There’s a vague narrative you’ve likely heard repeated at different times in the past two years. It sounds something like: “Trump is crazy.” “Trump is a madman.” Perhaps: “Trump shouldn’t be anywhere near our nuclear codes – he can’t be trusted.” And now, “Trump has dementia.” I can’t blame anyone for thinking it. The Trump administration’s actions, and the media representations of them, have justifiably made everyone question the president’s sanity at one point or another. But is it fair to turn humor-tinged banter to serious deliberation? Is it right to make vocal, damning pronouncements on the president’s sanity? Can it go too far? The answer is a resounding yes. Here’s why.
The office of the president is the highest office in this country, and arguably the highest in the world. This fact, regardless of the individual holding the office, implies two things to be considered here. First, the office should be discussed seriously, without tabloid dramatization or reality-tv theatrics. Second, as a result, the criticisms of the office should be made seriously, and backed up soundly with evidence. This means that the people who make allegations concerning presidential mental defects must have a strong basis to do so. It is not trivial at all to say that “the leader of the free world” has gone off his rocker. In fact, it’s dangerous on many levels. Though trust in the presidency and government may be remarkably low today, it’s certain that the supposition of the president’s insanity eliminates trust further. Lack of trust in government in turn fosters civil unrest, more violent protest, and more dangerous policing encounters. On the global stage, foreign powers like China and Russia only redouble their efforts against our country each time they hear how mentally deficient the president might be. Trade partners and allies likewise shield themselves with slowly increasing prejudice, while they learn from the media and citizenry that the president is unable to negotiate properly due to his mental state. These are bad things not for the president, but for the American people. They are not things to risk, but things to brave on the surest footing.
It’s easy to suspect an illness nowadays. Sites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic allow the curious to consult pages of medical information in search of knowledge or ill-advised self-diagnoses. Similarly, people may very easily learn about others’ interests and behavior over Facebook or Twitter, scouring the oodles of personal information provided for an identically futile diagnosis of character. In both cases, the reality of the situation is avoided. No doctor makes a true diagnosis, and no friend is truly known.
It is apparent that a very similar thing must happen when the president is made to be mentally unfit. It is impossible that the politicians, the pundits, and the medical professionals all have properly examined the president to determine his mental fitness. In fact, it’s impossible that any of them have, as the professionals who have examined the president have not reported any signs of mental deficit. It could be argued that there is a conspiracy there, some sort of cover-up potentially, to conceal the president’s actual mental health state. That would be a valid hypothesis, but one which has not been proven.