Journalist Michael Kinsley (L) speaks onstage with Jonathan Chait at the American Magazine Media Conference on February 2 in New York City.

Journalist Michael Kinsley (L) speaks onstage with Jonathan Chait at the American Magazine Media Conference on February 2 in New York City.

More than 20 years ago, journalist Michael Kinsley, founder of Slate and contributor to Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. For several years, he kept the diagnosis private, preferring to avoid what he calls “aggressive victimhood.” Eight years later, though, he went public in a TIME magazine piece titled, “In Defense of Denial.” Now in his sixties, he calls himself “a scout for his generation,” experiencing in his fifties what fellow baby boomers won’t experience until decades later. He says the competition among his peers shouldn’t be about longevity but instead about cognition. A conversation with journalist Michael Kinsley on lessons learned from his early journey into old age.


  • Michael Kinsley Journalist and political commentator, contributor to "Vanity Fair" and "The New Yorker" magazines; founder of Slate

Read An Excerpt

Copyright © 2016 by Michael Kinsley. From the book OLD AGE by Michael Kinsley, published by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. 


Old Age


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Twenty years ago, Michael Kinsley was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He was 43 years old. Today, the founder of Slate and former editor of Harper's and the New Republic says we are born thinking that we will live forever. In a series of essays, Kinsley writes about what he's learned about aging while living with Parkinson's. He says baby boomers should be less focused on longevity and more on the quality of those years.

  • 11:07:30

    MS. DIANE REHMHis new book is titled "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide." Journalist Michael Kinsley joins me in the studio. I do invite you, as always, to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send your email to Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Michael, it's always good to see you.

  • 11:07:59

    MR. MICHAEL KINSLEYNice to be here.

  • 11:08:00

    REHMThank you. Michael, you open the first chapter of your book by saying, this is not a book about Parkinson's disease and yet, to a certain extent, it is your reflection on Parkinson's disease among other reflections.

  • 11:08:26

    KINSLEYWell, it turned out to be more about Parkinson's disease than I intended.

  • 11:08:30


  • 11:08:30

    KINSLEYYes, because, well, that's my experience that I bring to the topic of getting old and you got to write what you know so that it's -- and that was a bit disingenuous. It's more or less about Parkinson's disease.

  • 11:08:50

    REHMBut it's also about your personal experience in life with Parkinson's disease and, I think, particularly about that moment that you were asked if you'd like to head up the New Yorker magazine. What happened?

  • 11:09:15

    KINSLEYWell, I don't want to get into that too much.

  • 11:09:19

    REHMWell, you don't have to, but you can tell me about it.

  • 11:09:24

    KINSLEYYeah. Well, I was offered the editorship of the New Yorker magazine and then the offer was withdrawn just hours later. And I was rather disappointed and I don't think the owner of the New Yorker was -- I don't think it was about Parkinson's at least originally, but it might well have been that he wouldn't have offered it to me if he'd known. But, you know, that was long ago and he's behaved very well since then.

  • 11:10:11

    KINSLEYEvery time this comes up, he confirms it and David Remnick, who became the editor of the New Yorker, has done a fantastic job.

  • 11:10:20

    REHMI agree. I agree.

  • 11:10:22

    KINSLEYSo and I had a fantastic time founding Slate, met my wife out in Seattle so it was really a happy ending for everybody.

  • 11:10:32

    REHMI'm glad to hear that. You spent a number of years denying, even perhaps to yourself, that you had Parkinson's. Tell us what your first reaction was when you got the diagnosis and then why you decided to keep it quiet.

  • 11:10:58

    KINSLEYWell, it was precisely because if anyone thought of offering me the editorship of the New Yorker or something like that, I wanted to be in the position to take it. And so it was careerist in part and in part, it was psychological. The less you think about it, the less if affects your life.

  • 11:11:21

    REHMYou think that if you sort of push it to the side and try not to think about it, you will be less affected by it.

