Make Lying Wrong Again

I recently have noticed this slogan on bumper stickers and t-shirts, and I very much appreciate the sentiment.  Our society seems to be devolving; lying and its cousin, cheating, seem to be okay, unless one is under oath and subject to punishments for perjury. What’s more, lying and cheating have become particularly prevalent in politics, where truth and justice are most paramount.

Curiously, cheating seems to be more anathema in sports than in decisions that affect the lives of millions of people and the future of the world. Take for example, “deflategate,” in which quarterback Tom Brady received a four-game suspension for arranging to have some air removed from footballs, and University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh receiving a three-game suspension for allegedly having scouts figure out opposing team’s signs. These incidents made big news! We are at the point where lies by politicians hardly make any headlines at all.

This past Thursday I viewed the presidential debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. President Biden performed horribly.  Potential voters have long been concerned about Biden’s age and increasing apparent feebleness, and his performance in this debate greatly elevated the concern, and in fact has been causing panic by Democratic party officials. I join in this concern. Many Democratic party members are now suggesting the search for a new nominee to replace Biden.

I also have concern about the other participant in this debate, the former president, Donald Trump.  While he demonstrated much greater vigor and vitality than Biden (he is only three years younger), he spewed almost nothing but outrageous lies.  Yet no one from the Republican party is calling for him to be replaced with another candidate.

My occupation is neuropsychologist, which is a clinical psychologist with additional training in cognitive assessment.  Clinical psychologists assess personality and psychopathology.  Neuropsychologists assess these issues as well, but also assess cognitive functioning such as memory, attention, concentration, intelligence, cognitive processing speed, verbal fluency, and more.

The reason for neuropsychological evaluations is to assess for pathology such as sequelae of brain injuries and dementias.  The evaluations are not just for diagnostic purposes, but also to evaluate competency for occupations, as well as many other things.

I have not evaluated Biden (or Trump) and so I do not know if there is evidence of dementia (for either one).  What I do see with Biden, though, is normal deficits of age; slower cognitive processing, losing train of thought, and word finding difficulties.  These are not deficits I would think would affect his ability to perform as president, although they are deficits that likely will affect his ability to garner votes.

What are the qualities and skills necessary for a good president?  Intelligence, knowledge (current events, history, political philosophy, science and so much more), emotional maturity and stability, honesty, altruism, empathy, humility, and self-sacrifice (the desire to be a servant leader).

What would be the worst traits for a president to have?  Lust for power, selfishness, willful ignorance, lack of intellectual curiosity, dishonesty, instability, lack of empathy, and lack of a conscience.

Character is important in sports.  It is important for teachers, CEOs, doctors, lawyers, judges, pastors and psychologists. It is important for every single one of us.  It is particularly important for our leaders, and most certainly the leader of the free world. In fact, I can think of nothing that is more important than character.  Neither could Jesus.

 

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Dr. Craig Vander Maas is a neuropsychologist whose research and writing interests are the intersection of religion, science, and politics.  He is the author of the recently published book Beyond Religion: Finding Meaning in Evolution

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