Coming Soon:

Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."

Total Pageviews

Thursday, August 6, 2020


By now, all of you living in the United States have undoubtedly seen clips from the Jonathan Swan interview with Trump. Those of you who somehow missed it can see the entire interview here.  Leave to one side Trump's dismissal of the terrific death toll of the virus, "It is what it is." What fascinated me was the glimpse we got at one point of one of the sheets of paper that Trump was fumbling with as he struggled to respond to the questions that Jonathan Swan was posing to him. It was a regular sized sheet of white paper on which were four colored bars of different lengths. It was the sort of elementary chart that one would make for a not too swift six year old in an attempt to explain some elementary idea. It had clearly been produced by the people in the White House who were trying to prime Trump with the simplest possible pictures in a desperate effort to prepare him for the interview.

Now I have never quite bought into Trump's claim that he is a very stable genius but at least when he was younger he was not an idiot. I mean, he managed to star in a reality TV show and to repeatedly run a series of can't fail investments into bankruptcy and that takes some measure of adult intelligence. But however much he once had has clearly been significantly degraded over the past several years.

This is only August 6. What is he going to be like by Labor Day?


Jon Rosenthal said...

I couldn't figure out what the charts were supposed to show. Does anyone Know?

Eric C said...

(fwiw: Technically, early-onset dementia usually refers to Alzheimer's dementia arising before age 65, when the prevalence of Alzheimer's disease in the general population is very low. By the mid-to-late 70s, dementia becomes much more common, and someone who only begins to show signs at Trump's age is just said to have dementia rather than "early-onset" dementia.)

It's possible that much of Trump's poor performance in interviews and press briefings is due to his struggling to stick with lies as the webs grow increasingly complex, and to his simple ignorance of facts that someone in his office is expected to have a command of, rather than to cognitive impairment typical of dementia. And even that ignorance of basic knowledge may be more a reflection of a constellation of flawed personality traits than a sign of global lack of intelligence. He is unquestionably unsuited to serve as the manager of any complex organization, let alone as president, but anyone who claims Trump is a halfwit needs to account for how he managed in 2015-2016 to outcompete more than two dozen other major party candidates, some of whom had extensive backgrounds in government service. The fact of the matter is that, out of more than 150 million Americans eligible for the office, including the millions of us with advanced academic degrees, he is president and none of the rest of us is. For all his flaws, it is hard to ignore Trump's skills as a salesman and a bully. Idiot savant?

As we limp into the last weeks of the campaign, any discussion of Trump's cognitive capacity to serve has also got to take a look at Biden's fitness.

It's hard to unseat even a bad incumbent president, especially as a candidate from within that president's own party, so it's understandable that no serious challenge has been mounted against Trump by any Republican. But what of the Democrats? Why have they so committed to putting up against Trump someone who himself has shown numerous signs suggestive of cognitive impairment, given all the other highly qualified candidates?

Dementia is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon. In its earliest stages, the impairments may completely spare certain abilities as the afflicted begins to struggle with other cognitive tasks. With these particular two candidates the question arises, What is the minimum acceptable level of cognitive functioning that must be demonstrated for someone to be granted the authority to launch nuclear weapons without any possibility for such an order to be countermanded?

The very fact that these two will be the nominees of the major parties highlights a severe flaw in our system of governance. We make decisions when voting largely based on how candidates campaign, yet campaigning and governing require two completely different skill sets.

Jerry Fresia said...

Jon, I think the charts were intended to show that in terms of death per cases, the US has the lowest percentage of.....fill in the blank.

s. wallerstein said...

There's always the possibility that he's heavily medicated. I would imagine that even Trump must be aware of his declining popularity and of the complete disaster that his handling of the pandemic has been and that as a result, he needs cocktail of medication just to look at his ugly face in the mirror in the morning. Heavy medication can produce cognitive problems.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

S. Wallerstein, you are quite right. I confess that had not occurred to me but on reflection it makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Or he's just an idiot. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

s. wallerstein said...

Trump has failed before, but no one witnessed that besides his creditors, his lawyers and the business press.

Now he's failing in the eyes of everyone in the world. For Trump, the most important thing is to be a winner and even if he only watches Fox News, he must be aware that he is losing and losing to Biden, who isn't exactly Mr. Charisma or the second Obama. People who once fawned on him may not even be answering his phone calls now and that hurts: nobody loves a loser but the Salvation Army. The guys Trump really admires like Putin never lose.

We know that Hitler drugged himself as the Red Army approached and that Nixon hit the bottle in the days of Watergate. Trump doesn't drink, so we might well assume that he's being medicated.

Anonymous said...

I do not care whether Trump has dementia or he is heavily medicated. In any case, he is a dark, evil, nihilistic black hole who is responsible for 160,000 US deaths thus far, at least 75% of which could have been prevented. To keep things in perspective, 160,000 US deaths is more than 53 9/11s (3,000 US deaths per 9/11). Overall, George W. Bush was horrendous but Trump is far, far worse. Trump is making Bush Jr. and Herbert Hoover look relatively not so bad.

What is the appropriate response to this? What is the just punishment? Trump should lose the election in a landslide. The Republican Party should suffer catastrophic losses in the House and Senate, and the party should be in the minority for the next 16+ years. Trump should be prosecuted for his most serious crimes (criminal negligence, corruption, money laundering, etc.) and spend the rest of his life in prison. All his assets should be seized.

In addition, Jared Kushner should be prosecuted and convicted for his most serious crimes (similar to those of Trump). In particular, in April, he refused to implement a national testing and contact-tracing program, since he (falsely) thought that only blue states would be ravaged by the coronavirus and thus the Trump administration could blame the deaths on the blue state governors. So Kushner should spend the rest of his life in prison and have all his assets seized.

Now, will all this actually happen? No, but voting Trump and other Republicans out of office is not sufficient punishment. Overall, Trump deserves infinite punishment for what he has done.

The day Donald Trump drops dead is the day I will be celebrating massively. And if Hell does exist, I hope he burns there for eternity.

Anonymous said...

"I do not care whether Trump has dementia or he is heavily medicated. In any case, he is a dark, evil, nihilistic black hole who is responsible for 160,000 US deaths thus far, at least 75% of which could have been prevented."

He's responsible for all the deaths, but only 3/4 were preventable?

Anonymous said...

"Overall, George W. Bush was horrendous but Trump is far, far worse."

Uhm, only if you value american lives over non-american ones. Bush bombed and killed far more than Trump.

C said...

Anonymous @ 10:59am:

I’m Anonymous @ 10:53am. According to one study, if the US had implemented the same measures as Germany did, 70% of US deaths could have been prevented.

If the US had implemented the same measures as South Korea and Singapore, 99% of US deaths could have been prevented.

In my previous comment, I said AT LEAST 75% of US deaths could have been prevented. At least 75% could mean 80%, 90%, 95%, or 99%.

So your comment is not only a red herring but it completely misses the main point. We have 160K dead Americans so far, we will likely have at least 200K dead Americans by the end of the pandemic, and the Trump administration is overwhelmingly (if not fully) responsible.

This is a blog that attracts many highly educated people with philosophy BAs, PhDs, and/or other graduate degrees. So please do not waste my time unless you’re going to provide a serious, argumentative rebuttal or contribution, instead of one-off, red herring questions.

Anonymous said...

For anyone interested, here's an interesting interview with Trump's niece, Mary Trump, about the book she wrote about him (published last month):

In addition to her family insider perspective, she's a clinical psychologist and has an interesting take on the important developmental years of his childhood, among other things.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Germany and the United States are very similar for making a worthwhile comparison.