New candidates for president like to propose something that gets voters’ attention right off the bat, and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley did just that on Wednesday.
Nikki Haley Comes Out Swinging
The presidential candidate proposed mandatory “mental competency tests” for all politicians over the age of 75.
It was an implied dig at the 80-year-old current president.
“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire,” Haley said, per The Hill. “We’ll have term limits for Congress and mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
That appeared to be a reference to the 89-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who announced earlier this week that she would not seek re-election. Feinstein’s retirement announcement came after years of whispers that the longtime senator was in cognitive decline. And even after her Twitter account and office had announced her decision to retire, Feinstein appeared to tell reporters that she wasn’t aware the decision had been announced.
Just a Ploy?
As for Haley’s proposal, it’s not clear whether it is a serious policy idea or merely a campaign trail applause line.
As for the other part of her promise, Republicans have been proposing Congressional term limits since the early 1990s but have tended to back off the idea once they’re actually in office.
It’s unclear how the cognitive testing would work — how often would the tests be administered? Who would supervise them? Would it apply to everyone running for office, or only those who are already serving?
The current “system,” as it were, is that presidential candidates have their own doctor perform an annual physical, with the results released to the public. This has led to such absurd moments as Trump repeatedly claiming in 2020 that he had “aced” the cognitive test that he had been given.
There are other questions about whether requiring mental competency tests would even be legal or constitutional. It could constitute age discrimination, or possibly a violation of the right to privacy. It could also antagonize older voters at a time when Democrats are making their protection of Social Security and Medicare one of their most prominent issues.
Who Would This Apply To?
Journalist Burgess Everett noted that such a requirement would apply to 12 of the current 100 U.S. senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as well as Iowa’s 89-year-old Charles Grassley, who was just re-elected. Four more senators would age into the proposed requirement during the current Congress.
On CNN, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate and who is himself 72 years old, noted that “when you’re out talking to voters that’s a mental test everyday…let’s stick to what the Constitution requires.”
“Term limits are a great idea, but some of the youngest Members in Haley’s party couldn’t pass a mental competency test,” former Democratic Congressman and CNN contributor Mondaire Jones quipped on Twitter.
Trump Ready to Declare War on Haley
At any rate, the Daily Beast reported this week that the Trump campaign has a plan to “take down” Haley’s candidacy. Sources told the site that Trump’s campaign plans to “bury Haley early and often, using her campaign like a crash test dummy to demonstrate Trump’s dominance for anyone else willing to step in.”
“In 2016, you come at the king, you’re gonna get wrecked,” a Trump adviser told the site. “In 2024, I think there’s going to be a different kind of Trump on display. He’ll be all 2016 on guys like DeSantis, but Haley, who had a respectful conversation with him? He will deal with her in a 2024 fashion.”
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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.