eight terms in office, one hundred years on earth.
December 5, 2002 1:30 PM   Subscribe

eight terms in office, one hundred years on earth. he has been a democrat, he has been a republican, and at one time he was a mere three heartbeats away from sitting the oval office. he is senator strom thurmond, and today is his 111th 100th birthday. pushng shadows of ageism aside for a moment, this begs the question: just how old is too old to remain in office?
posted by grabbingsand (53 comments total)
die already.
posted by donkeyschlong at 1:36 PM on December 5, 2002

Well, Jesus died at 33 and accomplished quite a bit.
posted by four panels at 1:38 PM on December 5, 2002

Strom must be better than three Jesuses!
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:43 PM on December 5, 2002

The ONLY qualification for sitting in office is the vote of the electorate. People have elected dead people before. Just because you are unable to serve doesn't mean you aren't qualified. We live in a democracy, not a meritocracy.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:50 PM on December 5, 2002

Well said blue, you may not like Strom, you may think he's too old to make rational decisions, but that doesn't disqualify him according to the Constitution!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:56 PM on December 5, 2002

We live in a democracy, not a meritocracy.

We live in neither.
posted by jpoulos at 1:57 PM on December 5, 2002

Who wants to keep working that long?? When I'm 100, I plan to be kicking back old school in the best La Z Boy that can be had in 2067, pipe of non-carcinogenic latakia in my wrinkly mitt, non-hangovering vodka martini in the other, booting up my brainlink to Amazon's Virch New Fiction Room to slurp the next few chapters of Iain Banks' latest down into my long-term memory. Later on, I'll unplug for dinner (vat-grown fried chicken! Mmmmm....), a few more of those martinis (supplemented with all my daily vitamin/mineral/drug requirements), and a pleasant evening of regalling my great-grandkids with stories of how tough we had it last century. "You shoulda seen it, kids - we had to TYPE text to get stuff off the 'net - voice recog didn't work worth a crap! And nary an AI in sight! Everything was run by human sysadmins...")
posted by UncleFes at 1:58 PM on December 5, 2002

blue_beetle: yes, but as far as I know, those dead people didn't actually serve. It would appear that a pulse is also necessary.

Oh, plus US citizenship and all that stuff.
posted by Acetylene at 2:00 PM on December 5, 2002

Oh, plus US citizenship and all that stuff.

and, some would argue, a whole lotta money.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:02 PM on December 5, 2002

how old is too old ?

yer too old when yer political thinking ceases to be quaint and is viewed by the largest portion of the population to be " archaic " .
posted by mishaco at 2:06 PM on December 5, 2002

adorably archaic!
posted by UncleFes at 2:09 PM on December 5, 2002

The best part of the article: The state museum is to display Thurmond artifacts .
If I get old enough to have my things called "artifacts", I think someone should put me out of my misery.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:17 PM on December 5, 2002

Well, Jesus died at 33 and accomplished quite a bit.

- you just ruined the ending of the book I'm reading.
posted by johnnyboy at 2:21 PM on December 5, 2002

OK, so he's an artifact past his prime, but doesn't anybody see it as... well, sad (and not just a little pathetic) that he's been literally living at Walter Reed since he collapsed last year, for the sole purpose of maintaining a pulse until the moment he turned 100 and could say he was the Senate's first centenarian? What the hell kind of life is that to lead?
posted by JollyWanker at 2:22 PM on December 5, 2002

Have a listen to Strom defending segregation here (real player).
posted by josephtate at 2:40 PM on December 5, 2002

This guy looks in great shape for 100. And to be a Senator he must be of sound mind. Keep him in.

I'd rather have old wisdom sitting in the halls of power than a bunch of twenty-somethings with socialist ideals but without the experience of why getting everything for free from the government doesn't work.
posted by wackybrit at 2:43 PM on December 5, 2002

Old wisdom? Longest filibuster in Senate history for arguing against the Civil Rights Act? No significant bills passed, but he's got a museum and a highway named after him... he's not wise, he's a prime pork procurer.
posted by krewson at 2:51 PM on December 5, 2002

wackybrit: That's one hell of a false dichotomy you've got there.
posted by Acetylene at 3:01 PM on December 5, 2002

prime pork procurer

Try saying that five times fast.
posted by gazingus at 3:28 PM on December 5, 2002

We live in a democracy, not a meritocracy.
We live in neither.

