One of the advantages of being a politician or a political commentator is that you can change your mind on an issue and nobody holds it against you. It may even earn you praise for keeping an open mind and learning from newly-discovered facts. For example, after admitting he had changed his mind about banning assault weapons after a mass murder in his home district, Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) was hailed as a hero by anybody who didn’t belong to the National Rifle Association.
So let me also admit that I’ve changed my mind on an important issue. In February, when former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced she was running for president and made a “mandatory competency test for politicians over 75 years old” the centerpiece of her campaign, I initially opposed it.
There are, in fact, solid arguments against such a proposal. Haley never mentioned that requiring such a test would require a constitutional amendment, which would be as difficult as getting Donald Trump to admit he lost the 2020 election. The Constitution only says you must be 35 years old to run for president.
Then there are all the other questions: Who would write the test? Who would grade it? Could a negative decision be appealed? Why 75? There are many 74 year olds who can’t remember their own name. And why only a mental test? Why not a physical test also? Franklin Delano Roosevelt was clearly mentally fit for another term, but not physically. He died only 82 days after his fourth inauguration.
But now, nine months later, I’ve changed my mind. I think Nikki Haley’s right. We simply can’t take a chance on having someone as mentally unstable as Donald Trump getting back in the White House.
Of course, when it comes to misstatements or gaffes, most of the media focus on President Biden, who laughingly refers to himself as a “gaffe machine.” Trump also delights in questioning Biden’s mental capacity. “We have a guy in the White House who can’t put two sentences together,” he told a New Hampshire crowd last Saturday.
But more and more, it’s Trump’s gaffes, not Biden’s, that are raising eyebrows. At that same New Hampshire rally, Trump got the president’s name wrong, relating an interview when Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban was asked “What would you advise President Obama?” As Forbes reports, it was the 7th time in recent months that Trump has confused Biden with Obama.
At a Florida rally on Nov. 8, Trump also confused North Korea’s Kim Jong Un with China’s President Xi Jinping. Describing Kim Jong Un as “tough and smart,” Trump defended making friends with him because “he leads 1.4 billion people.”
Kim, of course, does not. It’s China’s’ Xi who leads 1.4 billion people. The population of North Korea is about 25 million.
Earlier this year, Trump accused Jeb Bush, not George W. Bush, of starting the war in Iraq; accused President Biden of leading us into World War II; claimed he’d beaten Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton, in 2016; and on three occasions asserted that Hungary shares a border with Russia, which it does not. The list of Trump’s gaffes goes on and on.
And that’s why, after watching Donald Trump mumble and bumble his way through many recent public appearances, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was wrong and Nikki Haley is right. We should have a mandatory competency test for any presidential candidate over 75 years old. And I’m convinced that Donald Trump would flunk it.
Press hosts “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”