  • 11:11:35

    KINSLEYYes. There are sort of two ways to react to news, bad news like this. One is to sort of embrace it, you know, and become part of the community of people who have this disease and become and activist for more research money and any number of ways to sort of impale yourself on the disease. Or the other way, and this applies to all sorts of bad news, is to try not to think about it, basically. And that means denying it.

  • 11:12:18

    KINSLEYI say in the book I tried very hard not to lie to anybody, but I probably failed very often because it's much easier to maintain denial if the people around you don't know. And that -- I mean, I'm sorry. I apologize to anyone who feels mislead.

  • 11:12:44

    REHMDo you recall the first symptoms you had that lead you to try to find out what was going on?

  • 11:12:56

    KINSLEYYes. I was in my doctor's office, my internist and I said, you know, my hand -- I can't even remember which hand -- is sort of stiff and shaky at the same time. And he says, you ought to see a neurologist. And I went to see the neurologist and he said, you have Parkinson's. Or he didn't say it directly. He started talking about basal ganglia. And I didn't have a clue what basal ganglia was.

  • 11:13:25

    REHMI do.

  • 11:13:25

    KINSLEYYes. Well, you know a lot more about Parkinson's than I do, Diane.

  • 11:13:29

    REHMWell, but the same basal ganglia affects my speech so I know a fair amount about the basal ganglia.

  • 11:13:39

    KINSLEYWell, anyway, I said, what are you -- what is basal ganglia? What are you talking about? And he said, I'm talking about Parkinson's disease. They don't, in medical school, train them very well about delivering bad news. And this doctor could've been a little smoother, I think.

  • 11:14:00

    REHMAnd your reaction?

  • 11:14:03

    KINSLEYMy reaction, I can't say on public radio, but it was oh, my goodness.

  • 11:14:12

    REHMYeah. And did he offer you or she offer you any guidance that you could then have with Parkinson's?

  • 11:14:23

    KINSLEYHis guidance was go see a specialist, which I did, and I've been to any number of them so far and some of them extremely dedicated and extremely smart and extremely experienced and none of them has any really useful advice.

  • 11:14:42

    REHMYou know, Michael, you got this disease on the early side and that meant you were going to have to live a long time with it because Parkinson's doesn't necessarily lead to demise. It can lead to disability, but doesn't necessarily kill you.

  • 11:15:12

    KINSLEYNo. I was very relieved to find that out. And that was one of the first things that, I think, even this doctor, the original doctor, said, it's not a fatal disease. The way he put it is you still have to floss. And...

  • 11:15:28

    REHMAnd that was your humor that you made sure to put in this book.

  • 11:15:35

    KINSLEYWell, I hope so. But it's -- well...

  • 11:15:43

    REHMIt's writing about it with humor that you are able to do. Can you look at yourself with the same humor?

  • 11:15:56

    KINSLEYWell, I hope so. Well, I hope so. I think what choice do you have. You might as well laugh at it.

  • 11:16:12

    REHMLaughing at it is a way to perhaps deny that you have it?

  • 11:16:20

    KINSLEYYes, yes. Yes, they tell you it's not fatal, which apparently it isn't, but in the obits, which I now read and I didn't 20 years ago, it says someone died of complications of Parkinson's or after a long illness or something like that. And I think that's amusing.

  • 11:16:52


  • 11:16:53


  • 11:16:54


  • 11:16:55

    KINSLEYWell, because they're denying the inevitable and the obvious.

  • 11:17:04

    REHMWhat has happened to you with Parkinson's? Explain that.

  • 11:17:11

    KINSLEYWell, I've been very, very lucky and I still have very minor symptoms. I think you're looking at me now and you probably noticing my eye twitches. And that's close to the main side effect that I've had. What else? I mean, my wife could tell you. I have trouble sleeping. You have skin problems. I mean, it's a wide variety of small problems.

