Former President Jimmy Carter said if he were 80 years old he would not be able to handle the responsibilities of being President and joked that he hopes there is an “age limit” on the office.
The comments from the 94-year-old former commander-in-chief are especially notable as the age of the three top Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls, who are in their 70s, has been the subject of ongoing debate. The 39th president didn’t mention any Democratic candidates by name at a town hall at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday night when he was asked if he might consider running for a second, non-consecutive term.
“I hope there is an age limit,” he said as the audience laughed. “You know, if I were just 80 years old, if I were 15 years younger, I don’t believe I could undertake the duties that I experienced when I was President.”
Carter said the presidency requires mental fortitude and one must “be able to adapt to new ideas.”
“For one thing, you have to be very flexible with your mind. You have to be able to go from one subject to another on concentrate on each one adequately, and then put then all together in a comprehensive way like I did with Begin and Sadat with the peace agreement,” Carter said, referring to a 1979 Egypt-Israel treaty that was signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
He also said one must have “a lot of personal courage” when being president, citing the 1977 accords that handed over control of the waterway to Panama.
“So the things I faced then in foreign affairs, I don’t think I could undertake them when I was 80 years old. So 95 is out of the question. I had a hard time walking when I came in,” said Carter, whose birthday is on October 1.
Age has been an ongoing topic of discussion in the 2020 campaign. President Donald Trump, who is 73 years old, became the oldest first-term President when he was inaugurated, and the top three Democratic contenders – Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78; former Vice President Joe Biden, 76; and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 70 – would also be among the oldest first-term presidents in history.
Biden has said it’s “totally appropriate” for voters to consider his age when evaluating candidates, but he’s repeatedly said he’s up for the presidency.
CNN’s Rashard Rose contributed to this report.