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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Heartbeat Away

On the face of it, one of the stronger arguments against McCain/Palin is that McCain is older than dirt and will likely keel over any second now, and that Palin is too inexperienced to take over when that happens.

So what is the likelihood that McCain does indeed shuffle off this mortal coil shortly after being elected? I'm surprised that I haven't seen this probability published in any of the dozens of articles that I've read that have made the above argument.

I looked up the relevant probabilities in the Social Security Administrations Actuarial Life Table. I don't think there is any information regarding McCain that would allow us to do better than these tables. Yes, he's had skin cancer and his ancestors have died somewhat younger than average. On the other hand, he looks reasonably fit, healthy, and vibrant, and I think that pushes him back towards having typical life expectancy. Maybe not, but it's still an interesting exercise to consider life expectancies for typical men of McCain's age.

From the tables, McCain has close to 97% probability of surviving the first year and better than 85% chance of surviving all four years. So no, he's not all that likely to kick the bucket during the next presidential term.

Another way of looking at it is this. If experience is critically important, and you consider McCain to be adequately experienced, but Obama only to be 80% likely to be adequately experienced for situations that might come up in the next four years, you'd be better off voting for McCain, even if you think that Palin certainly does not have adequate experience.


Howard said...

Those are around the probabilities I would guess without looking at the tables. The life expectancy at birth versus 'at a specific advanced age' trips up many people.

Ali said...

Do those tables account for 5 years of being tortured in Vietnam and the intense stress that being president can cause?

Look at pictures of Bill and W in the first year of their presidency compared to 2000/now for illustrations of the latter. And really, even a 15% chance of Palin becoming president over the next four years is too big a risk to take.

Frankly, Barry O is looking the safer pick.

Anonymous said...

Even if you think Obama would be a worse President than Palin? Seriously, for what reason would you rather have Obama?

Howard said...

...even a 15% chance of Palin becoming president over the next four years...

a feature, not a bug!

Bret said...


What's really to fear about a Palin presidency? What exactly will she do (or not do) that will be devastating, especially given a democratic congress?

erp said...

Bret, you beat me to it. I'd like to know why Ali thinks Obama would do a better job than Palin.

He'd obviously try to take the country far left, but I didn't think Ali thought that was the way to go.

Ali said...

Unlike AOG, I doubt Obama is much of a socialist now. Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee are his top economic advisers and they're about as Red as Robert Rubin\Larry Summers. Furman in particular has been one of the most prominent defenders of Wal-Mart and free trade in DLC circles.

Also what doesn't get remarked on is how cold-blooded and ruthless Obama is. He will throw anyone under the bus if it interferes with his quest for power. He doesn't really have an ideology beyond some mild inclinations towards "social justice". He's not going to embark on some left-wing crusade to turn America into Sweden. He'd be far more interested in being centrist enough to win another four-year term. You'd be seeing a lot of rhetoric and a whole lot of inaction. Unlike McCain, he is very unlikely to involve the US in another war, that is unless the polls are very much in favour of doing so.

Re Palin, there is little to no information on her policy views (probably because she doesn't have any) and how likely she is to be a competent president and CINC. Unlike Obama, she hasn't been up and down the entire country campaigning hard which is an education in itself. Her convention speech was filled with exaggerations and lies about her opposition to raising taxes, pork-barrel spending, the Bridge to Nowhere, the Obama tax plan and her record as a reformer. That doesn't say much for her character. Picking her was another in a long line of reckless moves by a temperamental prima donna in thrall to his ego.

Anonymous said...

The Democratic Party control of Congress will provide all the impetus needed to go a long way toward Socialism in the USA. Obama will just be standing at the front of the boat. It is, in fact, the same thing that most concerns me about McCain, that he wouldn't resist much more than Obama would. The pick of Palin means that at least one person in the White House would be arguing strongly the other way.

I think there's quite a bit known about Palin's policy views, mostly good to very good. Unlike Mr Choudhury, I thought Palin's speech was far more accurate than just about anything Obama has ever said. One needs to be very careful in evaluating what Palin says because Old Media has demonstrated that they will simply make stuff up to disparage her.