Tuesday, September 1, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made a suspiciously specific denial. 

Yesterday, the first excerpts from a new book about the Trump White House by reporter Michael S. Schmidt were released. One of them details what happened behind the scenes during Trump's sudden, hours-long, unscheduled visit to the Walter Reed military hospital last November. 

At the time, Trump claimed the visit was simply one part of his routine annual physical. This is, to put it mildly, unconvincing—even by Trump medical standards. Physicals aren't done piecemeal, or on zero notice, and Trump didn't go back (that we know of) for the "rest" of his physical until June of 2020. 

Schmidt's book reports that Vice-President Mike Pence was put on alert to be ready to assume the duties of the presidency, suggesting that whatever ailed Trump, it might have required him to be put under anaesthesia.

Trump responded this way today:

As Schmidt immediately pointed out, he never said anything about mini-strokes in the book. A quick Google search, time-limited to results before Trump's tweet, confirms that nobody in the press had been talking about mini-strokes recently. 

Trump has frequently exhibited in public some of the symptoms of a mini-stroke (or transient ischemic attack): confusion, slurred speech and difficulty finding words he used to know, balance issues, weakness, and poor fine motor skills. Of course, that doesn't add up to any kind of definitive diagnosis.

But this is not the first time Trump has been extremely sensitive about observations about his health. When he had difficulty lifting a glass of water to his lips and descending a shallow ramp earlier this summer, he launched into a lengthy rant about it the next time he was able to appear in public, mixing a joking tone with obvious anger. And he tied up several news cycles this summer trying to spin a dementia screening test as an intelligence test.

Trump, who has made something of an art form of accusing other people of having his own flaws, has tried very hard to get voters to believe that it is actually Joe Biden who is feeble, confused, and suffering from "low energy."

Why should I care about this?

  • A president as healthy as Trump claims he is has no excuse for getting this distracted by an accusation nobody made.