in a place like the Senate where the rules are, to be kind, complicated, and less kind, obtuse. Witness the sudden end of Friday’s session almost in mid-sentence of Senator Flake’s remarks because of the rule that no committee can meet for more than two hours without certain criteria being met. Why? Beats me. I’m sure there is a reason. Whether it is a good one is another story.

There is a need for leaders to have an institutional memory. There is a need for leaders to know how to wield the often unwieldy tools of democracy, something the President hasn’t come close to learning. When asked his thoughts about the FBI reopening its investigation in the Kavanaugh nomination, the president said he’d leave it to the Senate. He was unaware that he and only he can allow or disallow it. Someone from the committee will truck over to the White House and explain that to him and the math that will require him to do something he definitely does not want to do. (Ed. note: his acuity in math brought him to make the decision to employ the skills of the FBI.)

I said I’ve adjusted my thinking a bit. I am against term limits for legislators for the reasons stated above. However, I am in favor of age limits, 75 or 80 methinks. That way an individual has the time to learn, the time to implement, the time to lead but not the time to clog up the pipelines for younger men and women who want to begin their climb up the leadership mountain.

As things stand, I think back to the old commercial that asked, “Is this any way to run an airline?” I ask you, is this any way to run a government? It’s not–at least from my political science perspective.

Bill Gralnick, who has a BA and MA in poli sci from The George Washington University and a DHL from Florida Atlantic University admits he quit his Ph.D. program and that his mother was right–he never finished.

More about Bill can be found on his website: http//

And as Bill says, “Read! It’s good for both of us.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s