Back in January, campaigning in New Hampshire, John McCain was asked whether he would be able to serve eight years as president, given his advanced age. McCain seemed to suggest that he might only serve one term: “If I said I was running for eight years, I’m not sure that would be a vote getter.”
The campaign quickly backpedaled and said McCain was only being speculative, but Marc Ambinder recently reported that McCain was “inches away” from pledging to serve only one term at the time that he formally announced his candidacy. “The idea to serve one term had long been discussed among top advisers,” Ambinder reported, “and McCain was on board.”
Speculation on this faded when the campaign insisted there was nothing to the story, but interest was renewed over the weekend when McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, sounded cagey on the subject.
As my friend A.L. noted in a very interesting item, it would shake up the race and help McCain deal with the age issue. Obama’s team, A.L. argued, needs to be prepared for the possibility.
First, and most importantly, they should point that–by taking that pledge–McCain renders himself a lame duck before his presidency even starts. When you’re not running for re-election, your influence is greatly diminished. Just look at all the amazing accomplishments of George W. Bush’s second term. […]
Second, the Obama camp should point out that it is completely unrealistic to think that you can accomplish all of the reforms this country needs in just one term. Only someone who plans on pursuing the status quo would make such a pledge.
And finally, I would point out what a gimmick and a sign of desperation the pledge is. McCain himself has previously ruled out making such a pledge. What changed? Obviously, he realized that he needed to do something dramatic and attention grabbing to have any shot at winning. This is a move driven by ambition, not selfless love of country.
That sounds right to me, though I’d just add one thing: I’m not sure it helps address the age issue, so much as it may accentuate it. If McCain pledges to serve only one term, isn’t he implicitly acknowledging that he’s already pretty old? Why else would a would-be president consider retirement before taking office?