Doonesbury Nails It

Stinging humor has been one of the more notable characteristics of what I devoutly hope will NOT be known as “the age of Trump.” Late-night comedians have gone where GOP politicians terrified of their MAGA base (and Democrats persuaded to  “go high” when Republicans “go low”) have failed to go. 

The result has been a situation in which the most biting–and frequently, most accurate–commentary has come from stand-up comedians and the Sunday funnies. Last Sunday, Doonesbury used a fictional psychiatrist to echo observations and conclusions that have been discussed for several months by real mental health professionals: Trump is rapidly slipping into dementia.

Elias–Doonesbury’s fictional “resident psychiatrist”– points to the symptoms: repeatedly mixing people up (not just forgetting names, which happens to all of us, but calling Biden Obama or Haley Pelosi); phonemic paraphasia (“freestyling” off the stem of a word); slurring; semantic aphasia; and tangental speech. The last panel of the cartoon is a warning, showing nonsense words coming out of the White House.

In all fairness, I didn’t find the Sunday strip funny. I did find it educational–and terrifying.

Trump’s “word salads” have been the subject of innumerable Facebook jokes and memes, but mental health professionals and pundits agree that his more recent speeches and outbursts have changed in nature. The Doonesbury labels appear to fit.

Phonemic paraphasia, for example, is defined as a disorder in which incorrect phonemes are substituted. For example, one may say “spot” instead of “pot.” Literal paraphasia could also be switching syllables or creating reverse compound words such as “markbook” instead of “bookmark.” There are differing types; according to Wikipedia,

Wernicke’s aphasia is characterized by fluent language with made up or unnecessary words with little or no meaning to speech. Those who suffer from this type of aphasia have difficulty understanding others speech and are unaware of their own mistakes. When corrected they will repeat their verbal paraphasias and have trouble finding the correct word….

Phonemic paraphasia, also referred to as phonological paraphasia or literal paraphasia, refers to the substitution of a word with a nonword that preserves at least half of the segments and/or number of syllables of the intended word. This can lead to a variety of errors, including formal ones, in which one word is replaced with another phonologically related to the intended word; phonemic ones, in which one word is replaced with a nonword phonologically related to the intended word; and approximations, an attempt to find the word without producing either a word or nonword. These types of errors are associated with Wernicke’s aphasia, among others. Phonemic paraphasias are often caused by lesions to the external capsule, extending to the posterior part of the temporal lobe or internal capsule.

Wikipedia defines “semantic aphasia”as a “progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by loss of semantic memory in both the verbal and non-verbal domains. However, the most common presenting symptoms are in the verbal domain (with loss of word meaning). Semantic dementia is a disorder of semantic memory that causes patients to lose the ability to match words or images to their meanings.”

Tangential speech is a communication disorder in which the train of thought of the speaker wanders and shows a lack of focus, never returning to the initial topic of the conversation. (Full disclosure: my kids will tell you I have this one…although usually I do– eventually– return to the initial topic.)

Quite obviously, I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. Neither is Gary Trudeau, the Doonesbury cartoonist. That said, Trudeau hasn’t created this diagnosis out of thin air or political pique–increasing numbers of mental health professionals have raised alarms. It began during his first term, with “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” in which 27 psychiatrists evaluated concerning aspects of his personality; and has accelerated with psychologists warning of the dangers posed by  more recent evidence of his mental decline. (One example: Harry Segal, a senior lecturer in psychology at Cornell University who has been critical of the former president’s mental health since he was first elected, said Trump was showing clear signs of onset dementia.)

It doesn’t correlate with age. Some people “lose it” at sixty; others are mentally sharp at 100.

And it isn’t simply the bone-chilling prospect of a single, truly demented head of state. The Trump presidency has illuminated a challenge going forward. It has become standard for candidates to share their medical evaluations with the voting public; is it time to require aspirants for high office to be screened for mental illnesses? 

And given some of our past Chief Executives, where would we set the bar?


  1. The mistake that so many of his enablers are making is that, once in office, he can be controlled. The Heritage Foundation, and the other architects of plans to change the form of government, do not care that he is mentally, or morally, unfit to hold any office of public trust, so long as they are in control of the make-up of our government.
    This is the same dynamic that made Hitler Chancellor of Germany. People thought he could be controlled by the guardrails of the government, and that turned out to be a catastrophe. the same is true of every dictator in the modern era that took power from a once democratic nation.
    There are two books that outline that history, both by historians Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt: “How Democracies Die” and the latest, “Tyranny of the Minority”. Both are warnings to Americans about the dangers of the current madness in our country and are worth reading.