We live in both.
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:54 PM on December 5, 2002

Strom was a Democrat when he argued against the civil rights act, and a bit ahead of his time, since the Demos are the only party that still support legalized discrimination, in the form of affirmative action.
posted by Beholder at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2002

wackybrit, as SC's "prime pork procurer", thurmond is the very definition of someone who believes in "getting everything for free from the government."

From his leading of the walkout of segregationist democrats from the 1948 democratic convention to his opposition to the civil rights act, he made major moral errors in his political career (he ran on a "segregation forever" platform!). It was only when he saw segregationist candidates that he supported in SC begin to lose elections that he realized he should stop following this policy.

It's hard for me to decide if it was worse if he was a morally defective human being for actually holding those ideas or whether he is worse for simply supporting morally dark policies in pursuit of votes. Is it worse to actually be evil or merely to serve evil for personal gain, abandoning it when it's no longer profitable?
posted by deanc at 3:55 PM on December 5, 2002

We live in a democracy, not a meritocracy.
We live in neither.

We live in both.

Yeah, just look at our president...oops. Never mind.

Some thoughts on Strom.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:22 PM on December 5, 2002

Could we settle on 'democratic republic'?
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:32 PM on December 5, 2002

Could we settle on 'democratic republic'

We could. Didn't mean to derail, I just couldn't resist responding to my friend Midas, given that we've got a President who achieved the office neither through democracy nor merit.
posted by Ty Webb at 4:35 PM on December 5, 2002

I just hope that when I turn 100, my knickname is "Sperm" too.
posted by kablam at 4:39 PM on December 5, 2002

We live in a democracy, not a meritocracy.
We live in neither.

We live in both.

MidasMulligan is a logic magician.
posted by four panels at 4:49 PM on December 5, 2002

Seriously, it's a republic. A democratic republic. Doesn't matter if you sound like an asshole saying it. If you think it sounds cool to say it's an anarcho-syndicalist commune, go for it, but it's still a republic.
posted by Hildago at 4:56 PM on December 5, 2002

I live in the USA, where you can be free to do this regardless if he is able or not.

Blame the voters, they voted him into this position, not him.

Let an elder have some peace he deserves it, 100 years on earth, uck....imop.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:05 PM on December 5, 2002

posted by Hildago at 5:29 PM on December 5, 2002

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

You must have had to weed through a lot of 'it IS a republic, NOT a democracy' links to find the one you did, a google search of "democracy vs. republic" yielded remarkably in favor of republic, or at least democratic republic.
posted by gatorae at 5:31 PM on December 5, 2002

oops on the double for the first link, i meant this
posted by gatorae at 5:32 PM on December 5, 2002

I think it's funny that it's even debated, as it's fairly official and there's not a lot of gray area. But this is all way off topic. Hopefully it didn't kill the thread.
posted by Hildago at 5:33 PM on December 5, 2002

Yeah, not to derail the thread or anything, but seriously, I'm bored with the "it's a Republic" crap. Stop saying it; you sound like an asshole. It's a Democracy. De-mo-cra-cy. Deal with it.


Sorry...too easy.
posted by BlueTrain at 6:08 PM on December 5, 2002

wackybrit, as SC's "prime pork procurer", thurmond is the very definition of someone who believes in "getting everything for free from the government."

My knowledge of US politics is not deep, but I always thought the Republicans tended to be further 'Right' than the Democrats.. and, as such, I'd expect a Republican to be less socialist. That said, I also know that many Senators wander quite far from the party line, so is that the case here?
posted by wackybrit at 6:45 PM on December 5, 2002

A bit more on topic...

I think that "three heartbeats from the Oval Office" is a bit of a stretch. He was a third party candidate who won 4 southern states in 1948. Truman (and Dewey for that matter) garnered way more votes than he did. Thurmond was never a serious threat to win.
posted by rbellon at 6:48 PM on December 5, 2002

Actually, rbellon, I believe that grabbingsand was referring to thesethree heartbeats. http://www.doctorzebra.com/prez/a_succession.htm
posted by BlueTrain at 7:01 PM on December 5, 2002

I always thought the Republicans tended to be further 'Right' than the Democrats.. and, as such, I'd expect a Republican to be less socialist.