  • 11:17:51

    REHMWe'll talk further about Parkinson's and Michael Kinsley's new book, "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide." 800-433-8850. Stay with us.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. Michael Kinsley is with me. He is, of course, the founder of Slate, a columnist at Vanity Fair and contributor to The New Yorker magazine. He's written a lovely, small book. It's titled "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide." And he's here in the studio. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Michael, you had deep-brain stimulation...

  • 11:20:41


  • 11:20:41

    REHM...which is one of the newer treatments for Parkinson's disease. Do you remember having had that?

  • 11:20:53

    KINSLEYYes. I remember it. It's nothing you forget...

  • 11:20:56

    REHMTell me about it.

  • 11:20:57 matter how bad your memory may get. Well, it's -- it -- mine lasted nine hours.

  • 11:21:03


  • 11:21:04

    KINSLEYBecause it just took that long for them to take a little wire and wire it through your brain.

  • 11:21:12

    REHMDid they drill a hole in your skull?

  • 11:21:16

    KINSLEYYes. And they said, we're drilling a hole in your skull. They told me this in advance.

  • 11:21:20

    REHMYou didn't feel that?

  • 11:21:21

    KINSLEYAnd they said it -- they said it's very small. And then it turned out they said, now, it's just dime size. And I'd been thinking, piece-of-said size.

  • 11:21:30

    REHMRight. Right.

  • 11:21:31

    KINSLEYSo I was a little taken aback by that. You cannot feel it because you don't have any pain nerves in your head, in your brain, at least. So that was...

  • 11:21:46

    REHMAnd you had to be awake the entire time.

  • 11:21:49

    KINSLEYYes. That's -- the two bad things about it are, you have to be awake the whole time and that -- I can't remember what the other one is.

  • 11:22:03

    REHMAnd the other one was that it took so long, nine hours. Now, were they asking you questions during this period?

  • 11:22:11

    KINSLEYYes. It was interesting, the whole experience. They would, you know, put the wire in. And then they would say, try to move your left hand. Try to move your right hand. Squint. And they were -- just to make sure that they were reconnecting the switches in the right place.

  • 11:22:35

    REHMAnd you had to answer them.

  • 11:22:38

    KINSLEYYeah. That's why you have to be awake.

  • 11:22:41

    REHMAnd how did you feel afterwards?

  • 11:22:44

    KINSLEYOh, well, euphoric.

  • 11:22:46


  • 11:22:47

    KINSLEYWell, because it was over, mainly. And I think -- oh, the other bad thing is they have to screw your head...

  • 11:22:57

    REHMOh, right.

  • 11:22:57 the table.

  • 11:22:58


  • 11:22:59

    KINSLEYAnd that's not pleasant. There are people -- there are neurosurgeons who don't require that. But I wouldn't go to one of those because I want them to get it right.

  • 11:23:12

    REHMOkay. But tell me what kind of difference you felt, that that deep-brain stimulation actually made in your Parkinson's.

  • 11:23:24

    KINSLEYWell, it was remarkable. At first, all the symptoms went away, or just about went away.

  • 11:23:32

    REHMAll what symptoms?

  • 11:23:33

    KINSLEYWell, the stiffness and the...

  • 11:23:39


  • 11:23:40

    KINSLEYYes. And, well, basically that. It went away, even though they didn't turn on the juice, you know? And that's...

  • 11:23:53

    REHMThey hadn't done that yet.

  • 11:23:54

    KINSLEYYes. You have the operation and then two weeks later or three weeks later -- doctor decide -- you -- they turn on the juice. And whatever effect it's going to have takes effect.

  • 11:24:05

    REHMBecause you've got an implanted little battery.

  • 11:24:09

    KINSLEYI've got -- yeah, I've got two of them. Now, they can do it with one. But in that time, you needed two. And, well...

  • 11:24:23

    REHMSo once they turned on the juice, Michael, then what happened?

