Our country’s leaders need to be screened

If you want to become a submariner, you have to get through the Navy’s basic training. Then you have to apply to enter the submarine service, pass a lengthy series of psychological screening tests and aptitude tests, and then undergo specialized training. This makes sense. You’ll be, potentially, manning billions of dollars worth of sophisticated technology with the real potential to do enormous damage.

So, you’re wondering, what point am I making? It occurred to me that we put a great deal of time, energy, and money into screening and training a lot of people in our society. And yet, the people in charge are not screened, tested, vetted, checked, or in any way monitored to determine whether or not they should be in charge. Take Congress, as a prime example.

There are only three requirements to be a member of Congress: You must be 25 or older (30 for the Senate), be a United States citizen for at least seven years (nine for the Senate), and you must be an “inhabitant” (as opposed to inmate) of the state where you’re elected.

I’m sorry; I know several aging dogs and cats that could qualify (if you go by dog/cat years). I mean seriously, these folks make big salaries, get amazing benefits, and can even be convicted felons and still serve.

And where’s the after-hire evaluation? Who is holding these folks to their campaign promises? Who keeps track of how many new laws they got passed or how many good projects they got funded?

But getting back to my original point, I think it’s high time we began to screen potential elected officials. We’re all sick of corrupt politicians voting based on campaign contributions, lobbying efforts, or just straight-up bribes. They abuse every perk and on the rare occasions when they get caught, they either get away with it, or get convicted and still keep their pensions and jobs. Really?

A person working at McDonald’s who pulls a dollar out of the register and pockets it would be fired on the spot and likely charged with a crime. How does Mickey D’s have higher standards than Congress?

From now on, anyone who wants to run for office (any office) must pass through the following set of checks, tests, and screenings. First, if they’ve been convicted of a crime (felony or serious misdemeanor), they’re disqualified.

Next, a psychological screening is done by a qualified mental-health professional to see if the candidate is sociopathic or psychopathic (most chief executive officers, many lawyers, and more than a few surgeons are, it turns out). Also, they need to be mentally healthy, not raging narcissists or megalomaniacs (sorry, Mr. Trump).

Finally, several members of the clergy of different faiths should interview the person to determine their moral health. Please note, this isn’t to find out if they’re pious; they fake that all the time.

No, the idea here is to see if they actually understand the difference between right and wrong. Bribes are wrong, voting in a manner that represents your constituents is right. Sending genital pictures via cell-phone is wrong, treating women with dignity is right.

And finally, they have to answer a simple, but critical question: Why do you want the office?

The science-fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote that anyone who sought the office of president should be immediately disqualified from holding it. Kurt Vonnegut said, “There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut cases want to be president.”

If authors can figure this out, then we should all rethink whom we elect these days. Some folks say we get what we deserve, and, when you look at the sad state of voter turnout and registration, maybe that’s true. Some people have suggested that, if more people voted, we’d have better representation, as the folks in office now were rarely, if ever, elected by an actual majority of eligible adults.

Right now, many folks are appalled by the behavior of the current president and his crew, and for good reason. None of these people are qualified for their jobs. Actually, most of them aren’t qualified to be dogcatcher.  A retired brain surgeon who lies in his autobiography; a failed CEO; a climate-change denier in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; and, of course, the ego in chief who has gone bankrupt how many times?

Politics has been disreputable, dishonorable, and dysfunctional for as long as anyone can remember. It’s ruled by crazy people, paid by greedy people, and has nothing to do with the democracy. So let’s start elevating the level of candidates and I’ll bet things improve.

So, Mr. Trump, Mr. Pruitt, Ms. DeVos, can any of you tell us what the term “ethics” refers to? No, Mr. Mnuchin, not whatever you can get away with. Sorry, Mr. Trump, your hair does not constitute a platform (though it could be a structural member). Uh, Mr. Bannon, put down that kitten and back slowly away and, no, you may not kick that puppy.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg says he has been watching politics and politicians for the last few decades and noted that things have gone downhill — a lot.