Trump's Damaged Brain

Is it the drugs? Or dementia? It's time to get serious about Trump's mental deterioration.

Trump's Damaged Brain

Let me start by saying I'm not a psychologist or a family member, so I'm not really in a position to speculate about the state of Donald Trump's brain.

So instead I'll quote Trump's niece, the psychologist Mary Trump, who just told CNN's Christiane Amanpour:

"We've seen in the last decade or so the difference in how he performs in depositions, for example. He appears to have much less impulse control. And he appears to have a much-lessened ability to be coherent for any length of time."

And Mary Trump's not the only one who's noticed.

Nikki Haley and Nancy Pelosi are tuned into the problem.

On social media and (finally!) in mainstream media there is a growing acknowledgment that he's "glitching" more frequently.

It seems that everyone's suddenly saying #TrumpIsNotWell.

So, what's new?

For the past many months we've been told repeatedly by outlets like The New York Times that Biden is old and the age issue is hurting him more with voters than it's hurting Trump.

And Fox News has convinced most of its viewers that Biden has now entered an advanced stage of dementia caused by eating ice cream.

Biden "moves more tentatively than he did," says the Times, while Trump "uses his physicality to project strength in front of crowds."

But then Biden and Trump both open their mouths and we see that the reality is something quite different.

Appearing on the Seth Meyers show on 26 February 2024, Biden proved he's got the experience, wit and wisdom to defeat Trump again. He spoke about the Israel-Hamas war with a level of knowledge and compassion that Trump could never even imitate.

Meanwhile, Trump just keeps glitching.

On Election Day 2024, Biden will be 81 and Trump will be 78.

What are the differences between these two old timers when it comes to "the cognitive"?

As Biden himself can attest, he's always been a walking "gaffe machine" and having to overcome a childhood stutter that he still struggles with doesn't help.

The fact that he's 81 may bother some people but there's no doubt that he's a smarter, more effective—and more future-oriented—President than Trump will ever be.

Three years in, when Biden gives the State of the Union address on March 7, he'll have a very strong and very powerful list of accomplishments that puts Trump's record after three years to shame.

Meanwhile, Trump has a whole lot of mental problems.

As regular readers of this newsletter know, Trump is a diagnosed psychopath. That reality alone makes the idea of electing him to a second term a horrifying thought.

When it comes to Trump, there has also been a lot of talk about drug abuse. It's something Noel Casler, a comedian and former Apprentice staffer, has highlighted for years. Actor and comedian Tom Arnold said the same thing, claiming Trump snorted Adderall on the set of The Apprentice and Mark Burnett knew about it. Trump is known to take a vanity hair loss drug that can cause mental confusion. And, as was recently revealed, prescription drugs and controlled substances flowed freely in the Trump White House, possibly leading to some of Trump's most garbled late-night tweets.

In addition to Trump's psychopathy and alleged drug abuse, we should also consider the impact that his history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as his hospitalization for a severe case of Covid-19 might have had on his addled and aging brain.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association:

CVD can negatively affect the integrity of cognition and communication long before an individual is diagnosed with a major neurological disorder like stroke or dementia.

While the American public was never fully informed about the severity of Trump's COVID-19 illness in 2020, what we do know is incredibly troubling.

As the New York Times later reported: "Trump had trouble breathing at the White House. He was twice given oxygen before being taken to Walter Reed."

The Times also revealed that Trump had:

Extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus... His prognosis became so worrisome before he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that officials believed he would need to be put on a ventilator... he was found to have lung infiltrates, which occur when the lungs are inflamed and contain substances such as fluid or bacteria. Their presence, especially when a patient is exhibiting other symptoms, can be a sign of an acute case of the disease.... Trump’s blood oxygen level alone was cause for extreme concern, dipping into the 80s... The disease is considered severe when the blood oxygen level falls to the low 90s.

As the Alzheimer's Association makes clear, the effects of COVID-19 on the brain can be incredibly damaging and long lasting, especially for obese patients over 70 who require hospitalization and oxygen supplementation.

Other studies have shown a link between COVID-19 infection and new-onset dementia, and the acceleration of cognitive decline in older adults.

