April 22, 2024

Opinion: Suggestion for presidential candidates: Turn cognitive impairment lemons into campaign event lemonade

By Thomas L. Knapp

“What’s crazy,” Jon Stewart noted in his Feb. 12 return to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, “is thinking that we’re the ones as voters who must silence concerns and criticisms. It is the candidate’s job to assuage concerns, not the voter’s job not to mention them.”

The concerns in question revolve around the two major parties’ likely 2024 presidential nominees’ public and obvious displays of seemingly severe cognitive impairments.

The parties, the candidates’ public relations flacks, and their media co-partisans dismiss those concerns and refer to off-camera medical opinions and exams as “proof” that there’s no there there, screaming “ageism!” and “fake news!” respectively in hope of making the matter go away.

Not gonna happen. When presidents and presidential candidates can’t seem to hang on to important thoughts or remember key names and dates well enough to deliver their messages in complete and coherent sentences, voters WILL notice.

The candidates have two choices: Address it, or accept that not addressing it will cost them votes.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump — and any other presidential candidate who wants to establish his or her mental fitness as a matter of public record — can set it all to rest quickly, cheaply, and easily, if the public perception is unjustified.

Each of them should agree to undergo the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Live. Streamed to and/or archived for America and the world via any and all Internet platforms that support live/recorded video.

The MoCA tests short-term memory, visuospatial ability, executive function, attention, concentration, working memory, language, abstract reasoning, and orientation to time and place ... and it does so in about 10 minutes. A bit of a stretch for TikTok, but well within most platforms’ video length guidelines.

It’s a 30-point test. Score 26 or more and you’re golden, even if you’re in your golden years. Less than that, maybe you’ve got some issues that bear on your ability to do things like evaluating legislation for signature or veto, launching nuclear strikes, etc.

What say you, candidates? When the news cycle hands you cognitive impairment lemons, why not make campaign event lemonade?

Collect donation pledges per point, or conditional on making the 26-point cutoff, or for a perfect score of 30.

Line up potential endorsers to talk you up after — if — you ace the thing.

Schedule a “Full Ginsburg” round of the Sunday morning news shows to show off your clock-drawing chops and ability to remember the hosts’ names.

Maybe you can even get Stephen Colbert to bring you on The Late Show (if that’s not past your bedtime) and give you a list of five naughty nouns to remember.

Or you can deny, minimize, and evade the whole thing. Maybe you won’t even remember how that worked out for you.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism