The president of the United States is unwell

Scott Gilmore on the increasingly erratic behaviour and bizarre lies of Donald Trump. And why this is no longer a laughing matter.

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) waves to journalists as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with the House Republican conference November 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. Trump is huddling with House GOP members on the day they hope to pass tax reform legislation, moving the president one step closer to a promised tax cut for corporations and some individual Americans before the end of the year. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump waves to journalists as he arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with the House Republican conference Nov. 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is an easy joke to make. “The president has lost his mind.” In fact, I suspect not a week has passed in the last 50 years when one wag or another didn’t suggest the leader of the day is nuts, or insane or crazy. The joke is even easier to make with the current U.S. president, Donald Trump. He operates so outside of acceptable norms, with behaviour so erratic, unbecoming and unpredictable, that I am sure literally everyone (including his family and his supporters) have said to themselves or out loud, “He’s crazy.”

Asserting a politician has lost his marbles has become so ubiquitous it now merely means you don’t agree with him. I can only recall one instance when a political leader, on this side of the Atlantic or the other, was sincerely accused of suffering from dementia. That was Ronald Reagan, in the final years of his presidency, when he was developing a habit of falling asleep in Cabinet, and showed some obvious signs of memory loss. It appears that in this case the pundits were right. Just a few years after he left the White House, Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

From the moment he entered politics, Trump has, on an almost daily basis, said or done something that caused millions to shake their heads and wonder if he was nuts: attacking John McCain for being a prisoner of war; threatening to lock up his opponent; claiming his inauguration was the most-watched in history; yelling at the Australian prime minister. But the tone of that question is beginning to change. People are beginning to wonder if he is genuinely unwell.

We do not judge Trump by the same standard we apply to other politicians. We collectively agree that he is an outlier. If the mayor of New York claimed climate change was a Chinese conspiracy, he would be laughed out of office. Or if the governor of Arizona began to share Muslim conspiracy videos online, people would be immediately concerned.

READ MORE: Why stock markets are so calm in the age of Donald Trump

We do not even judge Trump by the same standards we would apply to a doddering uncle. If a relative of mine spoke with the same meandering train of thought, telling obvious lies, wandering off into unrelated and self-aggrandizing anecdotes, I would understandably worry that he was not well. But when the president of the United States does it during a press conference with the prime minister of Japan, we simply compare it to his last speech and shrug.

Increasingly, however, when we do compare it to his last speech, or his behaviour even a few months ago, there is a noticeable change. His inability to restrain himself has deteriorated even further. Pulling an example from just last night, when British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested it was wrong for the president to distribute the videos of a highly controversial hate group, he could not restrain himself from immediately rebuking her on Twitter, like she was a failed contestant on The Apprentice. And his lies have become even more bizarre. After acknowledging the video of him bragging about grabbing women by their genitals is real, and even after apologizing for it, Trump has reportedly begun to argue it’s not his voice on the tape.

His own staff are telling reporters that the president has constructed an alternate reality in which he won the popular vote, his polling numbers are great among women, and his administration has passed record amounts of legislation. Which brings us to the absurd place where we have to ask: “Is Trump simply an accelerating liar, or is he suffering from dementia?”

It could be both. His fabrications are well documented (1,628 since inauguration day alone according to fact checkers at the Washington Post). But he is also a 71-year-old man who has one of the world’s most exhausting and stressful jobs. Prevalence of some forms of dementia, among people aged 60 or over in North America, is estimated to be seven per cent. And according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 11 per cent of people 65 or older have the disease. These are not inconsequential numbers.

If Trump’s behaviour and apparent grasp on reality continues to deteriorate, what would happen? After the Kennedy assassination, people realized that if he had been left in a coma, there was no constitutional mechanism to replace him. So Congress passed the 25th amendment, which states that if the vice-president and majority of the Cabinet determine the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” then the vice-president takes over. If the president contests this, then Congress must decide with a two-thirds majority vote.

A group of mental health professionals have already argued the 25th amendment should be enacted because Trump “is too seriously mentally ill to competently discharge his duties as the president,” claiming he is suffering from narcissistic personality disorder.

But there is a political reality that makes this extremely unlikely, if not impossible. The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, and they would never be willing to mutiny against their president while he still supports their legislative agenda. Moreover, I suspect the Democrats are cynically quite happy to have an addled Trump in office for the time being. His polling numbers continue to fall; he is damaging the Republican Party every day, his continued presence will only help their electoral chances in the 2018 midterm elections, and a President Pence would bring with him both an extremely conservative agenda and the skills to implement it.

In fact, if the president is indeed suffering from dementia, politicians on both sides of the aisle probably are quite happy to leave him in the Oval Office. Which leads to the obvious question: has everyone lost their mind?



The president of the United States is unwell

  1. Donald Trump only says stupid things.

    Obama and Hillary did stupid things, like enable the coup of a admittedly horrible Ukrainian government rather than wait for the next election. However, the Ukainian government they installed(we all heard the Nuland tape where she selected the new government) has allowed Ukrainian missile engineers and technologists to go to North Korea to rapidly accelerate their missile program, and endanger us all with nuclear armaggeddon.

    • No surprise to see the knuckle-draggers chime in with some irrelevant whataboutisms.

      • Michael, you are right about the knuckle-draggers. Until these people come to understand that trump cannot be compared to any other President in history, they will continue to make their baseless comparisons.

        • Yes Janet you are right you can not compare Trump to any before him as is the most inept, incompetent baffoon that has ever been elected to the office of President of the United States.

  2. Yes…..yes he is.

    I strongly recommend a visit from Dr McCoy with a copy of the 25th amendment in hand.

    Then Americans can start asking themselves whatever possessed them to elect such a man.

    • LOL. The fictional Dr. McCoy exists in the future. Trump will be long gone by then. And I suspect the good doctor has plead allegiance to the United Federation of Planets.

      • McCoy is fictional…..the 25th amendment is not.

        • You hold on to that one Emily, never let it go, lol

          • You don’t understand what it is?

            Had you thought of looking it up?

          • Emily, I am well aware of the 25th amendment, like I said hold on to it, and never let it go. The desperation of the left is laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

          • Well John, I’m not left…..and you’re not right in the head.

          • You’re as left as it gets Emily, after all, you just played the mental card. The latest in a long list of attempts to delegitimize an election result.

          • I don’ t play cards John…..and I haven’t been a member of any party since I was a riding captain in Reform.

        • To be honest Emily. I thought you were being humourous and I was trying to light-heartedly play along.
          In the Star Trek timeline Dr. McCoy is not born for another 200 years and the 25th amendment appears long gone to be replaced by the UFP.

          • I was joking about McCoy……but we have the same mechanism today.

            That’s how McCoy could remove Kirk…..just like they can remove Trump today.

    • Hillary and the Russians made it happen. Hillary was already very unlikable. Bernie was loved by the youth and others. Debbie Wassermann Schultz and Donna Brazile got caught cheating for Hillary. In the end, Hillary was about as popular as Small Pox. I don’t think many leftys voted for Trump. I think they stayed home.

  3. One commenter has noted DT is ego driven and to just stop talking about him or reacting to him would be the worst (or best?) thing that could happen to him. This would apply if he truly has Narcissistic Personality Disorder too.

    It would be so nice for everyone else’s sanity to at least have every second day a DT free day. He is reported about because people think (as with most leaders) there is some import to his voice. The world has learned that this is just his alternate reality.

  4. Are citizens even allowed to speculate? Wouldn’t they get a visit from the authorities? A letter banning them from visiting the U.S.?

    I’ve pretty much tuned out. ClickerBait??

  5. Every time I read an article from Scott I think the same thing. The bias is thick with this one.

    • Er, that’s the whole point of an opinion column/editorial. It’s an argument — it’s supposed to be biased.

      • Sure Jack, the thing it’s not an opinion column or editorial, it’s an article as it doesn’t state otherwise does it?

        • Well the heading above the online article titled ‘Opinion’ might be a guide. So I would have to say that this is clearly showing as an opinion article as per Jack.

          • It wasn’t yesterday when I read it. Glad they clarified it’s a biased opinion piece, that makes all the difference in the world.

          • Clarified or not, your right John Wilberry, it definitely is completely biased!

          • If is a bit of an obvious statement to say that an opinion article is biased but what I have not seen is an argument against the points that have been made.

        • Dante calling someone unwell does not require a response. It’s a pathetic attempt by the left to delegitimize the election result. Playing into it is what Scott would love as it feeds the narrative. Trump is so unwell he is on the verge of passing tax reform, he is so unwell he’s implemented regulatory reform. He’s so unwell he has confirmed an excellent supreme court judge and many other judges. On and on, but yeah he’s “unwell”.

  6. “The Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, and they would never be willing to mutiny against their president while he still supports their legislative agenda.”

    The advantage for the Republican Party of mutinying against their president is that they would replace an arguably demented president who supports their legislative agenda with a competent, capable president who supports their legislative agenda (Mike Pence). With a hypothetical President Pence, much more of the Republican agenda would be realized with much, much less drama and with greater speed. So it’s not a matter of support for the Republican legislative agenda that is holding Republicans back. It’s fear of Trump’s base. Mutinying against Trump would inevitably result in the loss of many Republican seats in Congress when during the coming elections ordinary citizen Trump lets loose his tweets on the “traitors” who ousted him.

