Tuesday Reads: Is Donald Trump Cognitively Impaired?

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Good Afternoon!!

Today is the West Virginia primary. As Al Giordano says, we are in “garbage time” now, and the Clinton campaign is focusing on the general election while Sanders tries to win delegates as the primary clock runs down. He has no chance to win the nomination, so Hillary is trying to let him and his followers down gently by not running a lot of ads in the state. Bernie is favored to win; but it will probably be close, and he will likely net just a few delegates–perhaps 3 or 6. That won’t put much of a dent in Hillary’s lead.

The time has come for Hillary supporters to project quiet confidence and ignore Bernie and his bros as they metaphorically throw themselves to the floor kicking and screaming in their childish tantrums. We are in a much bigger battle now. We have to focus on keeping an ignorant, narcissistic, sociopathic, megalomaniac and wannabe tyrant out of the White House.

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Today I want to examine a very serious question: Is Donald Trump suffering from a cognitive disorder or some form of dementia? Donald’s father Fred suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed six years before he died at age 93, but it’s likely he was experiencing symptoms before that. Wealthy and famous people tend to be protected in our culture even when they are behaving in ways that would be labeled as “crazy” in “ordinary” citizens.

Donald certainly shows a number of signs of having cognitive difficulties. He is 69 years old and, if elected, would be the oldest U.S. President ever inaugurated. Hillary Clinton is only one year younger than Trump, but she appears to be functioning at a very high level intellectually.

Clinton has no problem remembering names, no obvious difficulty with thinking and speaking coherently, and is obviously capable of making and understanding complex arguments. Donald Trump, on the other hand, appears to have difficulty staying focused on a subject or question; and either his short-term memory abilities are damaged or he’s an extremely unskilled liar.

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Several writers addressed the possibility that Trump could be cognitively impaired early in his campaign. Here’s an example from an academic blog called Language Log: Trump’s aphasia, by Geoff Pullum.

The following word-stream (it cannot be called a sentence) was uttered by Republican presidential contender Donald Trump on July 21 in Sun City, South Carolina. As far as I can detect it has no structure at all: the numerous conditional adjuncts never arrive at consequents, we never encounter a main verb or even an approximation to a claim. The topic seems to be related to nuclear engineering, Trump’s uncle, the Wharton School, Trump’s intelligence, politics, prisoners, women’s intelligence, and Iran. But it’s hard to be sure:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.

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Here’s a response from another language blogger, Arnold Zwicky:

It seems to me that Trump was leaping aimlessly about from topic to topic and referent to referent, the mark of the flight of ideas.

Thought disorder. From Wikipedia:

Thought disorder (TD) or formal thought disorder (FTD) refers to disorganized thinking as evidenced by disorganized speech. Specific thought disorders include derailment, poverty of speech, tangentiality, illogicality, perseveration, neologism, and thought blocking.

[among the recognized derangements is the …]”Flight of ideas” – a form of formal thought disorder marked by abrupt leaps from one topic to another, albeit with discernable links between successive ideas, perhaps governed by similarities between subjects or, in somewhat higher grades, by rhyming, puns, and word plays (clang associations), or innocuous environmental stimuli – e.g., the sound of birds chirping. It is most characteristic of the manic phase of bipolar illness.

Now I’ve written here about “associative thinking”, in which someone moves through a chain of ideas, each one latching naturally to the one before, but easily capable of carrying someone far from a starting point. We all think this way, and everyday conversation tends to follow such paths, only for a group as a whole rather than for just one speaker. There is nothing disordered in any of that.

I’ve observed the flight of ideas up close in people in the manic phase of bipolar illness, and somewhat similar associations in classic schizophrenics, and indeed related disordered associations in people with dementia, including my partner Jacques (who was especially subject to intrusions of sounds and sights from the environment into his train of thought). Donald Trump looks distressingly familiar to me.

Is is possible that Trump suffers from bi-polar illness with mania being the main symptom? He says that he sleeps very little and he often tweets in the middle of the night. Or could it be dementia? I have no idea whether Trump has always spoken so incoherently or if his symptoms are increasing with age. I do think it is a serious question for voters to be aware of and for journalists to investigate.

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There is also the question of Trump’s ability to lay down long-term memories. Is he just a blatant liar, or does he have difficulty recalling things he has said very recently? One egregious example of this is Trump’s claims that he opposed the Iraq war back when the Bush administration was ramping it up. From Eric Black at MinnPost in February:

Trump is great at non-answer word salads in which he not only interrupts the questioner but constantly interrupts himself, puts out little self-congratulatory asides and says whatever he wants, usually things he has said a million times before but which often qualify as non-answers.

Trump has made a yuuuge deal about how he warned in advance, long and loud, that the Iraq War would be a disaster. Joe asked him about why no one can find any transcript of him saying anything remotely along these lines until after the war started. His explanation, Thursday night and I guess every time he is asked this, is to say that because he wasn’t in public office or anything, his prescient warnings didn’t make it into any transcripts or video archives. Then he goes right back to claiming to have said it long and loud and in advance and doesn’t explain why so many of his later statements about the war (which are far more mixed than he describes them) manage to show up in the public record, since he was still not in public office or anything.

There is absolutely no evidence that Trump ever opposed the invasion of Iraq and plenty of evidence that he supported it. Is he deliberately lying or does he simply not recall what he believed back in the 2000’s?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Another example from a February post at Daily Kos:

Trump has frequently bragged that he has“one of the best memories of all time.” However, that boast has been utterly demolished by his own words and actions. One notable example was his insistence that he had seen television reporting of “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. That was an invented memory because there is no evidence that it occurred, despite the fact that television footage of such an event would be easily retrievable.

Trump’s memory was also noticeably deficient when he recently began hammering Ted Cruz as a “nasty guy” and “the single biggest liar” he ever met. Just three months ago he was lauding Cruz and floating him as a possible VP pick. Similarly he once praised Hillary Clinton as a “terrific” woman and a great Secretary of State. Now he is saying that she was the “worst Secretary of State in history.” And as for President Obama, today Trump tweeted that he is “perhaps the worst president in U.S. history.” But this is what he wrote in his book “Think Like A Champion:”

“What he has done is amazing. The fact that he accomplished what he has—in one year and against great odds—is truly phenomenal.” […]”Barack Obama proved that determination combined with opportunity and intelligence can make things happen—and in an exceptional way.” […]

“His comments have led me to believe that he understands how the economy works on a comprehensive level. He has also surrounded himself with very competent people, and that’s the mark of a strong leader.” […]

“He’s totally a champion.”

Clearly Trump has either a failing memory or mental blocks that render his memory unreliable. Many other examples exist. For instance, he said he couldn’t remember a disabled reporter that disgustingly mocked, but they had met many times; he threatened to sue Cruz three days after he promised that he never would; he complained that the media never reported a comment by Jeb Bush and seconds later, after Bush denied the charge, Trump defended himself by saying that the news reported it ten times.

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There are numerous examples of Trump’s incoherent thinking. I’d strongly suggest that you read the transcript of his interview with The Washington Post editorial board if you haven’t done so already. This section of the interview has gotten quite a bit of attention:

RYAN: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?

TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS?

[CROSSTALK]

TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here.  Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

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This happened toward the end of the interview and Trump seemed unaware of how long he’d been talking. He also seemed unaware that he had time-limited the interview because he had to be at another meeting.

HIATT: Sure, then I’d like to let a couple of them get in questions.

LEWANDOWSKI: We have got five minutes, hard out.

HIATT: Okay.

TRUMP: Oh is it?

CORY: Yeah. You have a meeting you have to get to.

There are endless examples of Trump’s disordered thinking and use of language. There is clearly something wrong with him. In a few months, this man will be receiving confidential security briefings and there is even a chance that he could become President. I’m going to list more article for you to check out, and I hope you’ll read them, consider this question, and talk to your friends and neighbors about it.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post: Trump’s word salads conceal his ignorance.

Max Eherenfreund at Wonkblog: Five times Donald Trump changed his position on a really big issue.

Steve King at Death and Taxes: Does Donald Trump have dementia?

The Inquistor: Does Donald Trump Have Alzheimer’s? Questions about the GOP Frontrunner’s Mental Fitness Arise.

Sophia A. McClennon at Alternet: Maybe Donald Trump Has Really Lost His Mind: What If the GOP Frontrunner Isn’t Crazy, but Simply Not Well?

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Tuesday!


57 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Is Donald Trump Cognitively Impaired?”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I wish I had more time to go into this. I’m going to keep trying to find out more about whether Trump’s language and thinking have always been so incoherent.

    I suppose he could also have ADHD. He was sent to a military high school because of his erratic behavior in adolescence.

    • janicen says:

      I wondered about ADHD too. I speech pattern and what he says make me think of someone who spends all day long on the internet and believes what he reads. Even his reference to the scenes of Muslims cheering on 9/11. Maybe there was some ridiculous meme out there and he watched it dozens of times and now he believes it because it was “out there”.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    This is interesting from the LA Times: Sanders’ fundraising is slowing just when he needs it most – for California.

    There are reports that Sanders may not buy TV ads in California.

    • NW Luna says:

      Glad he’s running out of money. Then again, he’s far outspent Hillary in many states that he’s lost.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        From all the reports I’ve read he significantly outspent her in NY, PA, OH,MD & RI just a few weeks ago. He’s also outspent her in IN last week and in today’s contest in WV. He didn’t spend as heavily in the South, but he did go big in TX, AZ and NV. I think he also spent heavily in SC & FL. Hopefully his donors are finally coming to grips that winning the nomination is mission impossible for him.

