Here was something that I really didn’t expect to happen upon in the old Monday morning inbox: a United States senator who is also a physician supporting a cognition test for the older members of all three branches of the federal government.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an “Axios on HBO” interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.
- Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 … Speaker Pelosi, 81 … Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 … and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.
Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, told me during our wide-ranging interview in Chalmette, La., that in your 80s, you begin a “rapid decline.”
- Noting he wasn’t talking about specific people, Cassidy said: “It’s usually noticeable. So anybody in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern. And I’m saying this as a doctor.”
Sure, we’re not talking about “specific people.”
The United States is currently suffering under the extremist whims of an alleged president/quasi-dictator who quite clearly is not in possession of all of his mental faculties, so let’s not pretend that this particular conversation didn’t have a prompt. It would have been much better if Cassidy had acknowledged the elephant — maybe donkey would be better here — in the room, but he can be a bit milquetoast at times.
The list in the above quote doesn’t even mention Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is twenty months shy of her 90th birthday and has filed the paperwork to run for reelection when she becomes a nonagenarian.
When this glorious Republic was founded, even our brilliant Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined the combination of people wanting to be career politicians and living a lot, lot longer.
As a sports-obsessed society, we’re comfortable with admitting that athletes are physically past their primes at relatively young ages. We can at least have a discussion about cognition and aging, especially for those who “…have a sacred responsibility to the people of the United States,” as Cassidy put it.
Obviously, not all older people are slipping mentally. Clint Eastwood is 91 and just directed and starred in a movie. Closer to home, my mom is 83 and a lot sharper than she likes to admit at times. My grandmother drove herself to Mass every day until she was almost 94. I do, however, remember my grandfather when he was in his 70s saying that he thought all senior citizens should have to take a behind-the-wheel driving test to get their licenses renewed.
This isn’t an ageist knock against our wiser elders of the village. Heck, I ain’t exactly the youngest cowboy at this rodeo. It’s about making sure that some people who are being paid very well by American taxpayers are fit for the job.
Once we’ve figured this out we can perhaps talk about checking for mental fitness prior to being elected.