Age Matters By Ruth Rosen - August 26, 2008, 3:28PM I've never thought Sen. John McCain was mentally ill, not even after George W. Bush tried to discredit his intelligence and wit in 2000. But now I worry about the obvious deterioration of his health. Look back at clips from 2000 and you see a candidate who made the press swoon, so smitten were they with his sharp conversational skills, his quick wit, his charming accessibility. Now I watch Sen. John McCain and I see the kind of change I witnessed in Ronald Reagan. As he entered his second term as President, I happened to be watching film clips of a younger and sharper Governor Ronald Reagan. The difference was staggering. Earlier, he had been a quick wit, fast on his feet, feisty as well as charming. By 1984, however, he seemed confused and distracted; I watched him with shock and saw an individual clearly slowed by the early signs of a terribly deteriorating disease. I'm hardly alone in noticing the changes that have occurred in John McCain. People are whispering about his confusion, his slow delivery, his deterioration, but unlike the issue of Obama's race, it is not being openly discussed. It is not a question of age. One eighty-three year-old woman took me aside last week, a woman who's as sharp and quick as she was when I first met her forty years ago, and asked me, "Why is no one talking about the fact McCain appears to be suffering from the early stages of some kind of dementia?" I had noticed the changes as well. I don't know if he knew the differences between religious groups in Iraq in 2000, but when I look at old clips of Sen. John McCain during his 2000 run for the presidency, he seems like the kind of quick, witty, guy who knew how to finesse anything he didn't knew. Consider, by contrast, his lame and confused response to the question of how many homes he owns. Clearly, the question is complicated, because this is a couple who owns property separately, jointly, and have several homes on individual plots of land. But a quick-witted John McCain in 2000 would have responded, "Look, we live in Arizona in our home; we vacation in two condos. The rest is investment property, some of which belongs to my wife and some of which we own jointly. Any other questions?" It goes without saying that Obama's race is a potent factor in the 2008 presidential race. But I wonder if anyone will openly say what people are whispering about every day, namely, that Sen. John McCain genuinely seems confused, slower than eight years ago, and, in the opinion of more than a few senior citizens who recognize the signs, in the early states of some type of early dementia or Alzheimers. McCain's failure to think and respond quickly should worry every American. We have experienced two terms of the worst presidency in American history. We have lost considerable moral credibility around the world, started two wars that cannot be won through military means, allowed unfettered regulation to undermine our economic strength and widen wealth inequality, and shredded many of our most cherished democratic civil rights and liberties. I, for one, want a brilliant, progressive, president who is capable of reversing at least some of this damage. So aside from McCain's capitulation to the right-wing constituency of his party, every American should worry about his ability to govern. His various medical conditions, in fact, require so many drugs, it's a wonder he can function at all. Think about it. To ask Hillary Clinton's infamous question, is he the person you'd like to answer the White House phone at 3am? And will anyone stop the whispering and finally say it loud and clear---that this is a man who is simply too impaired to be president? This is not about his age. This is about the reality of his health.