All of the Polite Ways That Atlantic Piece Suggests Trump Has a Neurological Disorder


There is a very robust, well-trodden slice of political analysis that involves journalists moonlighting as psychologists, in which the writers of this unholy Internet debate whether or not our president, Donald Trump, has a neurological disorder.

Wednesday morning, its most recent addition burst onto the scene, courtesy of James Hamblin at The Atlantic. Critics of the genre—of which there are, rightly, many—largely admired Hamblin’s piece for the restraint it showed in arguing that there should exist a system “that could independently evaluate a president’s health and capacity to serve.” (I strongly suspect Hamblin is aware one should never diagnose another person from afar, which makes me relish his essay, which is methodically annotated and which has apparently taken over a year to report.)

Below, a list of the euphemisms and polite hedges he uses to describe the behavior we’ve collectively witnessed from the Oval Office:

  • “Trump’s grandiosity and impulsivity has made him a constant subject of speculation.”
  • Trump is “a constant subject of speculation among those concerned with his mental health.”
  • There are “minor abnormalities in [Trump’s] movements.”
  • “Trump had stared at the Fiji bottle as he slowly brought it to his lips.”
  • Trump is sometimes “difficult to understand at a phonetic level.”
  • Trump’s “slurring could result from anything from a dry mouth to a displaced denture to an acute stroke.”
  • “After age 40, the brain decreases in volume by about 5 percent every decade.” (Trump is 71.)
  • “A president could be actively hallucinating, threatening to launch a nuclear attack based on intelligence he had just obtained from David Bowie, and the medical community could be relegated to speculation from afar.”
  • Trump has “limited and hyperbolic speech.”

Last, but certainly not least, everything from this paragraph:

  • “Trump reached under his podium and grabbed a glass with both hands. This time he kept them on the glass the entire time he drank, and as he put the glass down. This drew even more attention. The gesture was like that of an extremely cold person cradling a mug of cocoa. Some viewers likened him to a child just learning to handle a cup.”

Let us not forget other notable entries, which include TIME’s “This Top Mental Illness Expert Says President Trump Doesn’t Qualify,” Psychology Today’s “What Is Mental Illness? Does Trump Have One?,” The Washington Post’s “Is Trump Mentally Ill? Or Is America? Psychologists Weigh In” (note, please, that this particular roundtable is filed under “Book Party”), and Esquire’s “The Conversation About Trump’s Mental Health Is Changing. But Is It Too Late?

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