  • 11:24:29

    KINSLEYWell, as I say -- well, before they turn on the juice, you nevertheless feel all the symptoms going away. That's because the process of installing the wires duplicates the effect of the electricity. It's the same -- it sort of rubs against -- and this is very amateurish explanation -- it rubs against your brain and it's like -- it's as if they've turned on the juice, which is a terrible term too. So then, over the course of the next few weeks, you gradually -- the symptoms come back. And then you go to them and they turn on the juice, as I guess we're going to say, and miraculously the symptoms go away again. And it's -- it happens within 10 seconds, I'd say.

  • 11:25:31

    REHMI want to read part of what you've written, because you talk a great deal about cognition and the importance -- greater importance of cognition in growing old. That growing old is not simply a matter of longevity, that growing old is, if you can hold on to your cognition. So, you've written, The rules of competitive cognition are simple. The winners are whoever dies with more of their marbles. Death before dementia is your rallying cry. You write about the 79 million boomers, 28 million of them expected to develop Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. Lewy bodies dementia goes with that, and that is something that goes along with Parkinson's quite frequently.

  • 11:27:00

    KINSLEYYes. Well, it does. My thesis in the book is that your -- what is my thesis in the book?

  • 11:27:19

    REHMYour thesis is...

  • 11:27:21

    KINSLEYIs that Parkinson's is like growing old, except that it happens earlier. And that we can judge that I have experience in this, that I can apply to my fellow boomers who haven't experienced it yet but will. And certainly dementia is the worst of those symptoms.

  • 11:27:48

    REHMAre you fearful that dementia may overtake you?

  • 11:27:52

    KINSLEYSure. I mean, it's not for certain. It's not like Alzheimer's, which is all about dementia. Dementia is one of the, you know, many, many factors we were discussing that can be part of Parkinson's. And usually, if you're old enough and you have it long enough, it will be part of it. And this has all been discovered in the past 20 years or so, while I was out denying I had it.

  • 11:28:30

    REHMYou no longer deny you have it.

  • 11:28:33

    KINSLEYWell, I've written a book, so and I'm trying to publicize it. So I can't very well be denying it.

  • 11:28:41

    REHMWhat are you saying to the boomers coming along?

  • 11:28:48

    KINSLEYWell, I'm saying, think of what your purpose in life is. And this is without being, you know, Pollyannaish. Be -- start out being as greedy and selfish as you want. It still makes no sense to build your life around things because you can't take your fancy car or your fancy house with you. That's a cliché, but it's true. So then you think, well, what really counts is longevity. And then you think, well, what good's longevity if you don't know you're having it? So the real thing you want to be -- maximize is longevity. And then you think, well, you know, I'm not going to live forever in any event. It's reputation that counts. You know? I'm going to be dead for longer than I'm alive. And so that's what I really want to maximize.

  • 11:29:55

    REHMYour reputation and what you've accomplished.

  • 11:29:59

    KINSLEYYes. And, well, there's two kinds of reputation. There's your family. You want to be remembered by -- just being remembered, leaving aside remembering for what, is sort of important I think. And you want to be remembered as a good person in your family and your community. And then some people reach for more. In the book, I talk about Jane Austen...

  • 11:30:26


  • 11:30:27

    KINSLEY...who, apparently, there's a woman named -- I can't remember her name -- but who, at the time, was considered better...

  • 11:30:38

    REHMA much better writer.

  • 11:30:40

    KINSLEY...better than Jane Austen.

  • 11:30:41


  • 11:30:42

    KINSLEYAnd I don't -- I haven't read anything, but I find that hard to believe.

  • 11:30:49

    REHMBut there was actually a group of people intent on keeping Jane Austen's memory, reputation...

  • 11:31:00


  • 11:31:01

    REHM...alive and even to grow it.

  • 11:31:03

    KINSLEYYes. And it worked for a while. Ultimately, Jane Austen triumphed. This was partly because of this group, as you say. Her nephew, I think, wrote a very favorable biography of her. And basically, though, I think, it wasn't these artificial things. I would vote for Jane Austen over Ted Cruz or Donald Trump or anyone.

  • 11:31:37

    REHMWe're going to get to the election in a moment. But I want to ask you about your meeting -- your accidental meeting with Robert McNamara.

