Doctor calls for standardizing mental fitness tests for elected officials

Physician and journalist James Hamblin is calling for a system that would evaluate the cognitive abilities of elected officials in order to ensure that they are fit for public office.

Though a president's physical exam does typically include a cognitive assessment, Hamblin argued Monday that these tests have not been standardized. 

"It’s certainly relevant to know whether someone has a terminal diagnosis that would really suggest that it’s unlikely that they would live through their term, but beyond that what you’re really asking is does this person have the ability to do the job cognitively," Hamlin, who is a staff writer at left-leaning magazine The Atlantic, told Hill.TV.  

He went on to suggest that testing mental fitness could play an even more important role than physical exams, noting that physical impediments to the job are "less relevant today than it might have been back decades ago."

Hamlin first floated the idea for standardizing cognitive tests in a feature for The Atlantic. Though the idea hasn't been completed fleshed out, he said a potential system could include a standardized test that would, for example, include telling a candidate a story and then asking them to synthesize the information and repeat it back.

“If a person has significant cognitive decline to the point of Alzheimer's Disease, they’ll get almost none of those questions right,” he said. “And early cognitive decline, they’ll start to forget questions.”

Throughout his presidency, Trump’s mental fitness has been repeatedly questioned by critics and pundits alike. Some Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire House approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Minn.), have even called president "deranged" in response to his behavior on Twitter. 

 “There is nothing ‘stable’ or ‘genius’ about these public rants from a president,” Omar tweeted earlier this year. “Deranged, bizarre, incoherent, sad ... come to mind.”

Omar's comments at the time came after Trump once again referred to himself as a "stable genius" in an effort to defend his trade policies.

Former Vice President Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has faced similar criticism about his mental fitness following some of his debate performances. Throughout several of the debates, Biden has made a number of gaffes, often stumbling at times when trying to get a point across.

For instance, during the fifth Democratic debate, Biden misstated that he was endorsed by the only African American woman ever elected to the Senate, overlooking fellow contender Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.). Biden quickly corrected himself, stating, “I said the first.”

—Tess Bonn