15 February 2018

On Fire and Fury and Trump's Reported Senility

I just finished reading Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. It is a breezy, gossipy book.

Until I picked it up, I was convinced that Donald Trump was going senile before our own eyes. Now I am not so sure.

Don't get me wrong. the senility charge is a well substantiated one.

It is clear that Trump has a limited vocabulary, he uses a lot of placeholder words and keeps repeating himself.

Boston Globe used the Flesch-Kincaid readability to to determine that Trump's vocabulary was the same as a fourth grade student.

He also has behavioral problems like attacking people viciously, or defending contradictory positions consecutively. His aggression is compounded by overt signs of paranoia. All of which would be sufficient for a mental health professional to diagnose him with some form of dementia.

In fact, 35 mental health professionals overlooked the Goldwater Rule and published an open letter in New York Times arguing that Trump was "incapable of serving safely as president."
“Mr Trump’s speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions. His words and behaviour suggest a profound inability to empathise. 
“Individuals with these traits distort reality to suit their psychological state, attacking facts and those who convey them [journalists, scientists]. 
“In a powerful leader, these attacks are likely to increase, as his personal myth of greatness appears to be confirmed. We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.”
In the same vein, the great Charles Pearce ran a piece in Esquire in which he maintained that Trump's interview with the New York Times showed a man in cognitive decline. He used several rambling quotes to bolster his claim, one of which was this:
I’m always moving. I’m moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. … [Talking with guests.] … The last guy that killed the eight people. … [Inaudible.] … So badly wounded people. … Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries. They take the worst people in the country, they put ‘em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. ‘Oh, these are the people the United States. …” … We’re gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me. 
A group of mental health are experts formed an organization called "Duty to Warn" and published a book entitled "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President." It became a New York Times bestseller.

Health and medicine portal STATNews took a different approach. When Trump responded to a question with this 
“ … there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.”
they decided to undertake a comparative review.
STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.
The experts found that Trump came across quite sophisticated in his previous interviews.
In interviews Trump gave in the 1980s and 1990s (with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Charlie Rose, and others), he spoke articulately, used sophisticated vocabulary, inserted dependent clauses into his sentences without losing his train of thought, and strung together sentences into a polished paragraph, which — and this is no mean feat — would have scanned just fine in print. 
Currently, this is how he talks:
“People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the Electoral College. Big, big, big advantage. … The Electoral College is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall.”
Solid arguments, all. So why you doubt the senility argument you may ask.

The incidents mentioned in the book opened up the possibility that Trump's senility might be just the bored stupidity of a spoiled rich guy who happens to have the attention span of a fruit fly.

There may be a cognitive decline but it is also possible that the man who went bankrupt six times while running casinos might just be simply stupid.

Wolff says that he never reads anything, he doesn't listen to people ("they are boring") and he is convinced he knows best and he is the most intelligent person in the room.

He firmly believes that he can order the CIA and FBI around and fire as many agency heads as he pleases.

For instance, he was told in no uncertain terms -something I mentioned many times- that feuding with intelligence agencies is a death wish and he should bury the hatchet. To that effect he was sent to the CIA with a carefully crafted speech containing serious groveling and flattery.

Instead this is what he said to an astonished crowd of agents:
“I know a lot about West Point, I’m a person who very strongly believes in academics. Every time I say I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many ways academically—he was an academic genius—and then they say, Is Donald Trump an intellectual? Trust me, I’m like a smart person.”
“You know when I was young. Of course I feel young—I feel like I was 30 . . . 35 . . . 39 . . . . Somebody said, Are you young? I said, I think I’m young. I was stopping in the final months of the campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops—speeches, speeches in front of twenty-five, thirty thousand people . . . fifteen, nineteen thousand. I feel young—I think we’re all so young. When I was young we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade, we’d win with wars—at a certain age I remembering hearing from one of my instructors, the United States has never lost a war. And then, after that, it’s like we haven’t won anything. You know the old expression, to the victor belongs the spoils? You remember I always say, keep the oil.”
“I wasn’t a fan of Iraq, I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you when we were in we got out wrong and I always said in addition to that keep the oil. Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about it, Mike”—he called out across the room, addressing the soon-to-be director—“if we kept the oil we wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so that’s why we should have kept the oil. But okay—maybe you’ll have another chance—but the fact is we should have kept the oil.”
“The reason you are my first stop, as you know I have a running war with the media, they are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, and they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community and I just want to let you know the reason you’re the number one stop is exactly the opposite, exactly, and they understand that. I was explaining about the numbers. We did, we did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech? You had to like it. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field and I say, Wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out—the field was—it looked like a million, million and half people. They showed a field where there were practically nobody standing there. And they said Donald Trump did not draw well and I said it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and said we’re not going to let it rain on your speech and in fact when I first started I said, Oooh no, first line I got hit by a couple of drops, and I said, Oh this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it, the truth is it stopped immediately. . . .”
“. . . and then it became really sunny and I walked off and it poured right after I left. It poured but we have something amazing because—honestly it looked like a million, million and a half people, whatever it was it was, but it went all the way back to the Washington Monument and by mistake I get this network and it showed an empty field and it said we  drew two hundred fifty thousand people. Now that’s not bad, but it’s a lie. . . . And we had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr. Martin Luther King and I also happen to like Churchill—Winston Churchill—I think most of us like Churchill, doesn’t come from our country but had a lot to do with it, helped us, real ally, and as you know the Churchill statue was taken out. . . . So a reporter for Time magazine and I have been on the cover like fourteen or fifteen times. I think I have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like if Tom Brady is on the cover it’s one time because he won the Super Bowl or something. I’ve been on fifteen times this year. I don’t think, Mike, that’s a record that can ever be broken, do you agree with that . . . . What do you think?”
“But I will say that they said it was very interesting that ‘Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr. Martin Luther King,’ and it was right there, there was a cameraman that was in front of it. So Zeke . . . Zeke . . . from Time magazine . . . writes a story that I took it down. I would never do that. I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is. Now big story, but the retraction was like this”—he indicated ever-so-small with his fingers. “Is it a line or do they even bother putting it in? I only like to say I love honesty, I like honest reporting. I will tell you, final time, although I will say it when you let in your thousands of other people who have been trying to come in, because I am coming back, we may have to get you a larger room, we may have to get you a larger room and maybe, maybe, it will be built by somebody that knows how to build and we won’t have columns. You understand that? We get rid of the columns, but you know I just wanted to say that I love you, I respect you, there’s nobody I respect more. You do a fantastic job and we’re going to start winning again, and you’re going to be leading the charge, so thank you all very much.”
Ever since then incriminating leaks never stopped.

To me that sounds more like arrogant stupidity than early onset Alzheimer's.

Though I am not a doctor, nor did I play one on TV.

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