"Why does Bush sound stupid?"

By Geraldine Sealey

Published September 14, 2004 2:30PM (EDT)

George W. Bush's "Bushisms" -- the mangled phrases that result from his torture of the English language -- cement his political adversaries' opinions of his inadequacy and leave his supporters appreciative of how "average" he can be. But Alex Beam's column today in the Boston Globe examines the option that Bush isn't just a "plain talker," but a sufferer of "presenile dementia."

"This summer, Joseph Price, a self-described 'country doctor' in Carsonville, Mich., was reading a long article in The Atlantic about Bush's speaking style. Author James Fallows alluded to Bush's malapropisms and to speculation that Bush had a learning disorder or dyslexia. But those conditions generally manifest themselves in childhood. Furthermore, Fallows wrote, 'through his forties Bush was perfectly articulate.'"

"Dr. Price's children happened to have given him a daily tear-off calendar of 'Bushisms' for Christmas. 'They are horrible, but they are also diagnostic,' Price says. When he read that Bush had spoken clearly and performed well while debating Texas politician Ann Richards in 1994, Price thought: 'My God, the only way you can explain that is by being Alzheimer's.'"

"In a letter to be published in The Atlantic's October issue, Price calls presenile dementia 'a fairly typical Alzheimer's situation that develops significantly earlier in life. . . . President Bush's 'mangled' words are a demonstration of what physicians call `confabulation' and are almost specific to the diagnosis of a true dementia.' He adds that Bush should be 'started on drugs that offer the possibility of retarding the slow but inexorable course of the disease.'"

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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