Earmarking large chunks of the tax budget for your own constituency and its pet projects is neither 'socialist' or 'capitalist'. It's simply smart, distasteful politics. US Senators of all colours, though most notably on the Republican side, with their numerous business interests, are particularly good at this kind of legal embezzlement, in part because their six-year terms and good re-election prospects make them a useful long-term investment.

All the talk of 'small government' be damned if it means inserting a rider which diverts a few billion to your home state, or keeps one of your big donors from being sued.

Anyway, I'm sure that it's only a matter of time before Strom joins the Queen Mum (gawd bless er!) in the corner of the afterlife reserved for geriatric bigots.
posted by riviera at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2002

Thanks BlueTrain. My brain must have dozed off when I read the FPP.
posted by rbellon at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2002

From Maxim (via Fark):

Nine Things Strom is Older Than:

1. AM/FM radio
2. Human flight
3. The Panama Canal
4. Wristwatches
5. Tea bags
6. Ice cream cones
7. The World Series
8. The states of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii
9. Dick Clark

Good god.

He's older than *radio*?! Older than five states?!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:11 PM on December 5, 2002

2. Human flight

Amazing longevity! Imagine the excitement the brothers Montgolfier's discoveries must have created back in 1783.
posted by cx at 1:03 AM on December 6, 2002

www.stromwatch.com : complete with a nifty counter displaying how long he's been alive, and some equally nifty facts about the man. Facts such as:

James Strom Thurmond was born on December 5, 1902 in Edgefield, South Carolina
He has been alive for almost half of the entire history of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt was president when Strom was born
He has been alive during the terms of 18 (out of 43) U.S. Presidents
He was 14 when Lenin took power in Russia and John F. Kennedy was born
He was 17 when women were granted the right to vote
He's old enough to be George W. Bush's or Bill Clinton's grandfather
He is one of few living politicians to have received votes from Civil War veterans
He was 24 when the first movie featuring spoken dialogue (The Jazz Singer) was released
He won an election 18 years before Bill Clinton or G. W. Bush were born
He was elected state senator in 1933, the same year that Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany.
He was 42 when the U.S. dropped the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima
He was elected governor of SC in 1946 (The same year W and Clinton were born). He was governor from 1947 to 1951
In 1954 he was a successful write-in candidate as U.S. Senator, after an extensive government and press sponsored campaign to teach the semi-literate South Carolina populace how to write his name.
He is the oldest sitting and longest serving senator in U.S. history.
He has been a senator for one fifth of the entire history of the United States
He has been a senator through the terms of 10 U.S. Presidents. He was older than 9 of them.
When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate, there were only 48 states in the union
He holds the record for the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history at 24 hours and 18 minutes, in opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act. He began his filibuster by reading the texts of the election laws of all 48 states.
In 1897, Strom's father Will shot and killed a political foe who called him a "low, dirty, scoundrel". He was acquitted after pleading self-defense
He was rumored to have been sexually involved with the only woman to ever receive the death penalty in South Carolina
He's old enough to be Bob Dole's father
Mark Twain was still writing when Strom was born
A dozen senators have died in office since Strom Thurmond turned 70
He was 52 when Bill Gates was born
He was 78 when the IBM PC was introduced in 1981
He served as a senator alongside George W. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush
He was 32 (and already a state senator) when Elvis Presley was born
posted by spatula at 1:17 AM on December 6, 2002

Good Boston Globe profile here:
A Thurmond century: lion to lamb

It includes the famous 1948 quote: ''not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to ... admit the Negro race into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.''
I wonder if they'll read this at his very moving, very patriotic funeral (anyway Bob Dole already said that the 20th Century will be known as "The Age of Nixon", therefore it's too late to award that Century to good old Strom)

a microcosm of what Reagan's imminent death
well, at least Reagan never screamed "segregation forever" (and anyway he was way subtler -- he just began his 1980 campaign, of all places, in Philadelphia, Mississippi). Because, Reagan, well... every once in a while Reagan would just send out these laser beam signals that were crystal clear. His first speech in his campaign in 1980 was in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which nobody outside of Mississippi had ever heard of except for one thing and that was that three civil rights workers were killed there in 1964. Reagan said then I'm for states rights. If you say I'm for states rights in Mississippi, everybody knows what you're talking about. Some years later he went to Atlanta and he said Jefferson Davis is a hero of mine (PBS link)

three heartbeats from the Oval Office

what heartbeat?
posted by matteo at 2:42 AM on December 6, 2002

It's been common knowledge in South Carolina that Strom's way past his sell-by date for at least 20 years. I met him in 1988 and even then his aides accompanied him everywhere, one on each elbow, saying "Let's walk over here, Senator," "Senator, walk over here," "Senator, let's greet these people." South Carolinians have kept him in, however, mostly for the pork he's (or not him, so much as Strom, Inc.) been amazingly successful at bringing to the state. State Republicans have generally refused to challenge him (there may have been a few, but I don't feel like looking it up) and even State Democrats have generally only offered token challenges.