  3. Ron4Hills says:

    Unbelievable. Liar is bad enough, a demented liar too much. Great post.

  4. Delphyne49 says:

    I loved this article, BB! I hope you will do more of them focusing on Trump’s mental health. I do agree that there is something wrong with him.

    The other links should be interesting, too and I’m looking forward to reading them. Thanks so much!

    • Yes, especially enjoyed the language articles. Excellent post BB.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Thanks, Delphyne and JJ. I could have written much more; but if you read the articles I posted at the end, you’ll get a lot of background.

        Disordered language is a symptom of many disorders.

        • Delphyne49 says:

          Oh, boy – I’ve read 3 of those articles (the last 3) and have to take a break from finishing off the other 2. I’ve always thought that Trump was just a bombastic, entitled, rude and crude frat boy, but after reading those articles, the thought that he may have dementia/Alzheimer’s or be bipolar is downright frightening.

          The “we need brain” comment was shocking and that letter from his doctor sounds like it was written by Trump. If Tom Eagleton was forced out of the campaign for depression, imagine the reaction if Trump “Is morally, ethic’lly, spiritually, physically, positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably**” diagnosed as cognitively impaired. I would hope his supporters would be more than alarmed…

          I usually turn Trump off when he starts babbling, but I’m going to really pay attention to his speech, his body language and the look in his eyes. My mother had dementia and I was her primary caregiver – I want to see if I can spot similarities.

          Thanks again for the great post!

          ** Sorry, couldn’t help the Wizard of Oz reference!

          • bostonboomer says:

            I’ve done the same thing. It was only after I read the WaPo interview that I started to pay more attention to Trump’s disordered language. He seems unable to construct a coherent sentence, much less understand complex political issues and policies.

        • janicen says:

          In a lot of ways, it reminds me of my mother. She would prattle on for an hour or more and never really complete a sentence. She would refer to everyone with pronouns, assuming you knew who she was talking about. You’d have to firmly interrupt her to say, “Wait, who is it you are talking about?” And she would be frustrated that you didn’t know.

          She was manic depressive but never received treatment.

          • bostonboomer says:

            Yes, my mentally ill mother-in-law did those things too. She was diagnosed bipolar, but never really evidenced much mania. She was also delusional at times and definitely had some form of dementia as she got older.

        • joanelle says:

          Great post, BB. This can be explosive information. I always thought he was perhaps somewhere on the spectrum based on his outbursts, but these articles suggest that this needs to be looked at very carefully.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Good article on mothers in superhero comics and movies.

    Supermoms: Martyred, Fridged, Forgotten

    http://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2016/05/08/61162/

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Former First Lady Laura Bush hints she could vote for Hillary Clinton in general election

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/laura-bush-hints-vote-clinton-trump-article-1.2596063

  7. quixote says:

    I’ve assumed he’s just dumber than a box of rocks and the word salad is his way of trying to make everyone as confused as he is so that maybe they won’t notice. But you’re the psych Ph.D., BB, and you’re bringing up patterns whose full awfulness I’ve tried to ignore.

    He’s waaay out there….

    I guess the major remaining question is was he always like that or has it gotten worse? I remember when someone put together Raygun’s speeches from his CA governorship and first year of presidency and then compared that to his fifth or sixth year. The patter was the same but the content was punk wood. The Alzheimer’s wasn’t even hard to spot when the clips were juxtaposed like that.

  8. NW Luna says:

    Trump’s style of speech shares much with that of people with cognitive decline from Alzheimers or other chronic neurodegenerative conditions. They can “cover” to a certain extent, and on the surface pass in social conversation. But when you press for details, they cannot recall specifics. Executive functioning is limited, so organizational ability, and multi-step processing is very poor. They use many generalizations, and go off on tangents frequently. I interpret the tangents as being an attempt to distract you from the fact they can’t answer the question, and the result of their limited attention and short-term memory capabilities.

  9. dakinikat says:

    here’s something from the other cognitively impaired candidate.

    Bernie Sanders Cancels Meeting with HIV/AIDS Activists, Won’t Return Calls and Emails
    http://www.towleroad.com/2016/05/bernie-sanders-aids-3/

  10. dakinikat says:

    and

    http://www.politicade.com/did-bernie-sanders-illegally-use-campaign-funds-to-take-family-to-italy/

    Bernie Sanders has been under Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigation for months due to numerous campaign finance violations. In the most recent FEC letter to the Sanders Campaign dated 3/30, Sanders is warned of an audit if his campaign does not provide requested details by the deadline of 5/4. (FEC letters: 2/11, 2/25, 3/30)

    • Jslat says:

      This is the deadline for which the Bern’s campaign requested an extension of, I believe, 45 days because they don’t have time to gather information since they are busy campaigning! Note, that would mean no release of financial s until after CA primary!

