But then, so does everyone else: Is Donald J. Trump "mentally ill" or cognitively impaired in some serious way?
In January 2018, the New York Times declared, in an editorial, that journalists shouldn't discuss this question. In so foinf, the Times undermined a nascent discussion being conducted by Yale's Dr. Bandy X. Lee.
In effect, the Times revealed its Trumpy side that day. He's strongly inclined to wish away the coronavirus onslaught. The Times wants to wish away the question of Trump's mental health.
Is Trump "mentally ill" or cognitively impaired in some serious way? The possibility never seemed much more obvious than it did last Friday when Trump engaged in a long press conference as part of his trip to the CDC.
At one point in the lengthy press conference, Trump broke away from the questions he was being asked to reminisce about his uncle. First he praised the NIH, then he wandered afield as shown. For the full transcript, click here:
TRUMP (3/6/20): Well, we’re prepared for anything. We’re prepared. We are, really, very highly prepared for anything. And in a short period of time—I mean, what they’ve done is very incredible. And I’ve seen what they’ve done back there. It’s really incredible.In the past, Trump has described himself as "a very stable genius." In that exchange, we got to hear about his uncle, who was "a great super-genius."
JOURNALIST: And just from a health perspective—
TRUMP: And, by the way, NIH, what they’ve done—I spent time over there, and I like this stuff.
You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super-genius. Dr. John Trump.
I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, “How do you know so much about this?” Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.
But you know what? What they’ve done is very incredible. I understand that whole world. I love that world. I really do. I love that world. And they should be given tremendous credit. And the whole world is relying on us.
The suggestion seemed to be that Trump may be able to understand "this [pandemic] stuff" so well because he's like his super-genius uncle. Very few people would ever make such weird remarks in public, especially in such a serious context.
Also at issue is this claim: "Every one of these doctors said, 'How do you know so much about this?' ” That evening, on The Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell assailed this as another of Trump's lies.
To his great credit, O'Donnell is one of the very few major journalists who is willing to address the possibility that Trump is mentally ill. For our money, he would have been better off that night to see this remark from that perspective.
Few people would ever make a presentation as weird as Trump's presentation about his super-genius uncle. Earlier in that presser, he had also said this:
TRUMP: But I think—I think, importantly, anybody right now and yesterday—anybody that needs a test gets a test. We—they’re there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.Anybody who needs a test can get a test? Obviously, that statement was wholly inaccurate, but the Big Crazy entered the picture here with that remarkable side trip into the realm of the perfect.
If there’s a doctor that wants to test, if there’s somebody coming off a ship—like the big monster ship that’s out there right now, which, you know—again, that’s a big decision. Do I want to bring all those people on? People would like me to do that. I don’t like the idea of doing it.
But anybody that needs a test can have a test. They’re all set. They have them out there.
In addition to that, they’re making millions of more as we speak. But as of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test—that’s the important thing—and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.
To appearances, Trump was saying the ("beautiful") tests are perfect, just like his phone call with the Ukrainian prime minister was perfect. (He seemed to substitute "letter" for phone call.) What does it tell us when someone makes such an odd comparison in such an inappropriate circumstance?
The same question arises about something else Trump said. He had appeared on Fox the previous night, leading to this grossly inappropriate aside:
TRUMP: Well, we’re considering different things. But we’re also considering the fact that last year we had approximately 36,000 deaths due to what’s called the flu. And I was—Even in the course of discussing a global pandemic, Trump couldn't refrain from making a typically bogus claim about his record-breaking TV appearance the previous night. Very few people would ever behave in such a strange way in public.
When I first heard this four, five, six weeks ago—when I was hearing the amount of people that died with flu, I was shocked to hear it. Anywhere from 27,000 to 70,000 or 77,000. And I guess they said, in 1990, that was in particular very bad; it was higher than that.
As of the time I left the plane with you, we had 240 cases. That’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News. And you love it. But that’s what I happened to be watching.
And how was the show last night? Did it get good ratings, by the way?
JOURNALIST: I—I don’t, sir.
TRUMP: Oh, really? I heard it broke all ratings records, but maybe that’s wrong. That’s what they told me. I don’t know. I can’t imagine that.
To this very day, the press corps isn't willing to discuss this president's bizarre behavior from the standpoint of possible mental illness or cognitive impairment. To this very day, the corps is satisfied with being "shocked, shocked" for the ten millionth time whenever Trump decides to make his latest wild misstatement.
To our ear, these remarks were so remarkably weird that they beg for analysis from a mental health perspective. That said, the mainstream press will never go there. Some skeptics have said that Trump is nuts, but the rest of us seem to be too.
Tomorrow: These CDC Officials Today
For what it's worth, tormented presidents talking alike: Richard Nixon, leaving the White House:
NIXON (8/8/74): Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother—my mother was a saint. And I think of her, two boys dying of tuberculosis, nursing four others in order that she could take care of my older brother for three years in Arizona, and seeing each of them die, and when they died, it was like one of her own.More recently, Donald J. Trump, floundering among the scientists:
Yes, she will have no books written about her. But she was a saint.
TRUMP (3/6/20): You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT. He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super-genius. Dr. John Trump.For what it's worth, Nixon's mother was a saint, and the death of his two brothers may have taken a toll on Nixon.
It also seems like Trump's uncle was a very good person. According to the leading authority, he knew enough to get away from his brother, who passed his horrible values along to his unfortunate son.