Strom's age has also permitted him to say things others might not want to: at the start of the first Gulf War he made a remark on the use of nuclear weapons in the conflict. His comment was duly noted while his colleagues were all able to shake their heads at "crazy" ol' Strom.

Matteo's comments remind me that Strom also strongly opposed Hawaii's request for statehood. He feared--as I recall reading--island communists as well as the inclusion of an "ethnically dissimilar" (not an exact quote) population.

Of course, the new guy is looking like he'll be even more fun ...
posted by octobersurprise at 6:34 AM on December 6, 2002

I'm confused. Is Strom is a democracy or a republic?
posted by tolkhan at 8:19 AM on December 6, 2002

As much as I loved Senator Byrd's speech about the Iraq resolution, I giggled whenever he used the term "electronic lenses" to refer to television. Or is it television cameras? Meanwhile Strom was riding around on his Rascal thinking about that sweet, sweet molasses.

Wait, I'm sorry, there are no Senators, this isn't a republic. (hee hee)
posted by Hildago at 10:14 AM on December 6, 2002

Sweet molasses, indeed, Hildago. One of the still unanswered questions of Thurmond's life and career is if he really is Essie Mae Washington's father.

(I'll just say too, that I include this link not in an attempt to denigrate the man--his record will speak for itself--but because the story of Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter is as much a part of South Carolina folklore/history as Thurmond is himself.)
posted by octobersurprise at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2002

Please remember Strom Thurmond was a product of his times (as was George Wallace and Jesse Helms).

At a certain time in our nation's history, someone who wasn't a segregationist had a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected in the South. Sad, sick, evil, but a fact. I would hope that as these men got older their thinking evolved with the times. At least in Wallace's case that seems to have happened-I personally believe Helms' case as well.

It blows my mind that Thurmond kept getting elected at his age, but the South is a sentimental place.
posted by konolia at 12:14 PM on December 6, 2002

spatula...I think you left out the most interesting contribution the man made to this country. He volunteered to join the army at the ripe old age of 39(easily draft exempt), and on June 6, 1944, he landed in France in a glider and participated in the capture of St. Mere Eglise. During his service in Europe, he was awarded a Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and a Purple Heart. For all his other crazy quirks and legislative productivity or lack thereof, that makes him an okay guy in my book.
posted by cyclopz at 12:40 PM on December 6, 2002

Cyclopz, didn't know that, and it's interesting, but do you mean what you say, or are you being rhetorical? Vocal contempt for the civil rights movement is outweighed in your book by volunteering for (and doing well in) the army?
posted by Hildago at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2002

someone who wasn't a segregationist had a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected in the South.

That's almost, but not entirely true, konolia. Maybe it's closer to the truth to say that being a raving segregationist helped get a candidate elected and certainly helped make an electee a name to reckon with if he so chose. But non-segregationists did get elected in the south. Take Wallace for example: Wallace--as I recall--ran as a relatively liberal/populist candidate early in his career, but only started to loudly espouse segregationism after he decided to become a state, regional, and national figure of major importance. Vocal segregationism was a political choice these men made which the climate of the times made easy, but didn't determine.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:03 PM on December 6, 2002

I just think you have to separate the two. As konolia said above, politically the man was a product of his place and time. That doesn't make it right...it just is what it is, and like many of his contemporaries, he a least made a show of trying to make up for the mistakes he made as a younger man. In Thurmond's case, I think you would find many South Carolinians, both black and white, would argue that he was serious about it.

He was living a pretty nice life. He could have completely forgone military service during WWII...he could certainly have found a way to serve that didn't require him to go into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne on day one. I just think he deserves a little respect for that part of his life.
posted by cyclopz at 1:19 PM on December 6, 2002

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