Does Donald Trump Have Alzheimer's? Questions About GOP Frontrunner's Mental Fitness Arise

To refer to Republican frontrunner Donald Trump as crazy is certainly nothing new -- many people are appalled by much of what Trump says. But perhaps there is something more substantial to that claim. Even beyond his extreme right-wing rhetoric, there seems to lurk something deeper, and some observers are beginning to wonder if Donald Trump suffers from Alzheimer's. Perhaps, instead of shaking our collective heads at both the substance of what Trump says and the increasingly bizarre, often disjointed way he says it, concerns over whether or not Trump is actually mentally fit for the presidency should be addressed seriously.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, if two or more "core mental functions" seem impaired, that individual should seek medical help in order to get screened for possible dementia. Core mental functions include memory, communication and langue, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment, and visual perception. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease go beyond memory loss. People suffering from Alzheimer's have difficulty remembering newly learned information, are often disoriented, have mood and behavioral changes, an increasing sense of paranoia and suspicion, and a deepening confusion about events, time, and places.

Trump's language is often disjointed. During the first debate, in August 2015, Trump said, "We need brain in this country to turn it around." Of course, Trump's sentiment was obvious -- that he believes the United States needs more intelligence in the government -- but it was an odd way to say it. And although it's easy to dismiss Trump as being dumb, he did actually graduate from the prestigious Wharton with a degree in economics. He may have been the same aggressive, abrasive man back then as he is today, but one has to presume he was capable of speaking in complete, grammatical sentences.For Sophia McClennon of the Salon, another moment of concern about Donald Trump's actual fitness to run for the presidency came with something actually meant to comfort potential voters about Trump's fitness: The letter from Donald Trump's doctor that was to show he was in fine shape. The letter is, in many ways, just as bizarre as much of what Trump himself says, and the Daily Beast said that the letter was "more insane than Trump's campaign."

The letter, written by Dr. Harold Bornstein, does use fairly standard language to report that Trump is cancer-free and has never had a "significant surgery." But the rest of the letter is odd, praising Trump's "extraordinary strength and stamina," while omitting any mention of the bone spurs that were so bad that Trump was unable to serve during the Vietnam War. Dr. Bornstein then finishes with what seems like a very Trump-like statement of sweeping generalization.

"If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."
And then there are the many, many examples of incoherent ramblings by Donald Trump -- during rallies, during debates, during interviews. His gaffes are so frequent that they are barely wondered over anymore, but perhaps they are further signs that Trump may not be mentally fit for office.

In a recent rally in Pittsburgh, Trump asked about former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who was dismissed from his successful career and disgraced because of his involvement in a sexual abuse scandal. Paterno has no connection to Pittsburgh. Furthermore, he died back in 2012. Yet Trump stood on stage and asked, "How's Joe Paterno? We gonna bring that back? Right? How about that-- how about that whole deal?"

In New York, he managed to somehow mix up the tragedy of the September 11 terror attacks with a popular convenience store.

"I wrote this out, and it's very close to my heart. Because I was down there and I watched our police and our firemen down at 7/11, down at the World Trade Center right after it came down. And I saw the greatest people I've ever seen in action."
Donald Trump has made his admirable advocacy for New York City in the wake of the terror attacks on September 11 central to his campaign, but despite that, he never corrected himself.

Donald Trump may not be mentally fit for the presidency.
Protesters at a recent Trump rally. [Photo by Bloomberg/Getty Images]Of course, many of the gaffes Trump makes can be dismissed as just that, perhaps -- gaffes. But beyond those mistakes, glaring as they are, Trump often seems to have no connection to whatever current situation he finds himself in. His grasp on reality often seems tenuous at best. One of the most disturbing examples of Trump's lack of connection came during his interview with the Washington Post editorial board, when the GOP frontrunner was asked if he would consider using a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS.

Trump's response is frightening, on several levels.

"I don't want to use, I don't want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I'm a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he's a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way, he spent 18 million dollars' worth of negative ads on me. That's putting [MUFFLED]…"
When the editor pushed further, reminding Trump that the question was about ISIS rather than the other candidates, as his answer had no bearing on the question at hand, Trump again went completely off the rails.
"I'll tell you one thing, this is a very good-looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I'm talking to?"
McClennen of Salon is not the first journalist to question Trump's actual sanity in a serious manner. In October, Death and Taxes, an online magazine, asked if Trump has actual dementia.
"Trump's father, Fred Trump, suffered from Alzheimer's Disease before his death in 1999. Recent studies have shown that Alzheimer's affects its victims much earlier than previously thought, and, considering The Donald's behavior on the campaign trail, it might not be too far off the mark to consider that Fred Trump gave more to his son than millions of dollars and a particularly virulent form of racism."
Writer Steve King pointed to Trump's "aggressive, late-night tweets, his childish behavior, his name-calling and mood swings" as other behaviors that might actually be symptoms of Alzheimer's.

For example, after the now-infamous debate featuring Megyn Kelly, Trump went on a complete Twitter rampage between the hours of 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. Between those two hours, Trump sent out a total of 30 tweets, calling Kelly a loser and a bimbo.

Perhaps not coincidentally, those who suffer from Alzheimer's disease often contend with insomnia, as well.

There are many such examples that are cause for concern when it comes to Trump's actual mental fitness. As Death and Taxes points out, it would be fairly easy for Trump to answer that question by submitting to an MMSE/Folstein Test and release the results.

The question is -- would he take the test? And if so, would he pass?

[Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage/Getty Images]