Political strategists say these attacks are risky and unlikely to win over voters – especially the elderly in battlefield states like Florida and Arizona, who will play a decisive role in whether or not Trump wins. After all, aging does not inherently lead to cognitive decline, although some studies show that older people can become more susceptible to difficulties with short-term memory loss, word search, and multitasking.
Either way, age is a major issue in this election. Whoever wins on November 3 will become the oldest person ever to be elected president of the United States, breaking a record set by Trump in 2016 when he was 70.
Questions about mental stamina have been brought to the spotlight in large part thanks to Trump’s attack on Biden – whom he called “Sleepy Joe” – in TV interviews and tweets. But Biden has also meditated publicly on his opponent’s mental state, portraying Trump as a forgetful president who can’t concentrate long enough to read top-secret briefings.
Last month, Trump told reporters he took a cognitive test and “passed”. He later explained in an interview with Fox News medical correspondent Dr Marc Siegel that the test asked him to remember five words – person, woman, man, camera, television – and repeat them to an interviewer. 20 minutes later.
“And you go:” No one. Women. Man. Camera. Television, ”Trump said. “And they say” it’s amazing. How did you do that? ‘ ”
“I do this because I have, like, a good memory,” Trump continued. “Because I’m there cognitively. ”
Trump has repeatedly challenged Biden to take the same cognitive test so he can compare scores, with Trump suggesting that “something is going on” with Biden.
“You need physical endurance,” he says. “You need mental stamina… we need to be sharp… President Xi is sharp. President Putin is lively. Erdogan is lively. ”
So far, Biden has not accepted Trump’s invitation, seen by many as a political trap, but has instead expressed willingness to compare his cognitive abilities to Trump’s during the fall debates.
Biden also turned Trump’s line of attack on him, citing Trump’s own “cognitive abilities” when it comes to accusations that the president was not paying close attention to important information about public intelligence. following reports that a Russian spy agency was offering bonuses to Afghan militants. target and kill American soldiers.
“This president talks about cognitive ability. He doesn’t seem to be cognitively aware of what’s going on cognitively, ”Biden said. “He reads and / or is informed about important matters, and he forgets it, or he doesn’t think it necessary for him to need to know it. ”
As contestants question each other about their mental health, TV and online ads have drawn more attention to the issue.
The Lincoln Project, a political action committee led by George Conway, the notoriously outspoken husband of Trump’s political adviser Kellyanne Conway, has launched an attack announcement that puts together some of Trump’s most embarrassing public moments. Highlights include shots of Trump struggling to drink a glass of water with both hands and Trump unsteadily walking up a ramp after a speech at West Point.
Trump then defended his ramp in a series of tweets, calling the platform “very slippery.”
A similar advertisement was issued by the pro-Trump committee in defense of the president, suggesting that Biden has “lost his mind.”
The commercial follows a string of clips showing Biden – who has struggled to stutter since childhood – stumbling over his words or making absurd claims, such as “I’m going to beat Joe Biden.” In another clip on the coronavirus, Biden says, “We need to take care of the cure. This will make the problem worse, no matter what. ”
These attack ads may seem off-putting to some viewers, but according to Republican strategist Cory Crowley, they are among the most powerful tools in politics.
“The public will often say that they don’t want candidates to turn negative, but if you look at the polls before and after the attack ads, you’ll see you’re almost always moving the needle,” Crowley told CTVNews. ca during a last telephone interview. month.
However, in this case, Crowley says that the two candidates tackling each other’s sanity is “in all fairness, probably a losing proposition for both” because it simply calls attention to a perceived weakness that they both share: their age.
“I think they’re both doing it to tie the game,” he said, noting that Biden might feel pressure to respond to Trump’s personal attacks with a strong show of force.
“If you don’t hit back at everything he says with equal ammo, I think the fear is (Biden) getting steamed the same way Hillary Clinton did.
Wayne Petrozzi, a professor emeritus of politics at Ryerson University, says he doesn’t think candidates’ attacks on each other about age are part of a winning strategy.
“They’re rude and I’m not sure they’ll get a lot of attention from voters,” Petrozzi said. “I don’t think the path to re-election victory lies in launching a series of this type of advertising. by election day. ”
As for Trump’s invitation to Biden to compare cognitive test results, Petrozzi doesn’t think that will happen one day.
“Biden would be foolish to put himself in a situation where some sort of third party administers cognitive tests to both parties and communicates the results to both candidates. I think that would be madness. You are playing something that you don’t have to worry about. You reinforce this point. I can’t believe they will be so stupid.
PSYCHIATRISTS ARE ALARMS
As the two candidates’ attacks on the other’s mental faculties peaked this summer, questions about Trump’s cognitive and emotional well-being have been in the public eye for much longer.
Last December, in the midst of an impeachment process, a group of 350 psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners signed a petition submitted to the United States Congress claiming that Trump’s mental health was deteriorating rapidly and that the president had “the real potential to become increasingly dangerous, a threat to the security of our nation.
Dr Bandy Lee, the Yale University psychiatrist who led the initiative, said the mental decline she saw in Trump is unrelated to her age, calling it “beyond decline normal ”for someone his age.
“Age doesn’t necessarily lead to decline, it changes thought processes,” Lee told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview. “There are a lot of people in their 90s and 100s now who are as strong as they were in their 20s, so the decline is not automatic with age.”
Among the evidence, Lee cites Trump’s public appearances that she says show frequent and worsening memory loss, repetitive speech, decreased vocabulary over time, and an inability to maintain a train of thought.
“So we have a lot of images on him, videos going back decades, and looking at him over time, there was a difference that couldn’t be attributed to normal aging,” she said. declared.
However, Lee says she is not concerned about these behaviors. What troubled her about speaking as a medical professional, she said, was Trump’s “extremely fragile sense of self”, who fears she could enter a “narcissistic rage” if his “grandiose self-image” is not satisfied.
“His inability to tolerate reality, therefore, pushes him to resort to imaginary thinking that has had catastrophic consequences in terms of the public health emergency we are experiencing,” Lee said, referring to the COVID-pandemic. 19.
While Lee has expressed concern and suggested that Trump’s behavior is linked to “some kind of pathological process,” she did not go so far as to offer a specific diagnosis.
“The exact diagnosis wouldn’t be possible without his complete medical record, and I don’t diagnose remotely. But when there is a danger to public health and safety, we have a professional societal duty to warn the public, ”she said.
“And that’s why I spoke of Donald Trump and not Joe Biden, because in my opinion, he does not reach that threshold.”
Dr John Zinner, a psychiatrist and clinical professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine who also signed the petition, said he believed Trump suffered from narcissistic personality disorder, a condition characterized by lack of empathy, troubled personal relationships, and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
“The heart of it all is his inability to have an internal sense of worth,” Zinner said, pointing to Trump’s favorite insults against others as examples of projection.
“So when you hear him talk about someone who is a loser or a con artist, a liar or a weakling, all of that is a projection of how he feels inside,” he said. “He gets rid of these terrible feelings for himself by situating them in others.
Neither Zinner nor Lee expressed any concerns about Biden’s mental abilities.
“No, it’s a false equivalence to say it’s in any way the same,” Zinner said.
Some in the field of psychiatry criticized those who signed the petition, calling it unprofessional that medical professionals speculate on the president’s mental capacities. However, Lee said she felt compelled to say something.
“I really think it’s essential that mental experts give their opinion on this topic,” she said.