Bernie Sanders' heart attack makes his age a legitimate issue

Last Tuesday, Bernie Sanders was suddenly was hospitalized and underwent a heart procedure. For three days, his campaign wouldn’t confirm one crucial detail about the incident: Did Sanders have a heart attack? Finally, last Friday as Sanders was being released from the hospital, his doctors revealed the truth. From the NY Times:

Senator Bernie Sanders had a heart attack this week, his presidential campaign said on Friday as he left a Las Vegas hospital, following three days of near silence from the candidate and his advisers about his health…

A heart attack means that a portion of the heart muscle died, starved of blood when a vessel was blocked, Dr. Gilbert Tang, a heart surgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said.

“The first question is, how serious was the heart attack? What muscle was damaged and how will that affect the heart’s function?” Dr. Tang said. “If it was a significant portion of the heart, will that affect the heart’s ability to pump?”

There have been various reports that Sanders was up pacing around the hospital but the fact remains he had a serious medical issue that highlights the fact he is a 78-year-old man who would be 79 if he were elected next November. That would make him by far the oldest man ever elected to the White House. The current record was set by Donald Trump who was 70 when inaugurated.

Sanders heart attack has received surprisingly gentle coverage in the media but today Politico reports that, behind the scenes, some Democrats are worried about how the campaign handled the incident:

“It’s one of those things where the cover-up is worse than the crime,” said Andres Ramirez, a Nevada-based Democratic strategist and former vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Caucus. “I don’t think anybody would have cared if they said he had a heart attack, got out a few days later, and then everything’s good.”

Instead, he said, “There seemed to be a refusal or hesitance to say, ‘Bernie Sanders had a heart attack.’ … I think it’s less of an issue about his age and more of an issue of, ‘Hey, Bernie, you’re supposed to be the transparent candidate.’”

That echoes complaints aired publicly by some left-leaning media types:

The focus on the opaque nature of the campaign is really secondary. The real issue here is that Bernie Sanders is too old to be president. Frankly, the same concerns go for Joe Biden too. He’s only a couple years younger than Sanders and would be 78 by the time he was inaugurated. I’m not the first to say these guys are too old. Some were saying it earlier this year, well before Sanders’ heart attack. Granted, his mind still seems clear but under the circumstances, it’s reasonable to ask whether he is strong enough to endure the withering pressure of one of the toughest jobs in the world.

Yes, I know that Jimmy Carter just turned 95 and is still doing pretty well despite a recent fall, but he was only 52 when he was inaugurated. Most presidents, historically speaking were in their 50s when they assumed office.

There’s a real potential risk here and not just for Sanders. What if he has another incident in 2021 after he’s elected? Suddenly taking a week off to recover is more significant than taking a break from the campaign trail. And can anyone really imagine an 83-year-old Sanders running for reelection?

Sanders was asked about his age a couple months ago by the Washington Post. You can see his answer below. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he’d missed work because of illness and pointed to his long history of good health. But that situation changed in a dramatic way last week. Maybe he and his supporters should take note of it: