A Little Elephant In The Room

It’s impossible to say for sure, but Trump appears to be suffering from late stage dementia. Of course, that won’t matter to anyone in Washington; if they’re willing to look the other way while he commits ridiculous crimes, they certainly won’t even deign to notice his brain melting.

They know it’s what’s happening, of course. Such monumental cruelty to stand back and watch a monumental shitheel fall, slowly, from the pinnacle of the power he stole in the ultimate grift. He’s so repugnant that he gets no pity from me, even though I think we’re dealing with an involuntary medical condition, not a lifestyle choice – as he burns like a tallow candle (dimly, with a lot of smoke and a lingering smell) he’s able to do what he learned how to do: grift and lie, it’d be sad if he wasn’t such a complete and dangerous asshole.

But nobody (apparently) said, “Sir, a few weeks ago, you couldn’t tell the difference between Al Quds and The Kurds – maybe you’re not equipped to make life and death decisions any more.”

Even his supporters have got to be irritated by this shambling wreckage. When Ronald Reagan’s alzheimers’ started kicking in, his supporters realized it and hid it, letting the president have a good nap in the situation room while the people who really run the country anyway did what they wanted to do. Shove Trump out on a golf course and he’ll do what he’s good at. I.e.: he’ll cheat at golf, too. In literature and film there is a trope of the aging dotard king, whose intimate advisors know perfectly well what’s going on, and commit a “soft coup” by fobbing them off with wine, or harem girls, or cheeseburgers and Fox News. This is nothing new, but it’s still a manifestation of the cruelty that the power-mad are capable of.

The stress ages you more than the cocaine

And the madness for power stretches across both sides of the aisle. Watch the pathetic democratic party debates and what you’ll notice is a bunch of gerontocrats and billionaires. The emphasis, nauseatingly, is on the money, but Bloomberg (not a real candidate) is 77, Sanders is 78, Warren is 70 and Biden is 77. I’m 57 myself and I can no longer move or think like I used to; I can’t imagine what 77 is like but when I’m 77 I’ll be lucky if I can exercise my imagination at all. Perhaps this is just hereditary fear: we tend to succumb to Alzheimer’s in my family. My dad, at 84, is still going strong but my grandparents both died of Azlheimer’s and my great-grandparents may have, too. My dad’s mind works well enough that he knows that it doesn’t work like it used to. If the democratic gerontocrats were honest with themselves, they’d realize there is something profoundly wrong with them, at their advanced ages, squabbling over the brass ring. Leave that for 40 and 50-year olds; it’s a young person’s game. It ages you; and – seriously – Biden hasn’t got a lot of additional margin for aging.

Alexandria Occasio-Cortez would have a good chance of running for president (except her party would kill her campaign, and is already hard at work trying to neutralize her future) except she’s too young. But you can be positively decrepit and still run for president. Trump’s too old and losing his mind and it sounds like he’s had a heart attack, Bernie just had heart surgery, and Bloomberg’s trying to buy a soul and get it installed in his empty husk.

None of these people should be trying to grab at political power at their age; they’re not mentally healthy. Mentally healthy old people don’t sit around counting their money and wondering if they can buy a high office: they write books, teach young people, fish, and call in drone strikes play golf. I’m sure that if Joe Biden starts to lose his mind, he won’t start drone-striking anyone who blocks him on twitter – but why are we even taking the chance? If your great grandpa told you that he’s joining the local soccer league, you’d try to talk him out of it, right? It’s not unfair to point out that great grandpa can’t cut turns and kick like a 25 year-old, any more.

I feel worried as I write this, because it’s “ageism” but I also feel it’s appropriate to raise the topic as a matter of concern. There’s something horribly broken about our political system that the old farts simply will not let go of power until they’re dragged out in a box. Nancy Pelosi has nothing on Strom Thurmond, but remember: we used to consider him a dinosauric racist out of the mists of time – then, what is she? The world belongs to the young, as Greta Thunberg tried to remind them. We shouldn’t have to sit here praying for an asteroid impact to end the age of the dinosaurs. It’s only fair since they’re the ones that are going to have to try to clean up the mess.


  1. says

    Mano Singham recently wrote about Cary Grant having the decency to bow out gracefully at 62, not wanting to be an aging man chasing after young women. Nick Lowe did the same thing in his fifties, admitting he was aging and reinventing himself from handsome womanizer to a troubadour with a philosphy on life. In both cases, they knew their time had passed and they couldn’t hang onto old glories anymore. The aging movie and rock stars who did try to cling on past their “best before” date (e.g. Warren Beatty, Burt Reynolds, John Lydon, Rolling Stones) became embarrassments and self-parodies, only garnering attention on the reunion tour circuit.

    Politicians don’t have that decency or self-awareness. They can sell the myth of “learned statesperson” and continue while they are doddering and incontinent. They’ve had power continually, and won’t give it up because they’re not being forced to give it up. Celebrities are forced to give it up because no one’s buying their movies or music, but old codger politicians can still get votes.

    I am no fan of Justin Trudeau, but at least as a 40-something he’s not entirely beholden to ageing people. I just hope voters don’t let him stick around as long as his old man. And Angela Merkel was only 51 when she became German Chancellor in 2005. She will likely step aside gracefully in the next few years for a new face, even though she’s still doing a respectable job.