    Do agree that the Democrats are probably secretly happy to have Trump as president instead of Pence.

    • Good observation, I agree with you.
      If Pence takes over from Trump before his first term expires, Democrats would have harder time beating Pence then Trump in the next election.
      Politics is blood sport but at same time dirty sport too.

    • I’m almost certain this will never happen — they’re too afraid of losing their base.

  7. Thrre’s a lot of these ‘he’s unwell’ pieces today. But I don’t think this is particularly out of character — a pathological liar/bullshitter doesn’t turn it off when around friends/family/close colleagues (and usually turn it up).

  8. Scott;
    What group of mental health professionals claim Donald Trump is ill?
    First I’ve heard?

      • What would you expect an left wing academic to spout. However, if you noticed Trump’s approval rating it bottomed in April at 40% and is on the rise. Once his tax bill is passed he’ll be over 50%.
        Our arrogant leader is no stronger mentally as indicated by his need to fill his narcissism constantly and unless he has a well rehearsed, over dramatic and tearful message to give, he can hardly get an intelligible sentence out. And that boy’s rating are in a very steady decline.

        • The Independent is left wing? I find that the abstract nouns left wing and right wing are used as reference points by people who are utterly clueless. Left wing is usually used at the beginning of an incoherent diatribe that is closer to a rant that an argument or statement. It would be nice to read intelligent thoughts as opposed to the angry rants that fill most of the political sites that I enjoy.

          • I said the writer, who is an academic, is left wing as are 99% of academics unfortunately for our children. Thank goodness there are a few like Jordan Peterson.
            And if you want another name for the “left wing” try money frittering socialists.

        • I do not know if noticed that this opinion article is about President Trump and not about our (your too) PM?
          Please provide info from any reliable independent poll that shows Trump approval
          rating above 40%. Please do not spread fake news.
          Most polls last week show his approval ratings are ranging from 34% to 37%.
          Maybe, if FOX News did the polling his rating would be “over 50%?!!
          Wishful thinking on your part.

  9. Trump can be weird indeed – but not always. and for me in Arizona, he is far better than Hillary would have been.

    Of course, I liked Stephen Harper, and that puts me on the wrong side of Maclean’s.

    Sigh. Why are nearly all the media so “progressive”, as Americans use the word?

    • Ah well, the alternative electoral scenario would have Scott now writing about President Hillary Clinton, and how she is quite unwell, cannot climb stairs without assistance, is planning to carry out her pre-election promise to militarily attack Iran… screams at staff… lots of concerning behaviour there.

      • Exactly!!! Now there’s the epitome of a mentally unhinged person for you! And that some ppl actually think she would have done a better job (???), speaks to their mental stability, or more accurately, lack thereof.

    • The USA has an interesting format for electing their President. The 2 major parties nominate the worst 2 candidates and the worst of the worst wins ….

      • No-she lost.

  10. Scott, thank you for addressing the elephant in the room. A lot of us non-journalists have been saying things like this for ages. However, I have been frustrated with the media because they have seemed so reticent to speak clearly about this man’s apparent lack of mental/emotional stability. You stated that “We do not judge Trump by the same standard we apply to other politicians.” Indeed I would add that we CANNOT judge him by the same standard because he is so clearly in a category all his own. Fact. He is an admitted sexual abuser and we STILL don’t treat him the same way. My feeling is that at present, while the USA may have a “president”, the most certainly do not have a leader. How this ends, I cannot imagine.

    • And it’s not new. This was all evident before the election and I think people were deluding themselves into thinking it was all a clever act. This is the guy who, pre-Twitter told everyone who would listen (so, all the media) that Rosie O’Donnell was fat, ugly and disgusting (and her wife should leave her) ad nauseum. He tweeted about Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattison’s relationship. According to a gossip columnist who’s been covering him since the ’80s, he’s always been exactly like this. And why wouldn’t he be? The worse he behaves and the more he lies, the more money and celebrity he gets. Terrible behaviour helped him become leader of the free world, for Pete’s sake. So why would he stop now?

      • If anyone’s deluded and deceived, its the followers of sock boy, ex-drama teacher JT.

        He is the true deceiver and wants Canada to become the first post national state – he has been quoted saying this. He has done nothing for Cdns, who have been here for generations and helped to build Canada into the great country it is now (or should I say was, because its going down faster than you can say Jack be nimble- under his so called leadership).

