In the long history of presidential declaratives regarding their behavior, has there ever been one that wasn’t, eventually, demonstrably false? I’m sure there are a few, behind the scenes, like, “I just went to Virginia and addressed the Young Democrats!” or, “I did authorize that CIA operation,” but, traditionally, when they’re at the podium, the lights are on, and cameras are rolling, very little verifiable factual content comes out. Admittedly, that’s part of the job — Americans have no sense of subtlety or understatement, and our education usually discourages the sort of real-time critical thinking required to ask follow-up questions that would have real-time political ramifications, so, basically, we’ve turned a presidential-level press conference into a bizarre vaudeville act that’s equal parts used car salesman schtick, job interview, and improv routine, all at once. And our media is trained to act like a non-judgmental recording device, instead of doing what any human would do in a situation if a friend was droolingly drunk and going on about the Jews; and quietly calling about an intervention.

Which is how you get such gems as, “I am not a crook,” “I did not have sex with that woman,” “Read my lips: no new taxes,” “American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger.” Which, with the benefit of hindsight, turned out to be complete lies. I’m at the point where, if a candidate got up, promised to nuke the planet, accelerate global warming, and kill all our children; I’d be tempted to vote for them.

I bring this up because, yesterday, our alleged president said, “I am the chosen one.” Admittedly, he was talking about his role in ongoing tariff escalations between China and the US, but there is no context I can think of that would make that would make that sound fine and sensible. Okay, one. This is another case where the president’s claims to be a teetotaler work against him — if this was a friend of the family whose friends were going to jail, office water-cooler-talk was that he’d be getting a pink slip in a year or two, and all of his hires were found to be embezzling money from the company; we’d understand it if he took a week off to go binge in Cabo, and he just happened to say some really crazy stuff during that incident. I’m not going to defend that as a healthy coping mechanism, but most of us can understand that.

When you have an air force, you don’t get that privilege. That’s part of the job. You get to be the second-most powerful person in the world (the most powerful is, apparently, whoever’s in charge of the Kremlin), but you don’t get those sorts of vacations from your life. You don’t get to have an “off day” and try to buy Greenland while defunding public education. You signed up to deal with the world’s problems, you have to do that.

In any other situation, we’d see this sort of behavior as some sort psychotic break or Hunter Thompson-esque shenanigans, and get some sort of qualified help for the guy. In America, the head of the country does it; it’s Wednesday. I spent last week railing about how current events are not normal and don’t represent America, as a whole. Apparently, I was wrong.

I wrote my undergrad thesis on neurodegenerative diseases and concluded that there are likely many more genetic factors at work than we know of (or care to admit) involved in neurological diseases. The Donald’s father had Alzheimer’s disease; which we know has genetic components. We also know that stress tends to speed up mental deterioration in patients with organic brain disorders, which seem confirmed by Michael Wolff’s anecdotes of a president who couldn’t recognize long-time friends, who would randomly offer jobs to people he liked (you remember Cliff Sims? Yeah, the president liked him). This isn’t governance, this is a national mental health crisis that’s swallowing the nation.

He also tweeted a conspiracy theorist’s statements, “…[L]ike he’s the King of Israel.” Not the president’s words, but weird as hell, and even weirder that The Donald would enshrine them forever on the Internet (if you put something on here, expect it to be captured and stored on someone’s private server). This is after he actually called Jewish Americans disloyal if they vote Democratic. This is true and unfettered. So, to boil down just the facts of the weirdest temper tantrum the world has ever seen (this week; stay tuned), and forgive me for being reductive, in the last couple of days the president has:

  1. Accused the American Jewish community of betrayal (or just the part that didn’t vote for him ~80%).
  2. Implied he was the King of Israel.
  3. Claimed he was the Messiah (insert Life of Brian reference here)

If memory serves, the last guy who made those claims wound up stapled to lumber for a few days. I’m not recommending that as a course of action, because we’re having enough trouble handling The Donald going insane; no one’s prepared for an undead zombie Donald.

He also claimed he’s going to be president for 14 more years (this is true), although I have absolutely no idea why he chose that number. If you’re reverting back to eight-year-old logic, why not just say, “Infinity?” It’s just as intelligible and likely as 14 more years (the average life expectancy in this country is 79 years; The Donald is 73).

One of my high school friends is an avionics engineer. The university from which he got his degree also offered a degree in global security (or some other, similarly-blandly-worded field), that basically worked as a feeder program for various US intelligence agencies. Which meant that, every so often, my friend would get a knock on his door, and men in dark suits would ask about a former roommate, or RA, or classmate. This was a fairly normal background check for anyone trying to get a security clearance to move up the federal food-chain.

When I was in chemo and radiation, I was part of a psychiatric study to determine what effect drilling holes in my head, nuking me, and poisoning me would have, neurologically; so, every couple of months, I take a neurocognitive battery — and the idea wasn’t, “Will all of this be bad for neurological functioning?” that’s well-established, it was “What does chemoradiation-induced neurological impairment look like over time?”

My point is, if we give neurological exams to brain cancer patients and run extensive background checks on potential counterintelligence agents, why aren’t we doing something similar to all federal candidates? If we recognize that rogue spies are too dangerous to just let anyone into the CIA, why are we so slow to realize that the ability to drop the Dow Jones Industrial Average with some crazy Tweets might be a bit too much power to be given out without some sort of background check?

Meanwhile, the Amazon is burning, we’re borrowing money from China at unsustainable rates to give tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the world, the US is running for-profit concentration camps that are creating perfect crowding conditions for the next plague, and the Baby Boomers are becoming a little upset that their children and Gen Z are going to do to them what they did to us. Did I miss anything? The continuing gun violence? The slow dismantling of the Internet by destroying Net Neutrality? Spider-Man getting yanked from MCU continuity because of greed and stupidity (Spider-Man’s traditional nemeses)?

So far — and this bodes well for the folks storming Area 51 — the most-plausible explanation is that Eckels wandered off of the time path and stepped on a butterfly.

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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