Periodically I hand out my personal Slap-Your-Hand Award to the media for their reporting—or lack thereof—on a particular issue. Today I hand out a Slappy for the way in which the media have avoided treating a very serious issue: the mental stability of the President of the United States.
This is also not the first time I have written about this issue. Things have grown more serious since the last post, however, and I am concerned that the news media are not addressing a critical issue adequately.
Is the President of the United States demonstrating signs of dementia?
The Obvious Answer
In my opinion, the answer can only be affirmative. The signs are obvious, public, and undeniable. Any layperson with knowledge of dementia can see them. While the news media do not ignore the most obvious of these signs, they report on each one individually. They seem to take it lightly, almost humorously, when President Donald Trump does or says something bizarre, as though it’s no more important than a celebrity mishap or the latest screwy thing Kanye West said.
The news media behave in the same way as the late-night comedians who ridicule the President every day. The difference, of course, is that they are comedians; they get paid to ridicule people. The job of mainstream news anchors and reporters is to tell us what’s happening that might affect the wellbeing of the nation.
On many occasions, President Donald Trump has demonstrated multiple symptoms of dementia. What the news media do not do—and what really needs to be reported—is show these events as part of an ongoing process. That process, which began years ago, is well underway and growing worse. A President with dementia is serious business. Take a look at these examples.
President Trump is noted for his rambling, disjointed, disconnected “word salad” speeches and pronouncements. What he calls “going off script” is really just speaking whatever thoughts are going through his mind. Those thoughts seem to be growing increasingly irrational and disjointed.
- At the CPAC conference in February of this year, Mr. Trump first hugged the American flag. Then he spoke extemporaneously for two hours, jumping from subject to subject and point to point, often changing in the middle of a sentence.
Difficulty Finding the Right Words
He has difficulty pronouncing words and sometimes uses the wrong word. Does covfefe ring a bell?
- On April 12, 2019, he pronounced “origins” as “oranges” several times. You can see in his face that he knows he’s mispronouncing the word but can’t think of the right way to say it. This goes beyond not remembering the right word — something that happens to everyone.. He knows what he’s saying is wrong but can’t fix it.
- On March 6, 2019, President Trump called Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Tim Apple. He then tried to explain the gaffe in multiple ways instead of simply saying, “I goofed.”
- On March 29,2019, he called Venezuela a company instead of a country. Absent any of the other symptoms, I would regard this as just a slip of the tongue, the kind of mistake anyone can make. But it’s not an isolated incident; it’s part of a sequence.
We have all heard Donald Trump’s repetitions: “great great,” “beautiful, beautiful,” “unfair,” “big beautiful wall,” etc. Yes, one might argue that he’s just using repetition as a rhetorical device but he does it all the time, in daily comments as well as in speeches.
Increasing Confusion and Failing Sense of Direction
President Trump has shown confusion about where he is and where he needs to go.
- On July 5, 2017, Mr. Trump walked off Air Force One toward the limousine waiting right at the foot of the stairway. Instead of getting in, he acted as though he didn’t realize it was his car. Instead, he turned right and walked away, heading out into the airport. An aide had to stop him and point him back toward the vehicle.
- President Trump reportedly became confused and got lost on Air Force One. Someone had to bring him back to his seat.
Struggling to Adapt to Change
- On April 1, 2017, Mr. Trump left an executive order-signing ceremony without signing the document. Vice President Mike Pence chased after him and reminded him but the President walked out the door and left the room.
- On October 12, 2017, he forgot to sign a bill weakening the Affordable Care Act and Vice President Mike Pence had to remind him to do so.
- On November 20, 2018, Donald Trump Stood on the main stage of the G2 Summit and shook hands with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri. He then abruptly turned and strode off. Microphones recorded him telling aides to “Get me out of here.” President Macri remained on stage, bewildered by Mr. Trump’s odd behavior and uncertain what to do next.
