Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed (R-TN-04) Representative Scott DesJarlais to the newsmaker line to announce his 2024 bid for re-election and his proposed legislation which would require for the moment, presidential candidates to take a mental competency test.
Leahy: We are joined on the newsmaker line by representative Scott DesJarlais, who represents Tennessee’s fourth congressional district. Good morning, Congressman DesJarlais.
DesJarlais: Yes, good morning.
Leahy: For our listeners, remind us of the boundaries of the Fourth Congressional District that you represent.
DesJarlais: I’ve changed a little bit with this last redistricting, but we go from Rutherford County down as far west as Lawrence, Giles, Lincoln, and Franklin. We go up to Rhea County, Meigs County, Warren County, and Bedford County.
Leahy: You got a lot of counties. Now, will you be running again for reelection in 2024?
DesJarlais: Yes, sir.
Leahy: We’ve made some news here. I guess it’s been out there, but I’m glad to know that!
DesJarlais: You’re the first person who’s asked.
Leahy: Well, good. We broke some news! (Chuckles)
DesJarlais: There you go.
Leahy: You are introducing a bill that is actually the beginning of the constitutional amendment process called the Presidential Candidate Cognitive Requirements Act. Tell us about your thinking on this.
DesJarlais: It seems certainly for the past five years, we’ve been talking about presidential competency. And when it comes to your commander-in-chief, there’s no one that it’s more important to be mentally capable and up for the job. And we had Jamie Raskin questioning President Trump back in 2017 and had legislation that would require mental competence assessment.
And I think he was targeting one president. I think this should be a nonpartisan issue. There’s not a single American, regardless of party, that doesn’t think the commander-in-chief should be mentally competent.
So we would like to make that a requirement right along with being 35 years of age and an American citizen. We would require a commission to assess all presidential and vice presidential candidates before they ever assume office for mental competency.
Leahy: So how would that happen? How would you determine mental competency? Can you add and subtract, or what would be the test?
DesJarlais: President Trump took the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Exam, and it goes through a process where you can repeat a series of words. Maybe you have to read a paragraph, and it assesses your memory and assessment of what you read. There’s just any number of types of tests.
I’m working with the GOP Doctors Caucus to come up with what would be a fair and impartial exam or series of exams that would be administered to all candidates. So this is a work in progress. It can be amended, I’m sure it will be amended. It’s a tough lift to get a constitutional amendment.
We’re looking at other angles on how this could be implemented without a constitutional amendment. But the bottom line is we need to look at basic competency. You look at John Fetterman, who won the Senate seat in Pennsylvania and clearly could not have passed a competency exam before he won his election.
Now he’s seeking mental health care and is out of the game at the moment. Senator Feinstein, who has announced her retirement, was asked about it and didn’t remember that she actually had announced her retirement. So we have issues here as people age.
I think Nikki Haley came out and said, no one over 75 or people over 75 should have to do this. I don’t think age should be the factor, because we know people who are very sharp well into their ninety s, and then there are people that have mental decline at an earlier age.
But the bottom line, people live longer, and as we live longer, the chances of dementia get greater. So I think this should possibly expand to include Supreme Court judges who are appointed for life, senators, representatives, presidents, and vice presidents.
But for now, we’re focusing on getting the conversation going about our potential commander-in-chief and vice president as well. So it would be a commission that would implement a battery of tests, possibly to just demonstrate basic mental competence and cognitive functioning.
Leahy: So this would start off applying only to presidential candidates. When would they have to take the test? For instance, on the GOP side, we have three announced candidates, Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy. Would all three of them have to take the test upon announcement, or when would you take these batteries of tests?
DesJarlais: And that’s the more fine-tuning that would have to go into this, because, in Fetterman’s case, he had a stroke six months out before the election. I’m thinking of a six-month window or if there’s been a major medical event that would change the function.
But certainly, you would like to see this before somebody was a nominee. At one point, we were looking at trying to tie this to the FEC, where when you file for a president where you raised or spent the appropriate amount of money, that’s when you should submit to this testing.
And if we could tie it to the FEC, then it wouldn’t have to be a constitutional amendment, but it would be somewhere within the year of your announcing your presidency and before the nominating convention.
Leahy: So let’s take Nikki Haley. She’s in her 50s, she’s definitely in her prime. (Laughter) Under your proposal, would she be required to take such a test?
DesJarlais: Sure. With all respect to Don Lemon, absolutely anyone should not be intimidated by this test. You wouldn’t be intimidated by it. President Trump took the test. He said it was easy. I’m not sure our current commander-in-chief would be successful. And I don’t want people thinking this bill is to pick on him.
Because, again, your president has different viewpoints from you based on political party. But your commander-in-chief should unite as one and look after the well-being and the national defense and security of our country. And so it has come to light that at the end of Ronald Reagan’s term, there were questions.
They had questions about President Trump. He took a test. But again, we don’t know. It’s kind of like President Biden’s doctor just declared that he was a healthy, vibrant, 80-year-old man. What does that mean to me as a doctor?
For 80, maybe he’s in pretty good shape, but that’s a big difference from a vibrant, healthy 50-year-old or 40-year-old. The current system we have does not necessarily give clarity and transparency.
You can get one doctor to say what you want them to say, but a nonpartisan panel that would actually look at somebody objectively and run this battery test to make sure that they can exhibit an adequate level of cognitive competence, I think would be very important.
Leahy: So you referenced, I think, one specific battery test with the Montreal Cognitive Test. Is that the one that would be specified in this law?
DesJarlais: That’s why we’re trying to get the opinion, the Doctor’s Caucus, and others. What is the most comprehensive test that would be fair across all genres and all ages? Because there are different tests. If you’ve studied any psychology at all, there are different tests for different things. We want to make sure that all the lights are on, so to speak. (Leahy chuckles)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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4 Thoughts to “GOP Congressman Scott DesJarlais (TN-4) Announces He Will Run for Re-Election in 2024”
better than any dim
Anyone who runs promising to limit the number of years he intends to serve obviously isn’t all that enthusiastic about the job in first place and it’s a slight negative as I evaluate the candidates. No matter, upon taking office, if he likes the job after all, he should ignore that promise and if people like yourself John bring it up the officeholder should simply apologize and say he likes the job and intends to stay so long as the voters elect him.
As well he should. Anyone with a lifetime Heritage score of 89% (it’s much higher than that over the past five or six years – he had a rough freshman and sophomore year) and is a proud member of the House Freedom Caucus should run so long as he likes and conservatives should thankful he is their congressman.
So much for his campaign promise he would on serve 6 terms. DeJarlais is one of the least effective members of congress. Big disappointment.