  • 11:31:51

    KINSLEYOh, well, I was on a plane going to Denver. And I turned and in the next seat was Robert McNamara, who I guess you have to explain to some of your listeners, Diane, was the secretary of defense under Kennedy and Johnson, and largely -- or at least partially -- responsible for the Vietnam War and turned against the war in 1968 -- a little convenient, in my opinion. But then spent the rest of his life trying to make amends. And I asked him what he was doing going to Denver. And he said he was going there to meet his girlfriend and they were going to go cross-country skiing from Aspen to Denver or Aspen to Vail or something.

  • 11:32:45

    KINSLEYAnd I thought, this guy has really won the race of life. He's -- here he is, he must have been in his 80s and he's cross-country skiing with his girlfriend at fashionable resorts. But, you know, you can't -- even denying that to Robert McNamara, wouldn't give it to someone else. So what's the point in even, you know, caring about him?

  • 11:33:21

    REHMDid you want to know whether he felt guilty?

  • 11:33:26

    KINSLEYOh, I wouldn't ask that on an airplane. Sure I was -- I think it's pretty clear. There's actually a very good movie about Robert McNamara feeling guilty, although it's all in terms of -- I think it's in terms of World War II. He sort of moves it back a generation.

  • 11:33:50

    REHMInteresting. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." One of the earliest stories you tell in this book -- and I'd like to hear about it -- is about the man in the pool. Tell that story.

  • 11:34:11

    KINSLEYWell, I don't know what the point of it is but I just thought it was sort charming. But I used to get up early. I was in -- working in Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Times. And I had an apartment that was walking distance from the Times. I was the only person in Los Angeles, I think, who could walk to work. And so I used to swim my laps before I went to work, because the one thing that is essential -- if anyone listening has Parkinson's -- is exercise. And so I'm pretty scrupulous about that.

  • 11:34:45

    REHMBut there you were scrupulous long before you had Parkinson's. Isn't that correct?

  • 11:34:52

    KINSLEYWell, I knew I had Parkinson's at this...

  • 11:34:54

    REHMEven then.

  • 11:34:56


  • 11:34:56

    REHMI see.

  • 11:34:57

    KINSLEYSo there was -- I thought I was alone in the pool. And then I noticed this old, old man swimming laps very, very slowly. And he said -- he comes up and he looks at me and he says, I'm 90 years old. I used to be a judge. And -- as if he was supposed to -- I was supposed to give him some sort of prize for that. And I thought, well, what's so great about it?

  • 11:35:30

    REHMYou thought that...

  • 11:35:32


  • 11:35:32

    REHM...but you didn't say that.

  • 11:35:34


  • 11:35:34


  • 11:35:35

    KINSLEYAnd his -- I just wrote this in The New Yorker.

  • 11:35:39

    REHMYou wrote it in The New Yorker. Okay.

  • 11:35:42

    KINSLEYAnd I got a letter from his son, who said, well, that was my father and he died a couple of weeks after you wrote this.

  • 11:35:54

    REHMSo there has to have been some internal reaction on your part, that you had said to yourself, So what? This guy is a judge, darned old fool or whatever. And then to hear from his son that he had just died. How'd you feel?

  • 11:36:23

    KINSLEYWell, I think his son wanted me to feel bad. But he -- I didn't feel especially bad. I mean, it's -- he had -- apparently, he was a find judge and his -- he had a fine family. And -- but he also managed to live until 90.

  • 11:36:45

    REHMIt strikes me that Parkinson's not only has its physical effects, but its effects on the flattening of emotions. What do you think?

  • 11:36:59

    KINSLEYWell, I don't know. They say -- they talk about two different times of effects -- the physical ones, movement disorders as they call them, and the cognitive one. It does seem to me that there's a third one, which is the psychological one.

  • 11:37:18

    REHMA flattening of reaction. I saw it with my husband. And we're going to take a short break here. When we come back, we'll open the phones, your questions, comments for journalist Michael Kinsley. His book, "Old Age." Stay with us.

  • 11:40:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. Michael Kinsley is with me. Michael, I love the title of this book, which is "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide." Your publisher didn't want to use it.

  • 11:40:19

    KINSLEYWell, that's unfair. He -- I told -- I said it to you, so it's unfair of me. He needed to be sold on -- and I originally thought it should be the other way around, it should be "A Beginner's Guide to Old Age." But I think it's turned out that...

  • 11:40:36

    REHMI like this. I like it a lot, all right. We're going to open the phones now. Let's go first to Vance, Alabama. David, you're on the air.

  • 11:40:48

    DAVIDHi, Diane, thanks. You know, what I'm going to say is maybe an odd point of view, but I've been looking forward to old age my whole life. I -- in my youth I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and their friends who were born in 1880s, and I'm 66 now and been retired for about five years, and I -- I am having the greatest time because I'm doing what I want. People -- I don't have to move furniture anymore. People open doors for me. They call me sir. They even tolerate some of the stupid things I say.

  • 11:41:30

    DAVIDAnd I've gotten most diseases that you could have at this point in life, including diabetes and heart disease, but I like what "Desiderata," the poem, says, that you take kindly the counsel of years, gracefully surrendering things of youth. And that's what I've been doing. And more importantly, I'm not afraid to die. I -- in some ways I look forward to it because I think it's going to be a great adventure. So I believe that that frees me up.

  • 11:42:00

    REHMThat's exactly what my husband said. He said, I'm looking forward to the next journey.

  • 11:42:11

    KINSLEYWell, Diane has been nodding, yes, yes, yes, while the listener -- the listener spoke. I'm not looking forward to it.

  • 11:42:19

    REHMYou're not looking forward to dying?

  • 11:42:21


  • 11:42:23

    REHMI can certainly understand that. How have you reacted, though, to the changes in your body? Have they sort of changed the way you have to maneuver? Do you have to plan ahead a lot?

  • 11:42:43

    KINSLEYA little bit, you know. Getting out of bed in the morning is a little bit difficult. But, you know, if anyone had told me in 1993 that I'd still be -- I'd still be doing more or less everything I did before, I would have said, well, that sounds great, I'll take that.

  • 11:43:08

    REHMEvery now and then you doubt yourself.

  • 11:43:12

    KINSLEYWell doesn't everybody?

  • 11:43:15

    REHMExactly, but you in the book talk about losing your edge and fear of losing your edge.

  • 11:43:24

    KINSLEYYes, that was what one doctor told me. It was a couple of weeks after I got diagnosed. It suddenly occurred to me, I wonder if there are mental effects. I didn't even get into the difference between cognitive and others, and I went and asked my doctor, and he said, well, you might lose your edge. And I freaked out because my edge is how I make a living. And as I say, it's also how I make friends, maybe how I found my wife, you know. My edge is me. And so I panicked.

  • 11:44:10

    REHMWe must say your wife is the lovely Patty Stonesifer, who worked for quite some time with the Gates Foundation, heading that up, and now heads up Martha's Table here in Washington, D.C. And how lucky you were to meet her. How did you meet her?

  • 11:44:34

    KINSLEYWell, yeah, I met her, she was on the committee that interviewed me for the job of starting an online magazine for Microsoft. And I'd met a lot of sort of geeky computer nerds and then this lovely woman. And it was years later, actually, that we turned what had been friendship into romance.

  • 11:45:04

    REHMThat's great. You know, Michael, I can remember a party that I attended, I'm sure you don't, Lionel Barber, who is now editor-in-chief of Financial Times hosted it.

  • 11:45:19


  • 11:45:21

    REHMHe and his lovely wife in their home in Northwest Washington. And Lionel had said to me, be on the lookout because Michael Kinsley is coming. He was very, very pleased that you had accepted the invitation. In you walked, said two words and turned around and walked right back out. And I found myself thinking at the time, something's wrong. People don't behave that way. And that would have been sometime in the early '90s.

