ATLANTA — Weeks shy of his 95th birthday, former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he doesn’t believe he could have managed the most powerful office in the world at 80 years old.
Carter, who earlier this year became the longest lived chief executive in American history, didn’t tie his comments to any of his fellow Democrats running for president, but two leading 2020 candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, would turn 80 during their terms if elected.
“I hope there’s an age limit,” Carter said with a laugh as he answered audience questions at his annual report at the Carter Center in Atlanta. “If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president.”
Carter’s remarks came in response to a jovial inquiry about whether he had considered running in 2020 since he’s still constitutionally allowed another term. The 39th president left office in 1981 at the age of 56 after losing his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan, who served two terms and left office as the oldest sitting president in history, at 77.
Either Biden or Sanders would be older upon their inauguration than Reagan was on his final day in the Oval Office. At 73, President Donald Trump is a record-setter, as well. He eclipsed Reagan’s mark as the oldest newly elected president in history and would become the oldest president to be reelected, as well.
Carter, whose birthday is Oct. 1, said the demands of the Oval Office require a president “to be very flexible with your mind,” particularly on foreign affairs. He was speaking on the 41st anniversary of the Camp David Accords, a peace agreement Carter negotiated with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
“You have to be able to go from one subject to another and concentrate on each one adequately, and then put them together in a comprehensive way like I did between Begin and Sadat with the peace agreement,” Carter said.
“The things I faced in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them at 80 years old,” he continued, before adding with a smile: “At 95, it’s out of the question. I’m having a hard time walking.”
Carter said he remains undecided in the 2020 primary, and his assessments on age could leave him with few easy choices.
He repeated Tuesday his previous disclosure that he voted for Sanders in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, siding with the democratic socialist over the party establishment favorite. But Carter has since warned Democrats not to go too far left, lest they risk alienating independents and moderate Republicans who can help the party defeat Trump in a general election.
He has cited proposals such as a single-payer health care system as potential deal-breakers for some voters inclined to vote against Trump. Sanders and another leading progressive candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, back a single-payer health insurance system run by the federal government.
Biden, meanwhile, is leading most national and early state primary polls in part because of his strength among more moderate Democrats. Other moderates in the field trail far behind Biden, Sanders and Warren.
When he ran and won in 1976, Carter was the outsider challenging establishment favorites. But the former Georgia governor also represented the more moderate wing of a party that had been dominated by liberals from the Northeast.
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