Friday, May 26, 2017

Is Donald Trump Losing His Mind?

This article presents an interesting premise. I am going to put aside my anti-trump sentiment for the moment, and consider whether or not this is a sign of actual cognitive deterioration, or simply what happens when a guy reaches 70.

To begin with, let's consider this quote from the article:
The experts noted clear changes from Trump’s unscripted answers 30 years ago to those in 2017 ... They noted, however, that the same sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration, anger, or just plain fatigue." What this tells me is that there is a definite, measurable decline in linguistic function. This hypothesis is bolstered by numerous examples of off-the-cuff remarks from trump in the 80s versus today. When looking through these, it is clear that, at the very least, he appeared to have a better grasp of language back then as opposed to the present day.
So the question is this: does this linguistic decline represent a corresponding decline in mental acuity outside of the normal range for a 70 year old man? I submit that, yes, it does.

In support of this, consider the following:

  1. There are many people in Washington trump's age or older who are still sharp and eloquent. Colin Powell (80), for instance, or Mitch McConnell (75), or Patrick Leahy (77), or Dianne Feinstein, Orrin Hatch, or Chuck Grassley (all 83) ... or, leaving DC, people like David Bowie (who died of cancer at age 66 but mentally was still fully functional), or David Letterman (70), or Clint Eastwood (86). Granted, genetics plays a big role here, so the fact that trump is mentally outgunned by someone ten to sixteen years older than he does not immediately indicate a catastrophic loss of function ... it merely means that people like Powell and Eastwood got a better genetic hand dealt to them.
  2. There are some circumstantial indicators that perhaps trump is in the early stages of Alzheimer's or dementia. The fact that he is unable to sustain a single train of thought without a script, or that he is generally short-tempered with those around him ... while not at all definitive, these are indications that there may be something going on. Some of these indicators are the same things we saw in Ronald Reagan during the last year or so of his second term. His condition was not formally diagnosed until six years after leaving office, but rumors persisted then -- and now -- that his mental function had begun a sharp decline while he was still in office.
  3. Let's face it, he's not in great health. He is overweight and clearly does not take good care of himself. Obesity, and the chemical havoc it wreaks on the human body, has been shown in numerous studies to accelerate mental decline to varying degrees.

So what does this all mean? Is he fit to serve as president?

Again, putting aside politics for the moment, it's a tough call. On the one hand, he still is very much aware of what is going on around him, and despite all expectations he is showing a modicum of talent n the area of foreign relations (far below what other presidents have shown, and below what is expected of him, but he is not the foreign policy train wreck everyone thought he would be ... yet). On the other hand, he appears to be incapable of concentrating on one thing for more than a minute or two at a time ... a talent that is absolutely essential to someone holding the highest office in the land.

My take on things? Again, doing my best to remain objective, I would have to say: wait and see. There is not enough there to formally declare him mentally unfit, but there are enough signs to be of concern and to merit further monitoring.

And from a purely human standpoint, if this is happening to him, I feel bad for the guy. Having witnessed a friend's mother go through this I have seen firsthand the absolute horror of what happens, especially in the later stages ... despite what people said to try to be comforting, she was fully aware of what was happening to her until shortly before the very end, and the thought of knowing that you are losing your mind ... it's a terrifying prospect.

My two cents.

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