  • 11:46:08

    KINSLEYGosh, well, it sounds like it was more rudeness than anything medical.

  • 11:46:11

    REHMWell, maybe, maybe.

  • 11:46:13

    KINSLEYI'll have to apologize to Lionel and Victoria.

  • 11:46:17

    REHMIt seems to me it was unwillingness to engage, either extreme shyness, or something else was going on, and I couldn't be quite sure. But I thought it was curious.

  • 11:46:35

    KINSLEYOh my God.

  • 11:46:38

    REHMWell, just to bring that up. Let's go to Frenchie in Miami, Florida. You're on the air.

  • 11:46:45

    FRENCHIEHey, Diane, Mr. Kinsley. My comments, I just wanted to touch on some themes I was picking up when Mr. Kinsley used the phrase losing his edge and then earlier when he talked about, after his initial diagnosis, he didn't want to -- he didn't want to be public about it. And let me give you my background to frame my comments. I'm a nurse practitioner, and I've had type 1 diabetes for 25 years, so I have multiple chronic illnesses, and I can really sympathize with -- you know, I am middle aged. I need to be in the workforce, and the concern about not wanting people around you to know your physical limitations or wanting them to react to you because of what people anticipate in terms of physical and cognitive decline associated with chronic illness.

  • 11:47:47

    FRENCHIEAnd I just wanted to kind of get your response to that notion and the idea that people are living longer now, and we are needing to stay in the workforce longer, you know, to maintain our society and how we can be activist to try to reduce that sort of prejudice that's out there. And unfortunately I see it among my colleagues in the medical community, where often patients who are declining physically, you know, or they look older than their chronological age, there's this expectation that they're losing their edge.

  • 11:48:32

    REHMAll right, thanks for your call. Lots there, Michael.

  • 11:48:35

    KINSLEYYes, well, gosh, the -- I've -- I've had very little of that, but I have had some. There was a woman at a -- if we're talking about Washington dinner parties, which we seem to be, there was a woman who offered to cut up my meat for me.

  • 11:48:54

    REHMOh wow.

  • 11:48:56

    KINSLEYAnd, you know, I had just -- I had just gobbled a first course, I don't remember what it was, you know, but it should have been obvious to her. And she meant well.

  • 11:49:09


  • 11:49:10


  • 11:49:12

    REHMWhat did you say to her?

  • 11:49:13

    KINSLEYI said -- I think I said to her, you just saw me eating something else, and...

  • 11:49:22

    REHMI don't need help.

  • 11:49:23

    KINSLEYYes, I don't need help. But...

  • 11:49:27

    REHMBut what do you say to our caller even about those within the medical profession who once they realize perhaps that you have a chronic illness that they can't cure, because we haven't found a cure to Parkinson's yet, that they slowly, slowly, slowly let go of you?

  • 11:49:55

    KINSLEYWell, I say to them stop partying and get to work.

  • 11:50:04

    REHMAll right, and here's an email from Kim in North Carolina. Please share the impact of the disability both before and after the diagnosis on your work life. Since what we do for a living is so much part of who we are, how do you reconcile the prospect of retirement for lack of a better word in one of the few careers that can usually be performed well into old age?

  • 11:50:40

    KINSLEYWell, I've been extremely fortunate in that -- in that sense, in that I've had jobs that I can keep doing, and some of them pay very well. Some of them don't. But I've done -- I'm comfortable financially, which is a great blessing.

  • 11:51:04

    REHMYou've worked very hard for that financial comfort.

  • 11:51:09


  • 11:51:10

    REHMI mean, using your brain, not talking about using your body, as so many hard-working laborers have to do.

  • 11:51:21

    KINSLEYIt's going to be interesting in our economy as the caller said that, you know, people -- people are sort of discouraged from working. We need their output.

  • 11:51:35


  • 11:51:38

    KINSLEYBut if you -- well...

