Assessing Applicants for High Political Leadership Jobs

Revised 13 October 2019

As we observe the current campaigns for high political office in the United States, the limited means to assess the candidates for their actual suitability to perform the jobs for which they are competing is becoming increasingly obvious. We do much better at assessing candidates for responsible positions that have much lower levels of consequence—for example, airline pilots or police officers.

I suggest that we consider how to obtain more explicit information on the basis of which voters can evaluate high level political candidates. Following are some areas I think we should examine:

1. Physical health. Candidates should be required to undergo comprehensive physical health examinations by independent medical authorities, with the results made public. The examination should evaluate the candidate’s likelihood of serving the projected term of office in good health.
2. Mental health. Candidates should be required to undergo comprehensive mental health examinations by independent mental health authorities, with the results made public. Aspects to be considered include evidence of cognitive decline, any personality disorders, and an assessment of personality strengths and weaknesses.
3. Employment history. Candidates should be required to document their full employment history, including performance evaluations. Employment includes both private and public sector jobs, as well as military service.
4. Financial disclosure. Candidates should be required to disclose all assets and liabilities, their tax filings, their sources of income, inheritances, and all debts and obligations, particularly to foreign sources. Special attention should be given to sources providing campaign contributions and gifts while in office. Candidates should demonstrate that they have prepared to place all business interests in a blind trust over which they have no influence while they are in office.
5. Security clearance application. Candidates should be required to submit the application paperwork for obtaining the highest level of security clearance required for the position they seek. A clearance should not require exceptions to any otherwise disqualifying factors.
6. Positions on key issues. Candidates should be required to provide brief explicit descriptions of their positions on a wide range of key issues. Issues to be covered should be ones that indicate the candidate’s personal ideology. I suggest 25 issues would be a good number to use. The positions should be written by the candidates themselves, without assistance by others. Each one should include the candidate’s underlying assumptions and reasoning for the position.
7. Crisis decision-making. Rather than scripted television debates, I would like to see candidates show their abilities to make good decisions in real time in simulated crisis situations. The simulations should represent plausible crises for the office the candidate is seeking. The candidate’s preparation for the crisis should be similar to what would be available in a real world event. A variety of crises, with different types of challenges, should be presented. The challenges should provide significant levels of stress.

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