Ronald Reagan was 69 years old at his inauguration as president in 1981, the oldest anyone had ever been on taking the office—a record that Donald Trump recently beat when he was inaugurated at age 70. Beset by concerns about his advanced age from the beginning, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after he left office, causing many observers to wonder if he had been displaying early signs of the disorder while serving as president.
Having a president with any sort of dementia would surely be a terrifying thing. Reagan’s son, Ron Reagan Jr., wrote about his father’s condition in his book:
My heart sank as he floundered his way through his responses, fumbling with his notes, uncharacteristically lost for words. He looked tired and bewildered.
I’m sure that Donald Trump, whose father also suffered from Alzheimer’s, can relate.
In 1986, Reagan testified before Congress about his administration’s decision to provide funds to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels using the millions of dollars accrued from selling arms to Iran. When asked what he knew about the Iran-Contra affair, Reagan said, “I don’t recall; I don’t remember that; I had so many meetings every day that I can’t recall all of them.”
In his eventual apology to the public for the scandal, Reagan would go on to say: “I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
What a strange and unimaginable experience it was, having a chief executive whose mental capabilities may have been slipping while he was in office. History is full of unsettling episodes, isn’t it? Luckily for all of us, history is what happened in the past. Here, for reference, are some of the cognitive symptoms of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty reasoning or problem solving
- Difficulty with planning or organizing
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
These are certainly not qualities you’d want to see in a president.
This seems like a good time for a break, so, entirely unrelated to anything, here are some things Donald Trump has done recently.
Back in December, as Donald Trump was watching his stories, he saw something that surprised him: his very own words. Trump remarked on the incident:
And they had a gentleman worker, great guy, handsome guy, he was on, and it was like he didn’t even know they were leaving. He said something to the effect, “No, we’re not leaving because Donald Trump promised us that we’re not leaving.” And I never thought I made that promise; not with Carrier—I made it for everybody else. I didn’t make it really for Carrier, and I said, “What’s he saying?”
... And I’m saying to myself, man. And then they played my statement, and I said, “Carrier will never leave.”
Donald Trump gave his first interview as President to ABC’s David Muir. Here is Donald Trump’s response to Muir’s question about Trump citing voter fraud during a meeting with congressional leaders:
Let me—sure. And I do—and I’m very—and I mean it. But just so you know, it was supposed to be a confidential meeting. They turned it into not a—number two, the conversation lasted for about a minute. They made it—somebody said it was, like, 25 percent of the—it wasn’t. It was hardly even discussed.
One of a president-elect’s most important jobs in the crucial days leading up to the inauguration is filling the hundreds of soon-to-be vacant roles in the administration. It would seem, however, that Donald Trump disagreed. According to the New York Daily News, “Experts say the number of high-level vacancies is both unprecedented and potentially dangerous, since a number of security and national security posts will likely remain unfilled for weeks.”
Even a position as crucial as director of the NNSA, the agency that maintains the safety and security of our nuclear weapons stockpile, nearly went overlooked. It was only after significant prodding and begging that Trump finally took the steps necessary to make sure someone would be there to show up for work on Monday.
When British Prime Minister Theresa May paid a visit to the White House a few weeks ago, the world was baffled by photos of President Trump grasping May’s hand as the two walked along the West Wing Colonnade. The next day, the Daily Mail cleared things up when it revealed that Trump “was clinging on to Mrs May for support because he has a morbid fear of stairs and slopes.”
The Daily Mail’s source elaborated, saying “He hates heights where you can see the ground or sharp inclines even more than germs. He particularly dislikes staircases and his biggest nightmare of all is a dirty stair rail.”
It certainly is a relief to have a president capable of withstanding the constant, strenuous mental and emotional pressures of the job. Here are some of the psychological symptoms of dementia, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Inappropriate behavior
Today, social media would have made hiding these symptoms next to impossible.
But let’s end on a high note. Here are a few more things our brave and competent president has done recently.
Here is a particularly vivid image of Trump from a recent New York Times report:
Usually around 6:30 p.m., or sometimes later, Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
Donald Trump has not had an easy time coping with the fact that he lost the popular vote. Some might even say that it’s making him anxious. Here are some tweets Trump sent out after his big win.
Here is a video of current president Donald Trump mocking a reporter with a disability.
The reporter being mimicked, Serge Kovaleski, was born with arthrogryposis, a rare, congenital musculoskeletal disorder that limits the movement of his arm. Trump had met Kovaleski on multiple occasions.
Donald Trump, who has an actual enemies list, does not trust computers in any way. As he told reporters at his New Year’s Eve celebration, “You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe. I don’t care what they say.”
Donald Trump also doesn’t trust the U.S. intelligence community. When asked about this outright during an interview on Fox and Friends, Trump said, “Not so much from the people that have been doing it for our country. I mean, look what’s happened over the last 10 years. … It’s been catastrophic.”
Last week, according to The Washington Post, Donald Trump lashed out at the prime minister of Australia, one of our country’s staunchest allies. From the Post:
At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”
Trump’s behavior suggests that he is capable of subjecting world leaders, including close allies, to a version of the vitriol he frequently employs against political adversaries and news organizations in speeches and on Twitter.
“This is the worst deal ever,” Trump fumed as Turnbull attempted to confirm that the United States would honor its pledge to take in 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center.
The phone call was supposed to last for about an hour. Trump “abruptly ended” the call after 25 minutes.
Last week, Donald Trump appeared not to recognize Rudy Giuliani, who was sitting directly in front of him.
What a strange and wholly unconnected set of events!