  • 11:51:41

    REHMIf you live longer and can no longer function at what you're doing...

  • 11:51:50

    KINSLEYWell even if -- even if you can function, we're all going to have to work -- we're all going to have to work longer, but at the same time, people are losing their jobs. So how do you -- how do you take advantage of the -- of the abilities of people who are older without denying opportunity to the people who are younger.

  • 11:52:23

    REHMSo you've been watching the election as closely as I, I'm sure. What are your thoughts about what's going on?

  • 11:52:34

    KINSLEYWell, I think it's about to get a lot more boring.

  • 11:52:38


  • 11:52:40

    KINSLEYBecause Hillary is going to get the Democratic nomination soon, very soon, and the Republicans are going to get reconciled to Trump, and it'll be Hillary versus Trump, and then Hillary will win.

  • 11:52:55

    REHMAnd you feel that that's going to be boring?

  • 11:52:58

    KINSLEYWell compared to what's been going on the past few months, yes.

  • 11:53:03

    REHMSo you think it's going to tone down a great deal?

  • 11:53:07

    KINSLEYYeah, yeah, it has to.

  • 11:53:10

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Do you think Donald Trump will become more presidential if he is the Republican candidate?

  • 11:53:24

    KINSLEYYes, I do. I think -- I just -- I just wrote a piece saying he brings a couple of assets to the thing. One is he's entertaining, and I have a quote from "Ravelstein," the novel by Saul Bellow, which he says, to govern the country, you have to entertain it. And he'll do that. And then the other thing is that -- remember Nixon and Kissinger and game theory. It pays to be thought of as crazy because that's the only way you can threaten credibly to start a nuclear war.

  • 11:54:08

    REHMOh dear God. You know, I'm not sure I'm happy with that idea of game theory, Michael. Do you think this country is headed into some kind of nuclear confrontation?

  • 11:54:26

    KINSLEYNo, but you've got Putin there, or Putin, and, you know, if -- if we had some kind of crisis with the Soviet Union, and you had to decide which guy you think will actually carry out some threat, you'd vote for Putin except for if our guy is Donald Trump because he's just nutty enough to do it.

  • 11:54:53

    REHMSo how do you envision, if you can, the kinds of debates you will see if, as you theorize, Hillary becomes the nominee, as does Trump? How do you envision the debates between them?

  • 11:55:12

    KINSLEYWell, they won't be arguing about which one is crazier, but that -- I -- Hillary is -- well, I mean, I'm going to vote for her, I'm sure, but I wish she were a little bit more exciting.

  • 11:55:32


  • 11:55:34

    KINSLEYTrump's exciting. I wish he were a little less exciting.

  • 11:55:37

    REHMAnd you wish she were a little more.

  • 11:55:40


  • 11:55:41

    REHMI don't know how we're going to find that kind of balance, but who do you think is likely to keep the world safer?

  • 11:55:54

    KINSLEYOh, well, I mean, I think Hillary, it's pretty obvious. But there is this one exception, which is what I was talking about, the game theory that Nixon and Kissinger both employed. You know, Nixon was a little bit nutty, and that helped him in negotiations. And Trump, the one thing he can claim, whether credibly or not, is he's a dealmaker. That -- that's what he's -- that's what he's claiming to be. So that fits right in.

  • 11:56:41

    REHMAnd what about all the support that Bernie Sanders has had? To what extent do you think it will play out on Hillary if she does win the nomination?

  • 11:56:56

    KINSLEYI think the second she has it locked up, Bernie Sanders will have no influence at all. I think that's a pity because, you know, he's -- but I think that's the fact.

  • 11:57:09

    REHMMichael Kinsley, he is the founder of Slate, he's a columnist at "Vanity Fair," a contributor to "The New Yorker" and the author of a wonderful new book titled "Old Age: A Beginner's Guide." We all have to begin somewhere. Thank you, Michael.

  • 11:57:36

    KINSLEYThank you, Diane.

  • 11:57:36

    REHMGood to be with you, and thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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