Trump has his own age problem — and it terrifies him

Donald Trump is desperately searching for a way to reassure himself that he's not impaired

By Heather Digby Parton


Published September 11, 2023 9:34AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November 08, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November 08, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On Sunday night, Donald Trump threw down the gauntlet at the feet of Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Joe Biden and the "WSJ heads." He posted this cri de guerre on his social media platform, Truth Social:

In a phony and probably rigged Wall Street Journal poll, coming out of nowhere to soften the mental incompetence blow that is so obvious with Crooked Joe Biden, they ask about my age and mentality. Where did that come from? A few years ago I was the only one to agree to a mental acuity test, & ACED IT. Now that the Globalists at Fox & the WSJ have failed to push their 3rd tier candidate to success, they do this. Well, I hereby challenge Rupert Murdoch & Sons, Biden, WSJ heads, to acuity tests!

He added:

I will name the place and the test, and it will be a tough one. Nobody will come even close to me! We can also throw some physical activity into it. I just won the Senior Club Championship at a big golf club, with many very good players. To do so you need strength, accuracy, touch and, above all, mental toughness. Ask Bret Baier (Fox), a very good golfer. The Wall Street Journal & Fox are damaged goods after their failed DeSanctimonious push & stupid $780,000,000 "settlement." MORONS!!!

That's just a little bit over the top even for him, don't you think?

All the Wall Street Journal did was publish a poll question asking whether Biden and Trump were too old to be president. Trump's own pollster was a partner in the poll so he should probably take it up with him. And despite the fact that he's 77 years old and would be 78 when he re-assumes the presidency should he win in 2024, he seems to think that's off limits because he "aced" the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test given to him some years ago by his favorite White House doctor Ronny Jackson. 

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The test is designed to track cognitive changes over time. It's not an "acuity" test or an IQ test but Trump has gone back to it again and again as proof of his mental fitness. In the famous interview in which he bragged that he had been able to remember a string of words, he explained that it was actually quite difficult:

No normal person would make such a big deal out of that test because it's obvious to anyone with a brain that it's just a memory test that many elderly people take to see if they may have signs of dementia. He acts as though he just scored 1600 on the SAT (which, by the way, he reportedly paid someone to take for him.) Or maybe he thinks the MoCA is actually MENSA? 

He's terrified of developing Alzheimer's disease because his father had it.

This incessant reminder that he was able to take this very simple test and that all the doctors were shocked because nobody ever does that well is just ... pathetic. And it's very telling. It's one thing to just assert that you are a very stable genius, as preposterous as that is, but it's quite another to brag about passing a very rudimentary memory test over and over and over again. 

And it is rudimentary. 

He knows that he's not all that bright and it drives him crazy. Back in July of 2022 he told his rally crowd:

"I said 'Ronnie, I don't like when people call me stupid. I have great heritage, an uncle who was a great, great genius, a father who was a genius, they're all geniuses, we had a lot of geniuses. I don't like being called stupid. Is there a test I can take to prove to these radical left maniacs that I'm much smarter than them? 

He's worried. He's been worried for years. He had heard talk that people might want to remove him for "incapacitation" and gave a speech to the Heritage Foundation in which he claimed that "they" were trying to get him with an "Article 5." But he claimed that since he took the test, "they don't think about it now, the 25th Amendment. They don't think about that now at all, they never mention the 25th. But they would never – any time I had a great idea they would mention –'25th Amendment, there's something wrong with him.'"

If only "they " had had the guts to do it.

He's terrified of developing Alzheimer's disease because his father had it. As the New York Times reported at the time of his "person, woman, man, camera TV" moment, he said, "...I have, like, a good memory, because I'm cognitively there. Now, Joe should take that test, because something's going on and, and, I say this with respect. I mean — going to probably happen to all of us, right? You know? It's going to happen."

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According to his niece Mary Trump's book, "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man," Trump derided his father when he was ill with Alzheimer's — and took full advantage of it by coercing him into changing the will in Donald's favor. Mary Trump has taped interviews with Trump's sister who said, "Dad was in dementia...I show it to [husband]John, and he says, 'Holy s—t.' It was basically taking the whole estate and giving it to Donald." She also said that Trump "has no principles" and "you can't trust him," which is stating the obvious. 

There were lawsuits over Fred Trump's will and the Washington Post reported that Donald testified in a deposition that he didn't know his father had dementia and that he believed he was "very, very sharp." That is certainly a lie. He'd been in cognitive decline for years by that point. 

It's quite obvious that Trump is clinging to that test as a way to reassure himself that he's not impaired. But, of course, he is, and on some level he knows it. He may not have dementia but he's got so many other psychological defects that it hardly matters. After all, the man has bought himself two felony indictments for the simple reason that he couldn't admit he lost. 

As his niece Mary Trump said, "his talking about the dementia test the way he's talking about it is failing the dementia test." And he fails it again every time he talks about it. He just can't seem to stop himself.  

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

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Alzheimer's Commentary Dementia Donald Trump Truth Social