Difficulty Completing Normal Tasks
- When at the 2017 inauguration the Mr. Trump walked up the stairs of the White House to meet President and Mrs. Obama, he left his wife sitting in the limousine. At the time, people focused on how boorish and rude that behavior was. I see it as the first obvious step in the process of forgetting how to do normal things.
- On October 28, 2018, President Trump walked up the steps of Air Force One holding an umbrella. At the top, he made no attempt to close the umbrella and almost seemed to pull it in after him. When it did not fit through the door, he simply dropped the umbrella and abandoned it.
Short-term Memory Loss
- On September 23, 2017, Donald Trump forgets that his wife is standing right next to him and declares that, “she really wanted to be here.” Perhaps the cap confused him and he thought she was a man.
- On April 3, 2019, President Trump claimed, not for the first time, that his father was German—born in Germany. His father, Fred Trump, was born in New York. Was he confusing his father with his grandfather? What adult forgets where his father was born?
Changes in Mood
- Donald Trump’s rages are well known and well documented. One comment can set him off, particularly if it’s a criticism. He has turned on friends, aides, Cabinet Secretaries, Senators, and House members in a flash. Having insulted and berated them, Mr. Trump then expects their support, obedience and adulation. It all happens so quickly, it’s difficult to keep track.
Not Connecting the Dementia Dots
That’s just a sample. Given the frequency of these incidents and how well they map to the early symptoms of dementia, I am surprised that no one has built a website on the topic documenting all the occurrences with links like those above. If I took the time to read all the books that have been written about the Trump administration, I’m sure I would find many more.
But I am even more concerned that the news media seem happy not to connect the dots, treating each incident as a separate occurrence. One may dismiss or excuse the individual examples but the pattern is far more important. One may joke about dementia (although I think this is a cheap shot) but dementia is no joke.
Experience with Dementia
I’m not a physician of any kind but my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and I know from the experience of caring for her that dementia goes far beyond memory loss.
- There are delusions: thinking that they have talked to someone who has been dead for 30 years or that they went shopping that morning in stores 200 miles away.
- There’s paranoia. Thinking that they are subject to threats that don’t really exist or that a spouse of many years is “trying to kill me.”
- There is confusion when regular surroundings and routines change. When we moved my mother-in-law to an assisted-living community, she reacted violently. She was a college-educated woman and an English teacher who traveled abroad, took continuous education classes, read voraciously, kept up with current events and always had classical music playing. She never used vulgar language or acted violent in any way. After we moved her into the residence, she chased a little teenage aide down the hall, threatening to hit her with a hairbrush and screaming “I’m going to f***g kill you!”
Dementia doesn’t get better. Dementia doesn’t even stand still. It grows worse over time and there is no cure. You can’t send someone to a rehab center as you can with alcoholism or drug dependency. There are no reliable treatments.
Unfit for Office
This man is clearly unfit to be the President of the United States right now—and it’s only going to get worse. We have already seen his symptoms play out in public and on the news. We have seen foreign leaders and dignitaries confused or insulted by his behavior. He turned his back on the Queen of England.
His White House lawyers, aides and assistants — those closest to him — have already refused to carry out some of his orders, using simple inaction to avoid a crisis. The Mueller Report documented this passive resistance and more has been reported since.
Expert Warnings on Dementia
Experts have spoken up to warn us of Trump’s irrational behavior. They have said that they recommend anyone with his symptoms should be tested for dementia.
What does it take the American public to admit that the man in the White House is losing his mental stability? What does he have to say or do for people to realize that he’s in the same pickle as Grandma Ella or poor Uncle Dave? Is there any statement so bizarre or any action so disturbing that it will make his dementia undeniable?
The best that can be said is that Trump doesn’t have to drive so there’s no risk of him killing someone else on the road. He has aides to keep him from “sundowning” and getting lost. What he is doing to the country is a lot worse, though. Why he might do is worse still.
Not Doing Their Jobs
I give a Slap-Your-Hand Award to the news media that should be doing this work for us. They need to connect the dots, add expert commentary, and make a case to the American public. Why are they not doing this? The only reason I can think of is that they don’t want to deal with it. They are not doing their jobs.