If you have to take an admissions test to go to college and a driver's test to get a license, why is it that you can run for president of the United States and leader of the free world without any qualifying measures?

I watched the latest Republican "debate" and was absolutely confounded by some of the candidate's statements. Ben Carson thinks the Chinese are involved in the fight against the Islamic State. (Huh?) Donald Trump believes that China participated in the negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership Act. (Hint: The act was designed to thwart China.) He later announced he wants a "deportation force" to roundup of 11 million men, women and children living in the country illegally and expel them. Carly Fiorina claims that economic problems have gotten much worse under the Democrats (the latest jobs report, stock market highs, and strength of the dollar be damned), and that Obamacare is failing and we should try the free market approach. (Isn't that what we had before Obamacare?)


What all of this tells me is that the above candidates are not doing their homework. At this stage of their campaigns, they should be well-versed in all of the major issues through reading everything they can get their hands on and consulting with the best political scientists and economists that money can buy. They should be poring over briefing papers every idle minute of the day as they are transported from one campaign event to another. This is a serious business they are about, and they should stop whining over having to answer serious questions for which they appear woefully unprepared. There will be thousands of so-called "gotcha" questions once the new president steps into the Oval Office, and the security of hundreds of millions of people will depend on his or her mastery of geo-political facts and strategies.

All of this brings to mind a previous candidate for vice president who absolutely loved the limelight but hated the rigors of study. Sarah Palin had some natural talents as a politician, but almost no mastery of the issues, unless she could read them from a teleprompter. She literally didn't know what a vice president does when asked, thought Queen Elizabeth was the leader of England, and that North Korea was our ally. And when famously queried by Katie Couric about what newspapers and magazines she regularly read "to stay informed and to understand the world," all Palin could sputter was "Um, all of 'em, any of 'em that, um, have, have been in front of me over all these years."

I don't bring this up to belittle Palin, but only to emphasize that we have to take this election business much more seriously than we presently do. Palin was being positioned to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, and it isn't exactly the best office for on-the-job training. Haven't we discovered this with Obama? It took him a long time to get up to speed. (Yes, I know what some of you are thinking, but the detours, road blocks, and speed bumps of partisan politics didn't exactly streamline his journey.)

Sure Trump is entertaining, Carson has a great life story, and Fiorina would easily split the women's vote if Clinton is the Democrat's nominee. But these three candidates are unqualified for the office of president by any measure, and we are all wasting our time listening to them babble and prevaricate. If they haven't mastered the facts by now or developed sensible solutions to immigration, job stagnation, tax policy, Islamism and a whole host of other issues, they never will.

Any winnowing method that's based on poll numbers and that can relegate a sitting governor like Chris Christie to the "also rans" is no way to select a candidate. I suggest that early in the process all candidates, Democrats and Republicans alike, should be vetted by their respective Central Committees to gauge their understanding of the issues. Administering a written exam that includes geography should not be out of the question. (Remember, Palin didn't understand that Africa is a continent.) Also, labeling Mexican immigrants as drug runners and rapists or suggesting that income taxes be replaced with 10 percent tithing modeled after the Bible should be an immediate cause for disqualification.

The stakes are too high and the American people deserve better.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears Fridays. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.