Anyone who reads Paste Politics will know by now that Donald Trump is not our favorite American. In fact, there are two entities we attack with more frequency than any other, and Trump is one of them (spineless neoliberal Democrats, and their allies in the media, are the other). Each of us has our own story of getting emotionally rocked on election night and the psychic torture of having to cover American politics in the Trump era, where each breaking scandal is more outrageous than the next but simultaneously less meaningful. It’s a time of eroding norms, and likely the most perilous moment for our democracy since Douglas MacArthur came back from Korea and threatened to overwhelm the presidency by virtue of sheer nationalism. All of which is to say that if there’s something negative about Trump that is both true and bears spreading, our hands will shoot up without hesitation.
But, being honest, I always thought the claims of “dementia” were a sham. It seemed like liberal wish fulfillment—it would be nice for them if Trump began to show signs of dementia, since it would diminish his influence, and I always got the sense that they wanted it to be true more than it was actually true. Watching him speak, he didn’t seem like someone with dementia. Yes, his brain works in an associative way where he’s constantly interrupting himself, switching topics, and bolstering every point with his five favorite adjectives, but I’ve known plenty of flighty narcissists like that of all ages, and it never felt like anything but a (loathsome) personality quirk with Trump. When asked a direct question, he at least seemed to comprehend the details and begin with a direct answer before inevitably lying, changing the subject, inventing praise, or defaulting to grievance and accusations. Again, no evidence for me of dementia. If anything, Biden’s the one who seems addled.
And yet, people keep saying Trump is showing signs of dementia. People who would know, as we see from this story from Newsweek:
President Donald Trump regularly struggles to “remember what he’s said or been told,” an anonymous senior government official behind a new exposé on the inner workings of the White House has claimed.
Much of the nearly 260 pages of the anonymous official’s tome, A Warning, which hit bookshelves on Tuesday, has been dedicated to sounding the alarm about Trump’s alarming behavior.
I have a certain disdain for the parade of Republican officials who will only ever say something critical anonymously or after they’ve been fired by him, but the fact that this person is publishing a book with a respected publishing house at least confirms it is an actual senior official close to the White House. And he’s not pulling punches on the brain front:
“He stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information, not occasionally but with regularity,” the official warns. Often, they say, “the president also can’t remember what he’s said or been told.”
“Americans are used to him denying words that have come out of his mouth,” the senior official writes. “Sometimes this is to avoid responsibility.” However, they say it often “appears Trump genuinely doesn’t remember important facts.”
The examples listed in the article include the time he forgot basic details after a hurricane briefing, and his inability to remember basic facts about geopolitics. Unfortunately, it doesn’t answer the central question: Does Trump actually have dementia?
Or, or, or: Is he just the world’s foremost egomaniac? Is he just a guy who doesn’t read and has no desire to start? Is he just someone who is fundamentally uninterested in the workings of government, and can’t be bothered to pay attention to even the simplest facts, to the extent that he forgets them immediately? We’ve all had moments where we zone out if a conversation that doesn’t interest us, and embarrass ourselves later when we can’t recall even the bare minimum from what was said to us directly. What if Trump is just someone who lives his entire life that way?
As with so many conspiracy theories surrounding this man, we’re left again in a state of speculation, with no proof. Until somebody shows me ironclad evidence that he has an actual issue with his brain, I can’t help believing that it’s more wish fulfillment, and that Trump’s actual mental pathology is less complex: He’s just a guy so saturated with narcissism that he doesn’t have the bandwidth to care about anything, or anybody, but himself.