        Every decision he has made along with his cabinet of yes men/women, has been detrimental to Canada’s mental health. From welcoming in thousands of non vetted border hoppers (50% of which its estimated have criminal records), to giving away billions to other countries, (2 billion to Afghanistan, 2 billion to Mumbai), to heaping taxes on the middle class while taking AWAY every tax break they had before (under the former Cons govt), even though he campaigned on a platform that called for tax reform/breaks for the middle class. To paying off terrorists – 10.5 mil to Khadr & the other 3 who came after him (in a class action suit). To purposely leaving out that FGM is illegal in Canada in the new immigrants, newcomers guide book & that there is an expectation that newcomers will actually get a job (or at least try!!!). Yup that was ‘left’ out too!!!! To the latest fiasco with the rink in Ottawa (for those that don’t know do some reading ppl). He has vetoed/axed 3 (or is it 4?) pipeline deals. His credibility is nil and he is the one millions of Cdns, strongly feel should be mentally assessed.

        Do an article on that why don’t you, Scott Gilmore???? Or are you so afraid of the truth & what you might find out (!??!) as well as blatantly biased- that you can’t see the forest for the trees?

        At least the POTUS is trying his absolute best to secure his borders and thereby protect his citizens and bring economic prosperity to the USA, which is the complete opposite of Canada’s so called leader.

      • What point are you making about Rosie?

  11. Thank you for your thoughtful article. I can’t quite agree with your conclusion; I hope and believe that lawful means to depose a president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” would be followed, even though the 25th Amendment is unclear who constitutes “a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide…” There’s a lot of “HUH?” in the first paragraph of that amendment.

  12. THE Scott Gilmore thinks that Trump is “not well”?

    Well you can’t get a higher authority than that.

  13. A year later and the poor liberals are still squealing all kinds of delusional hopes and myths. Get over it, he’s going to be there another three years at least. Note to self; good business opportunity, rubber padded rooms for libtards if Trump is elected for second term.

  14. This opinion piece should have been written about Justin Trudeau. He clearly is not well.

    • Yes this “opinion piece” absolutely should/could have been written expressly for Sock boy, the little emperor. If anyone’s mentally stability should come into Q, its his. Many, dare I say millions of Cdns, think that HE should be mentally assessed, after all, its common information that his mother has had mental health issues and his dad was a well know Communist lover/supporter. The old saying that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is 100% applicable here, so is it any wonder that JT has major issues also?
      The POTUS may be a strong willed no nonsense guys who gets things done but that does not make him mentally unstable. Whereas EVERYTHING, the ex drama teacher has done so far has proved his mental incompetency over and over.

  15. I am not so sure. To me it appears as though he is doubling down on the idea that if you create enough distraction doing stupid things then the important things will be easier to make happen. They just approved the tax bill in the middle of the night and if they actually had to debate it then it is unlikely that the public would support it. Right now barely anybody even knows whats in the bill.

    • Only the people that haven’t been following it. The bill has followed regular order, so the dems were well aware what was in it. Yes some last minute changes were made around the edges. Compare that to ACA where Pelosi told her sheep they had to vote for it to see what was in it.

  16. There are not many choices here:

    1 – He is indeed suffering from dementia. This would remove some or all responsibility for his actions. However, his behavior as president does not differ significantly from his behavior over the past couple of decades. It is just more obvious now that his character is in constant view. I don’t think he can be given this ‘out’ at this point.

    2 – He really is mentally ill, but not demented. He has shown the characteristics of a personality disorder all his public life. The narcissism, profound insecurity manifest as constant demand for attention, incredible arrogance, malevolent egomania, absolute inability to relate in a ‘normal’ human way with normal human emotions, unmitigated greed, inability to apologize for any behavior, attention span of a gnat – all these point to a serious mental pathology.

    3 – Personality disorder overlaid with progressing dementia. This is a possibility he could be granted if one was feeling magnanimous toward him.

    I’m going with #2.

    • You’re talking about Trudeau-right? I agree with #2.

    • The only thing you know about President Trump is what you have read or heard him say out of context in a news bite. If you aren’t a psychologist/psychiatrist your opinion is a waste of electrons. If you are, you are committing malpractice.

  17. Is there a history of mental illness in DT’s family?

    No that would be our Prime Minister.

  18. So now a columnist is claiming that he can diagnose the mental fitness of another human being without interviewing him personally as per the requirements of the DSM-5. Wow, this is some special human being for being able to do that.

    No one on earth can judge another person’s mental condition based on what they read about that person in the media or from what that person writes in 144 character dispatches. Can’t be done.

    Nor can one gauge another’s IQ by their vocabulary.

    It is stupid to make the claim and it is equally stupid to publish an article of such rank speculation in their magazine.

  19. Gilmore is the one who is ill. He was healthy before he hooked up with McKenna.