epa06417072 US President Donald J. Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Washington, DC, USA, 04 January 2018. President...
ALEX WONG / POOL

Trump’s misplaced boast about passing a cognitive test

Updated

Donald Trump had an annual physical last week, and as we learned during a White House briefing on Tuesday, the president is apparently in good health. Dr. Ronny Jackson told reporters that the exam included the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which led the physician to conclude that Trump has no cognitive or mental issues.

This wouldn’t ordinarily be a point of contention or concern with a sitting president, but Trump’s often bizarre antics have led to many questions about his mental fitness.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if the president fully appreciates what that test was all about. Consider his interview with Reuters yesterday:

[Trump] blamed his three immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for failing to resolve the [North Korean] crisis and, a day after his doctor gave him a perfect score on a cognitive test, suggested he had the mental acuity to solve it.

“I guess they all realized they’re going to have to leave it to a president that scored the highest on tests,” he joked.

Now, I didn’t hear the recording of the interview, and if Reuters says the president was kidding, I’ll accept that at face value.

But as long as Trump is talking about this, it’s probably taking a moment to understand what his high score is all about.

“If you look at the test, it’s pretty hard to see how you could not score a 30,” a Washington Post piece explained yesterday, adding, “Yes, Trump passed with flying colors, as any adult with normal cognitive function probably would.”

We’re talking about an exam, known as MoCA, that’s used to identify evidence of dementia, mental deterioration, and neurodegenerative diseases. Those who take it may be asked, for example, to draw a clock or describe the similarities between oranges and bananas.

I’m glad Trump was able to do well on the test, but let’s be clear: we’re talking about being able to clear a very low bar for an adult in a position of enormous responsibility. The idea of a president bragging, even jokingly, about getting 30 out of 30 on the exam is comparable to a president boasting about knowing the alphabet.

Trump’s score is not evidence of a towering intellect. On the contrary, as New York’s Jon Chait put it, “[W]hile Trump’s behavior may not be medical symptoms of a debilitating mental disease, it is clear evidence of a mind that’s totally unfit for the presidency. What excuse does he have for his behavior?”

Donald Trump

Trump's misplaced boast about passing a cognitive test

Updated