In September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson had a debilitating stroke that he kept concealed for the final year-and-a-half of his presidency. Since then it has been generally understood that, while it is cruel and wrong to impugn a president's mental health as a way to make a cheap political point, it is valid to raise that question if there were genuine concern as to his psychological and/or physical fitness.
This brings us to Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, who announced on Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill requiring all presidents to receive medical treatment from licensed psychiatrists.
It was a plan that he has foreshadowed on Twitter throughout the week, as he repeatedly expressed concern about the mental health of the Oval Office's current occupant.
Last 24 hrs on Twitter, @realDonaldTrump went on rant about "death & destruction," "FAKE NEWS," & "evil." Should he get mental health exam?
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 4, 2017
Yes @tedlieu: I've suggested #Trump get independent evaluations since he announced candidacy including medical, psychiatric & psychological. https://t.co/O3GFdVnBhy
— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) February 4, 2017
.@tedlieu on @MSNBC: "We know that #DonaldTrump lies pathologically... a disconnecting from the truth that is highly disturbing." https://t.co/TLDLWVGopP — Darren Shiroma (@DarrenShiroma) February 4, 2017
More evidence @realDonaldTrump has a dissociation with the truth. https://t.co/dDbwyxMxaY #wednesdaywisdom
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 8, 2017
"I’m looking at it from the perspective of, if there are questions about the mental health of the president of the United States, what may be the best way to get the president treatment?" Lieu told The Huffington Post. "We’re now in the 21st century. Mental health is just as important as physical health."
Lieu added, "It is not normal for the president of the United States, within 24 hours, to write about death and destruction and fake news and evil. The most troubling aspect of this is it is very clear he has a disconnection from the truth. . . . The very first press conference he had in this administration, they could have talked about jobs or health care. They talked about crowd size. And then lied about it. It’s one of the most bizarre events I’ve witnessed in politics."
This isn't the first time that Trump's mental health has been called into question.
"Much to the chagrin of the reasonable conservatives who wonder what has happened to their party, it is now often difficult to distinguish Republican rhetoric from the ravings of someone suffering from diminished mental capacity," wrote Sophia McClellan of Salon in April. Nevertheless, she also noticed troubling trends in Trump's language:
"Register the range of nonsense — the lack of basic grammar, the odd syntax, the abrupt shift in topic, the disconnect from reality, the paranoia, and the seeming inability to even grasp the question."
It remains to be seen how Lieu's bill will fare in the House of Representatives, which is controlled by Trump's own Republican Party.