Pneumonia, Senior Citizens and President Pence or President Kaine

William Henry HarrisonAt the time of his inauguration, the ninth US President, William Henry Harrison was 68 years, 23 days old.  He was the oldest person to assume the office.   On March 4. 1841 Harrison’s Inaugural Address, at 8,445 words, taking one hour and 45 minutes remains the longest in history. Harrison’s service as president, which ended with his death on April 4, 1841 remains the shortest in history.

Harrison was the first president to die in office. The Inaugural Address had been given in a snowstorm, and Harrison’s doctor announced the cause of the president’s death to be pneumonia.[1]John Tyler, the Vice-President, would become president,[2] creating a precedent that would last until the situation was clearly defined by the 25th Amendment.

John Tyler

Pneumonia Remains a Serious Killer of Senior Citizens

Even in the 21st Century, Pneumonia remains serious business for seniors. In 2013, pneumonia was the cause of death for 47,630 Americans over the age of 65. In 2014, it was the cause of death for 44.836 Americans over 65.  More than 120,000 died in 2014 of chronic lower respiratory disease. Often the victims of respiratory disease had had their immune and pulmonary systems weakened by previous bouts of pneumonia.

The disease that took the life of President Harrison was in the news recently, following Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s collapse at the 9/11 Memorial Service in New York.  Shortly following her collapse, it was announced Mrs. Clinton had been diagnosed with pneumonia the week before.

clinton-trumpWhoever wins the White House, Clinton, or her Republican rival for the presidency, Donald Trump, will be older than President Harrison was when he became the first president to die in office, succumbing to pneumonia.

The Importance of the Vice-President in 2016

kaine-penceThe conventional wisdom is that the positives or negatives of the vice-presidential candidates have little if any effect on the outcome of a presidential election. Voters concentrate on the top of the ticket with the running mate receiving little consideration. In 2016, given both age of both presidential nominees, and Clinton’s admitted brush with the fourth leading cause of senior death, voters would do well to consider the presidential potential of Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence.

In 1841, it was unclear if Vice-President Tyler would actually become the president. Thanks to the 25th Amendment it is clear that either Kaine or Pence would succeed to a presidency with authority that Tyler would not even be able to imagine.

Vice-presidential debates are often tedious, and typically not memorable. However, the single debate that took place between Pence and Kaine has been and will be the only chance to compare the two side by side as a possible president.

Those Americans who missed the debate would be wise to watch it. Those who did watch would be well advised to take a second look. When casting a vote for Clinton or Trump, Americans should consider the real possibility of a President Pence or President Kaine.

Here’s the Debate


[1] Pneumonia was the announced and accepted cause of Harrison’s death for over 170 years. There’s been more recent speculation that while pneumonia was an element, the president may have also contracted typhoid fever.

[2] John Tyler would become president. Since it had never happened before, Tyler’s status as president was uncertain. Tyler himself would resolve the question and increase his pay by 500%.


For Further Reading