Trump is old in much the same way that Biden is old. There's little more than three years difference in their ages.

But that's where the similarities end.

With Biden, we pretty much know what we're getting. And we can judge him on his successful record as President.

With Trump, we have a rapist and business fraud whose biggest talent has always been conning people into believing he's something that he's not. If Trump feels his brain is going, he's not going to admit it, at least not until he needs to offer an insanity defense.

"A much-lessened ability to be coherent for any length of time"

Before we consider what experts have to say about Alzheimer's and dementia, let's just state the basic fact that, according to the National Institute on Aging: "people who are only mildly impaired may be adept at covering up their cognitive decline and reluctant to address the problem."

It's perfectly natural for an average person to try to deny or conceal their mental decline. Now imagine the lengths to which Trump—a congenital con artist—might go to downplay his own mental deterioration.

In assessing the situation, we must recognize that:

Trump is an obese old guy with a heart condition who had a really bad case of Covid not long ago. He may be a long-term drug user. And he's definitely a psychopath. He's hardwired to be deceitful, shameless and irresponsible—and never concede a weakness.

As Mary Trump says, he's having a harder and harder time appearing coherent. He's also facing the stress of 4 indictments, 91 felony counts and massive fines to punish him for multiyear business fraud and his relentless defamation of a woman he once raped.

But at the same time, many of his glitches aren't new. Anyone paying close attention has seen this before.

Here's one tweet of mine from June 2020:

In 2024, though, other medical experts are observing that Trump is indeed "getting worse."

One recently responded to Trump's continued bragging about "acing" his dementia test by tweeting: "If you think a dementia screening test is very difficult, you may have early dementia."

So, does Trump have Alzheimer's or dementia?

In one widely discussed March 1 article from Salon, psychologist Dr. John Gartner, tells Chauncey DeVega that he sees "more evidence of (Trump's) accelerating dementia" based on "the fundamental breakdowns in his ability to use language."

According to Dr. Gartner, Trump is exhibiting "phonemic paraphasias," giving as examples:

He was trying to say evangelist, for example, but haltingly said "evangelish.” He was trying to say “three years later," but said, “three years, lady, lady, lady.”

Gartner later adds:

In my family we call sandwiches “slamichs” because that’s what my stepson called them when he was three. It was cute then. It’s not cute watching and adult man regress to the mental age of a three-year-old. 

Gartner also says that Trump is showing signs of "semantic aphasia," i.e. using words in the wrong way.

Trump previously spoke about "the oranges of the investigation." More recently he displayed confusion saying:

“We’re going to protect pro-God….” In mid-sentence, he goes blank and looks at the ceiling. The words he uses to complete the sentence don’t really make sense: “…context and content.”

Gartner also explains why Trump's mental deterioration should scare anyone not part of the MAGA cult:

Whatever personality disorder someone has, it gets dramatically worse as their cognitive functions decline. All of Trump's viciousness, hostility, and unpredictable and other pathological behavior is only going to get worse.

If he's re-elected that means:

There will be no guardrails to Trump's absolute most primitive, impulsive, destructive, and insane actions. There will be no pushback from within his inner circle and regime. It is certainly very possible that a person in a state of cognitive decline is in a state where they are highly vulnerable to suggestions and being manipulated by others. I can easily imagine a scenario where Trump is a figurehead and there is a real power behind the throne pulling the strings.

As my recent two-part interview with Dr. Vince Greenwood made clear, it's scary to think of a mentally competent Trump on a second-term revenge tour. But it's perhaps even more terrifying to imagine a mentally feeble Trump as the puppet of an anti-democratic party of religious extremists equipped with "detailed plans to implement their fascist vision."

We all need to know what's wrong with Trump

Is it the drugs? Or is it dementia? Were the problems we began to observe during Trump's first term accelerated by his heart disease or his Covid hospitalization?

It's in Nikki Haley's interest to make ageism a factor in this year's presidential race. But maybe she's right about when she says Trump needs a mental competency test.

Because whatever the causes of Trump's accelerating mental deterioration, it's time for us all—including the media—to take that deterioration more seriously.

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