The problem of Trump’s mental state

I suspect that many readers of this blog also read Marcus Ranum over at stderr but just in case you don’t, I want to refer you to a post he made today that deals with something I too have been mulling over, and that is whether we are dealing with a president who is slowly, before our very eyes, showing signs of a cognitive degeneration and if so how best we should respond to it.

It is not recommended even for professionals in the field of mental health to make remote diagnoses of the cognitive state of people. It is hard to say when a person’s brain is malfunctioning because that would imply that we know what ‘normal’ brain functioning looks like. How do we distinguish between words and actions that are deliberately malevolent and those that are inadvertent, since all actions are the result of brain functions? This is the problem that confronts judges and juries when a defendant raises the insanity defense.

And of course, even if Trump has degenerative brain problem, it should not prevent us from harshly criticizing and mocking the actual policies he is setting in motion. But as Marcus says, it perhaps should make us more cautious about mocking his verbal misstatements. This is not easy to do since his actions are so hateful that one wants to throw the kitchen sink at him.

I do not listen to Donald Trump’s speeches or even his press conferences. The only glimpses I have of his speech are when short clips of them appear on the news or the comedy shows so the disturbing patterns that Marcus describes were not noticed by me.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Consider a pair of recent Trumpisms, from a single speech:

    • The noise from wind turbines causes cancer.

    • Someone would leak that speech to the media.

    Both utterly bogus, of course (one “based” on nothing, except perhaps to throw valid criticisms of fossil-fuel and nuclear energy back in scientists’ and physicians’ faces; the other spoken directly into C-Span cameras).

    How does one address such untruths without either mockery or questioning our only President’s mental state?

  2. Dunc says

    This is not easy to do since his actions are so hateful that one wants to throw the kitchen sink at him.

    It’s not like there’s any shortage of entirely legitimate targets for criticism or mockery in his conduct, and there are only so many hours in the day…

  3. Mark Dowd says

    I have absolutely no qualms about mocking his verbal misstatements, because of how he treats them. He refuses to ever admit making a mistake. When he does realize he goofed, his instinctual reaction is to pretend he meant it. Just like the idiot in a sitcom that trips over his own feet and says it’s a dance move.

    Trump says “They sacrifice every day for the furniture…” A normal person would follow this up with something like “…I mean future…”, which acknowledges and corrects the mistake. But not Trump. He says “…and the future…”. Oh really? You want that quote to be “they sacrifice everyday for the furniture and future of their children”? That’s what you meant to say? Masterful speechwriting.

    Compare Bernie Sanders. “The cat is out of the box!” An embarrassing mistake to make, and his follow up is extremely reasonable: “…or whatever the phrase is.” Yep I goofed, you know what I mean, moving on.

    It’s not the mistakes that I have a problem with’ it’s his narcissism.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Another perspective, via Digby Parton:

    Nichole Wallace: A week or so ago you talked about alarming signs when you as a profiler from your law enforcement and counterintelligence background … describe some worries about compulsive conduct. …

    Former FBI Counterintelligence chief Figluzzi: What we talked about was a possible analogy between what we’re seeing in the president and studies of violence, particularly workplace violence. We talked about the journey and pathway to violence when we see people using language of despondency, lashing out, demeaning others, obsessive-compulsive attachment to one issue and an inability to get off of it. … And are we beginning to see him act out in the form of purging and mass firing and completely not listening to any logic. … And where does this go if I’m right about that?

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