  11. ANonOMouse says:

    Really enjoyed this post. I’ve watched a lot of Trump’s stump speeches and he can’t stay focused on a subject but a few seconds before he interrupts himself with some anecdotal information that may or may not have anything to do with the original subject. I’ve wondered if he is suffering from some sort of dementia because I know one of the earliest signs is not being able to verbally begin and complete a thought.

  12. ANonOMouse says:

  13. janicen says:

    Another Hillary masterpiece:

  14. ANonOMouse says:

    Bernie Supporter Cornell West goes off the deep end.

    • NW Luna says:

      Everyone is an authentic human being. Qualified to be President, though, is another matter entirely.

  15. palhart says:

    As a former teacher, for a few years, Trumps’ behavior has struck me as childlike because he has never had to grow up. He was most likely an overly protected child of wealthy parents who was rarely disciplined or forced to take responsibility for his bad behavior. His older sister, Maryanne, in an interview, admitted he was a brat growing up. Now as a super wealthy NYC business man and tv star, no one has had much success in calling him out for his lies, distortions, and squirrelly thinking. I am fascinated with this new analysis and hope there are more posts on the subject.

    Just reading his wikipedia pages will give you reasons why few in his past will come forward with an account of their dealings, if at all negative, with this suing-happy man-child. I remind myself that there are 6 more months of campaigning before the general for voters to get riled up enough to vote against him. I can hope.

  16. Jslat says:

    And now for something to make you smile and the Bern grimace ☺

    http://www.politico.com/story/2016/05/joe-biden-hillary-clinton-nominee-president-223017

  17. jackyt says:

    “Biden reiterated that both Clinton and Sanders are qualified, and in an interview with The New York Times later in April, the vice president suggested that he favored Sanders’ approach.

    “I like the idea of saying, ‘We can do much more,’ because we can,” he said.

    Thanks for the .politico. link Jslat. The above sentiment always floors me. The question that immediately pops into my mind is: how long were you in the senate Joe… and Bernie… and you haven’t done so much more why??

    • Jslat says:

      Jackyt If I remember correctly, Biden also made some mods toward Hillary in that NYT article. The media only repeated & repeated that one line.

      • Thank you. If I read the original article, I’ve forgotten that.
        I’m so fed up with all the negativity piled on Clinton. I cannot comprehend how anybody thinks it’s justified. She keeps talking about issues, her opponents keep deflecting with slurs, innuendos and outright lies, and the media keeps going down rabbit holes. It seems this election season has devolved into mass hysteria… and the one sane person, Clinton, is being blamed for it by way too large a percentage of the electorate.

  18. William says:

    This is frightening enough, but even more so is the 59-34% margin that some polls have given Trump among Rust Belt state voters on the question as to who would do a better job on the economy, Trump or Clinton? Anyone who actually thinks that Trump would do better with the economy, is very stupid and/or ignorant indeed. That may sound unkind to say, but if the American public is really that incapable of telling the difference between someone who has incredibly complex and nuanced views on economic matters, and someone who has no idea what he is talking about, I don’t know how salvageable the country is. What Bush and his group did to the economy, would be multiplied many times by what Trump would end up doing. He declared bankruptcy four times. He said that the U.S. can get out of much of its debt by simply refusing to pay, and forcing the rest of the world to accept pennies on the dollar.

    • Jslat says:

      He has also suggested that the US print more money to solve the problem……..

  19. bostonboomer says:

    Remarkable New Poll Finds Hillary Getting One-Fifth of GOP Voters in Miami-Dade County

    http://bluenationreview.com/poll-finds-hillary-getting-one-fifth-of-gop-voters-in-miami-dade-county/

  20. mablue2 says:

    Wait a minute! What?

    Poll: Despite Bernie Sanders’ Crowds, Hillary Clinton Ahead In Oregon

    DHM Research surveyed 901 likely Oregon voters between May 6 and May 9 for OPB and Fox 12. Among Democrats, Clinton led U.S. Sen. Sanders 48 percent to 33 percent. Sanders has attracted adoring crowds at campaign appearances in Portland and Eugene — he’ll speak again Tuesday night in Salem — but the Democratic primary is a closed election. That means only registered Democrats can vote, and may help explain why Clinton leads in the poll.

    • NW Luna says:

      Oh, oh, oh! You go, Hillary! Those closed primaries. I love ’em!

      Disenfranchising the non-Democrats, who can go vote in their own party of Independents or Socialists or whatever primary.