Within two days after Nikki Haley announced her running for the Republican presidential nomination, she called for a new policy that politicians over 75 should have mandatory mental competency tests.
Audacy described the setting of this call stating, “The comments from Haley came during a rally in Charleston, South Carolina, as she kicked off her bid for the White House while taking a jab at President Joe Biden and her former boss, former President Donald Trump.”
In the same article, it points out that a poll by Suffolk University and USA Today showed that 50% of Americans view those in the age range between 51 to 65 years old as the ideal age for one to be president, and 25% wish for the next president to be between 35 to 50 years old.
This particular policy has since made headlines with various people giving their opinions.
One major group has been politicians. Former president Donald Trump posted his support for a mandatory mental test for anyone running for president on his social media app, Truth Social.
“ANYBODY running for the Office of President of the United States should agree to take a full & complete Mental Competency Test simultaneously (or before!) with the announcement that he or she is running, & likewise, but to a somewhat lesser extent, agree to a test which would prove that you are physically capable of doing the job.”
It continued, “Being an outstanding President requires great mental acuity & physical stamina. If you don’t have these qualities or traits, it is likely you won’t succeed. MAGA!”
Another politician Sen. Bernie Sanders has called the policy absurd according to Business Insider.
“I think that's absurd. We are fighting racism, we're fighting sexism, we're fighting homophobia. I think we should also be fighting ageism. There are a lot of 40-year-olds out there who ain't particularly competent. Older people, you know, you look at the individual. I don't think you make a blanket statement.”
In a different article by Business Insider, other senators gave their opinions ranging from support to criticism against it.
One of those that gave positive thoughts on the policy was Sen. Lindsey Graham who said, “I think it should be lower. Anybody who is dumb enough to run [for president] should have to take a test.”
On the other side, Sen. Chuck Grassley pointed out that despite him being 89 years old, he still was elected by those in his state, Iowa. “I think you need to look at my last election. People knew me and my age, and I won by 15%. The people know that I’m in a position to do the work.”
While politicians continue to debate over this hot topic, health experts have given their thoughts and opinions on the idea of mandatory mental tests.
Slate interviewed three experts in geriatric medicine who specialize in providing care for older adults on their thoughts on having mandatory mental tests for politicians.
Carolyn Aldwin, gerontologist, and director of the gerontology program at Oregon State University pointed out that cognitive tests are not the best in terms of getting in-depth knowledge of a person’s capacity to make good decisions.
“Cognitive tests, a lot of them, are timed, and we know that neurological processing slows with age. So, you can come out looking impaired, even if you’re not really.”
David Nace, chief of geriatric medicine at the University Pittsburgh Medical Center agreed with Aldwin saying, “Those don’t necessarily determine that you have capacity.”
He added that mental tests can measure a variety of skills like memory, public speaking, personality, and other important skills that politicians need. However, leadership skills and abilities can’t ever truly be measured due to both being intangible and that no person or tool can perform such a task accurately.
The other expert, David Reuben, pointed out that a patient of his was in his 90s yet still as mentally strong. “Maybe she should talk to my patient who’s 95 years old and published a book a year and a half ago.”
He is the division chief of geriatric medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles Center of Health Sciences.
All three health experts concluded that these tests are not the best way to evaluate one’s capabilities nor can these types of skills be measured accurately since everyone ages differently with varying degrees of mental health levels.
As for the general public, Americans have given mixed reactions with some agreeing and some disagreeing.
On Twitter, people have voiced their opinion on the matter like Boyd Smith who agrees with having mental competency tests. “YES PLEASE, Mandatory competency tests for ALL Politicians! Must include ETHICS qualifications too.”
Some others like UhHowHowHowHow added that the tests shouldn’t be limited to just those over 75 years old but to anyone who holds a position in the capital. “Why "over 75 years old?" I want mental competency and psychiatric exams for anyone in any position in DC. And how about REAL background checks for those who need it, right #FBI?”
On the other side, some like Sameh N Eshak expressed skepticism on the idea. “It is a thin line, do you give the hot blood, energy, and sharpness for the wisdom of age and long-time experience or vice versa? I think we always need a little bit of this and a little bit of that. A combination is needed always, and competition between generations will always exist.”
And others like Keyboard McTypington agree with Sen. Bernie Sanders that having mandatory mental tests is not a good idea. “Agree on w/Bernie. The obsession some have with age is unbecoming. The jabs at older people, who are voters & full citizens of this republic, are unbecoming. Using the language of the Tea Party, we don't need "death panels" to unconstitutionally disqualify people from the office.”
In the end, this policy remains an idea that currently resides in hot debates among voters and politicians. Whether it will be implemented in the future or not is left for current and future generations to decide.
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