It’s time for a competency test for politicians. Here’s why
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America needs a new generation of leaders to renew our national strength and pride. It’s why I support term limits for members of Congress, and why I’ve called for mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75. To most Americans, this is common sense. But many political and media elites scoff at these ideas.
When I first called for competency tests, recently fired CNN host Don Lemon said I was the one “past my prime.” Why? Because, in his mind, that describes all women over 50. He was widely and deservedly criticized for his backward views. But what’s incredible is how the Washington establishment continues to cover for those who likely lack the mental acuity to do their job.
Take Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She’s a trailblazer who’s made an indelible mark in public service. But it’s been obvious for quite some time that she’s in significant mental and physical decline. She’s missed months of votes and clearly can no longer do her job. I agree with several congressional Democrats who say Feinstein should resign immediately and let someone else who is able to do the job take over. At 89 years old, she is a prime example of why we need mental competency tests for politicians.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 89, was elected to the Senate in 1992 and is now the longest-serving woman senator ever. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defends Feinstein, claiming that calls for her resignation are sexist. Pelosi said, “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate.” As I said after Mr. Lemon’s comments, “Madam Speaker, hold my beer.” This is not about whether someone is a woman. It’s about whether they are up to the job.
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The best case for such tests is in fact a man. He’s a former senator and the sitting president.
Joe Biden announced his bid for re-election last week. If he wins next November, he will be 82 years old when he takes the oath of office, and 86 at the end of a second term. That would surpass the oldest president in American history by nine years.
If President Biden wins next November, he will be 82 years old when he takes the oath of office, and 86 at the end of a second term. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
That’s not a problem in itself, but millions of Americans watch President Biden and believe he exhibits cognitive decline. He rarely takes press questions. He spends most weekends at his vacation home in Delaware. Sadly, he often seems disoriented and confused. Yet the public can’t know for sure without a cognitive test, which Biden has either not taken or declines to publish as part of his medical records.
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This uncertainly about Biden’s mental competence means Americans must consider the actual competency of the vice president. Kamala Harris is one of the most incompetent elected officials in the country. Her failures in foreign policy and managing the border are too numerous to mention – to say nothing of the word salad that defines her unscripted remarks.
I wish Joe Biden the best of health, but it’s only sensible to consider the reality of an already slipping president serving through his mid-80s. If Biden is re-elected, Harris would have the highest likelihood of becoming president in the middle of a term of any vice president ever. The question before voters in 2024 is, to an unprecedented degree, whether they want Kamala Harris to be president, not vice president.
The test I’m proposing for Sen. Feinstein, President Biden and others is not complicated or difficult. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test is a widely used tool for detecting cognitive decline. It involves rather simple things like naming animals, memorizing and recalling a few words, and listing words that begin with the same letter. They should both take the test, along with every other politician over the age of 75 – Republican or Democrat, man or woman – and publish the results.
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This is not a qualification for office. Failing a mental competency test would not result in removal. It is about transparency. Voters deserve to know whether those who are making major decisions about war and peace, taxation and budgets, schools and safety, can pass a very basic mental exam.
Career politicians and elites oppose competency tests not because they are aimed at women like Sen. Feinstein, as Nancy Pelosi suggests. They dislike them because they don’t want to hold the present leadership of our country accountable. They don’t want a new generation to turn our country around. But that’s what the American people deserve.
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Nikki Haley, a candidate for the Republican nomination for president, served as governor of South Carolina (2011-17) and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2017-19).
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.