  2. says

    It might be KJD from eating nerve tissue from a prion-infected cow. That’s a possibility, especially if he ate Trump steaks, which were probably the cheapest stuff he could find. So “mad cow disease” may be a possibility we shouldn’t rule out.

    Only his most dishonest and ardent defenders will say there’s nothing wrong with the guy. It’s like a pilot on a plane where the engines are spitting flames saying “the cabin air conditioning is still working fine, what do you mean something is wrong?”

  3. voyager says

    I think anyone occupying the Presidency of the U.S. should have to undergo regular physical and mental health checks. There are geriatric mental health specialists who can diagnose dementia (in its many forms) even in the early stages, which I think we are already well past. It’s one of the better brands of psychiatry.
    Allowing Trump to continue, more or less unchecked, seems reckless and bound for disaster. I think it also makes his Christian base look hypocritical and power-hungry. I’m an atheist for Christ’s sake and even I know that their Jesus’ message was (mostly) one of acceptance and peace. American Christians have somehow twisted that into a quest for control of society and intolerance of conflicting ideas.
    I have no hope that any of this will end well. Enjoy today.

  4. lochaber says

    Remember when he took that test to assess mental fitness, and then publicized it? You know, the one with line drawings of animals like lions and rhinoceroses, or to put numbers in order?

    Like, that’s a test to see if someone has a serious cognitive impairment, like a stroke, a head injury, or something like that. If a medical official asked me to take that test, I would be both horribly embarrassed, ashamed, and maybe even somewhat offended. And I probably would not admit to taking it voluntarily, let alone publicize the results.

    just sayin…

  5. polishsalami says

    As much as I love Bernie, I do wonder why he didn’t run twenty years ago. He’s built an impressive movement over the last four years, but when I think about what might have been…

  6. says

    As much as I love Bernie, I do wonder why he didn’t run twenty years ago. He’s built an impressive movement over the last four years, but when I think about what might have been…

    Agreed. I think he appears to have felt that he could reform the system from within by working with it. Maybe he has realized later in life that that was never an option.

  7. lorn says

    Biden has always seemed to be a very, very conventional old white guy with tepid but heartfelt socially progressive leanings that get him labeled as nominally liberal. Very much liberal and progressive lite.

    I like Bernie but it is just so very anti-Reagan 80s. He makes a good point, the bad shit got real under Reagan, even as most people didn’t feel it for fifteen years. My biggest complaint about Bernie is that the arguments have been set in stone for fifty years. He isn’t wrong. But he isn’t covering new ground.

    AOC is bright, new, provocative and far more substantial than she is given credit for being. She is also still a bit of a ‘new broom’. She has faced her share of hardships but not, so far, deep political betrayal and pain. She may lose her seat in redistricting. If she can survive that and still maintain a coalition I will see her as sufficiently ‘seasoned’ for high office.

    Warren is really, IMHO, the whole package. She seems to have the genes for aging well. She is sharp and looks to have at least another eight years of sharp-edged vitriol and calculation in her in her. She has also shown an ability to delegate, form teams, select advisors and create coalitions. She brings people along with her. She isn’t shy about asking for advice or listening to experts without being bulldozed.

    I agree that Trump, in addition to having disqualifying mental issues, likely has dementia.

  8. Jazzlet says

    It would be vCJD, and I think it’s unlikely as the time from the appearance of symptoms to death is on average just thirteen months.

  9. says

    While it’s very fun to dump on Trump, making a serious attempt to “diagnose” Trump is patently absurd.

    Early stages of dementia do indeed look a lot like what Trump does daily. What also looks like that, though, are several other things. Among them: Being dumb. Getting old. Not giving much of a shit what words means. Acting like any of the above to delight your base.

    You only get to diagnose dementia is you have day to day contact and can definitively trace a trajectory which cannot be explained by anything else. Sarah Palin mangles language much worse than Trump, and she doesn’t have dementia, she’s just an idiot who doesn’t give a shit what words mean. Kinda like.. a lot of people.

  10. Simple Desultory Philip says

    it bothers me a lot that younger candidates like harris and castro didn’t get the traction i think they deserved. but warren at 70 is standing in 4-hour selfie lines practically on the daily, and doesn’t show any signs of mental decline, or major physical problems (certainly not heart attacks), that i’m aware of. she’s nearly a decade younger than the other frontrunners and that counts for something at that age, especially given her gender. statistically, women tend to live longer and healthier lives than men. like, i’m all for non-boomer leadership taking over (i turned 40 this year) but one of these things really isn’t like the others, at least in terms of this specific criticism.

  11. says

    Simple Desultory Philip@#14:
    it bothers me a lot that younger candidates like harris and castro didn’t get the traction i think they deserved.

    That’s where I’m coming from. I would like to see more attention paid to candidates that are not part of the generation that created the problems.

    Warren is definitely sharp and spry; she’s got more energy than I do and I’m almost 20 years younger than she is. The problem is that our history is full of presidents who had major health issues and hid them, which I believe is incredibly dishonest in a politician. (Kennedy was high on pain killers during the Cuban Missile Crisis… Think about that.) Because of the positions they choose to place themselves in, their mental and physical health is a matter of public concern and ought to be public knowledge.

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