Ronald Reagan’s daughter joins debate over cognitive tests for presidents

‘We know about what age can do. It doesn’t always do that, but it would probably be a good idea,’ Patti Davis says when asked about mental competency tests

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 20 February 2024 22:07 GMT
Related video: Ron Reagan: Trump is a “deeply damaged human being”

The daughter of late President Ronald Reagan, the oldest commander-in-chief until former President Donald Trump, has said that holders of the office should “probably” take cognitive tests.

When Reagan left the White House in January 1989, he was 77 years old. After a battle with Alzheimer’s, he died in 2004 at the age of 93. He began showing overt symptoms a few years after leaving office.

“We know about what age can do. It doesn’t always do that, but it would probably be a good idea,” Ms Davis said on Meet The Press on NBC when asked about mental competency tests. “My father was 77 when he left office after two terms. It seems so young now, doesn’t it?”

President Joe Biden was 77 when he was elected and 78 when he took office in January 2021. He’s now 81 – the oldest president in US history.

Mr Trump became the oldest president to be inaugurated when he was sworn in at age 70. He’s now 77, running for a second term at the age when Mr Reagan left office. The 40th president was sworn in at the age of 69.

At the end of a second term, Mr Biden would be 86 years old – Mr Trump would be 82. Voters have focused so far on Mr Biden’s age than Mr Trump’s even as both have shown signs of aging.

The last remaining challenger to Mr Trump in the Republican primary, his former UN Ambassador and the former governor of South Carolina, 52-year-old Nikki Haley, has pitched term limits and mental competency test as a way to capitalise on being a relatively young candidate, The Hill noted.

Speaking about Mr Reagan playing a part in ending the Cold War, Ms Davis said that showed that her father “was not someone who was fractured in age”.

“I probably thought he was old because he was my father, and we think that about our parents. But not in the way that we’re talking about now,” she said.

Spokespeople and doctors have long rejected speculation that Mr Reagan showed signs of his Alzheimer’s disease while still in office. But White House staff also shared their worries about his behaviour and focus and some even pushed for the 25th Amendment to be invoked to remove him from office – which was rejected by his Chief of Staff.

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