Trump may brag about taco bowls, but his main dish is word salad.
Consider, as he told Lester Holt on NBC just last week: “When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I’ll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago.”
The psychologists, psychiatrists, and cognitive assessment experts she spoke with agreed that there’d been a deterioration in Trump’s speech since his finding the spotlight in the 1980s. Some think it shows how his brain health is changing.
Back in his 1980s moguling days, the Penn-educated Trump came off articulate, and was able to foray into a dependent clause without losing his train of thought. He could even turn a phrase or two, like “If you get into what’s missing, you don’t appreciate what you have.”
But today, not so much. Take this gem from an interview with the AP: “From the time I took office till now, you know, it’s a very exact thing. It’s not like generalities,” Trump said. “Do you want a Coke or anything?”
If the eyes are windows to the soul, then words are windows to the mind: Linguistic analysis assesses brain functioning because of the demands that speaking places on thinking. When people are fluent in their speech, it means the prefrontal cortex — a polymathic brain region involved in everything from self control to attention to bodily movement — is doing well, as is the temporal lobe, associated with retrieving words from memory. This analysis has been used to look at presidential speech before, suggesting a cognitive decline in Ronald Reagan, but not George H. W. Bush.
Still, without first-hand analysis of the man, this is all diagnosis at a distance. Many factors could be involved in the president’s speech: the stresses of his office, the exhaustion that’s got him flubbing in the Middle East, and his age — 71 next month. His word salad may sign serious cognitive decline, or a simply a seriously stressed out septuagenarian. Maybe he’ll be more articulate when out of the presidency. After all, Obama looks great.
Originally published at medium.com