  2. It isn’t just the displays of aphasias that we witness every time Trump makes a speech, but also the delusions of grandeur (I won the 2020 election) and the paranoia (I can’t take the stand because of the gag rule, I had to pay bail).
    And then there is the cruelty and lack of compassion and empathy. The man approved of a measure that took thousands of children away from their parents at the border, urged his followers to beat up protesters at one of his rallies, and bragged about sexually assaulting women. It isn’t just the dementia; these are also clear signs of sociopathic mental illness and perversion that have been presenting for over a decade.
    Unfortunately, it will probably require him to completely break down in public before he gets help and the public get relief.

  3. the scary part is how James Todd discribes the issue. trying to talk about the total rudenss of trumps ramblings to this small group of NoDakians is making me at times seeing how serious this red state is never swayed at any of the gibberish of the trumpian trumpet. seems maybe he did swallow some agent orange.(paraquat) , The alec masse hasnt a care in any world but for their own. alec and the such is now so close to a full take over of our country for the few. if i target the rich,its because no one else has the resources to follow through along this 40+ years of being what id say is nothing but a terrorist org in disguise. lets face it, if they have to muster a dreg to fulfill the needs of the mindless to follow we have proven our education system and citizen coheasion to be null and void. throw in social media maga phones, and few bought and sold think tanks to figure a few slangs to throw at any given moment,and we see were we are going to land. unless we make a total crushing in Nov. we will only have these parasites continue. today,,ran across this story. reading this piece regained a back piece of history and how its being done today. in the social media world. best wishes all.
    liberals must resist the new mccarthism over Isreal criticism.Branko Mercetic.

  4. There is good reason to believe that his VP choice will be impressed into service should he prevail in this fall’s election, either by succession or the 25th Amendment. We live in different worlds.

  5. Isn’t it time we conceded that health includes mental health? The brain is part of us and its proper functioning is essential to our overall state of being. I’m subjected to a memory test every year at my wellness visit in primary care. So far it seems I still have cognitive function, although many friends would doubt that.

    We know that TFG has always displayed sociopathic tendencies. That, in itself is not a disqualifying condition, since most CEOs display that characteristic., but when combined with his word salad, it should be evident that something is rotten in the principality of MaraLago.

  6. Published in 1961:

    “It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” Joseph Heller, Catch-22

  7. Pretty scary … Scary in that so many non-thinking, non-attentive people still slaver over his “speeches”. Has anyone noticed that there is virtually NO policy verbiage in any of them – except what he will do as a dictator. His mental illness, now becoming increasingly virulent, is, ultimately, self-destructive. The problem is he’ll take the entire country down with him … IF he is elected.

    If he’s NOT elected, the goobers with guns will answer the call from their insane and diseased “leader” and conduct violence against any and all who run our elections. Biden and company had better be ready to place armed guards around voting places, counting facilities and escort poll workers to and from work.

    Sorry for the grim prediction, but crazy people foment shit-shows and this will be our most self-destructive show since the Civil War. Never in all my years of writing op-eds and/or paying attention to politics, did I expect to see this kind of raving insanity become part of our “experiment” in democracy.


  8. It’s looking like Trump is the puppet/face of the organizations that have created Plan 2025. His 2nd term may look like Reagan’s when he was in the grip of dementia. At least Reagan was an actor; Trump lacks the skills that would allow him to appear coherent. And no one loves the sound of his own voice more than Trump. Managing him is going to be an impossible job. Maybe the plan is to just keep him busy signing his name to Executive Orders that will put the Heritage Foundation in charge of all government functions?

  9. Don’t forget that #GenocideJoe also declined to take a mental cognition test during his physical. He completely freezes up and mumbles. He’s also committing genocide with the Zionists in Israel. If you look closer at his appointments, many Zionists are holding high positions. Coincidence? Joe received over $11 million from Israeli PACs. He serves Israel, as does 75% of Washington politicians.

    Joe won’t get my vote because he’s a danger to society and the world. He’s lost the 35 and under crowd, and the minority vote is slipping away.

    The GOP could run a monkey for a presidential candidate and would compete with Joe. Sadly, the candidate who is running has psychological issues. He’s a narcissistic sociopath, while Joe is just a sociopath. Nobody orders the murder of innocent women and children without severe mental anguish. Joe has no remorse whatsoever.

    We have two amoral “leaders” from the two primary US political parties. The oligarchs don’t care because they want to win, and Americans will support one of the two satanic dipshits religiously. That is a sad statement!

    It shows the decline of this once great nation—or maybe it was never great. Maybe we are witnessing the veneer peeling back to expose the rot within. I see it more on the geo-global scale. Protectionism and isolationism are the tools of the weak.

    One scary note coming from Donny’s mouth last night is he’s going to “bring back the death penalty for anyone criticizing Israel.” If they “criticize Israel, they should pay with their lives.” He’s the presidential candidate for the Republican Party.

    We’ve got two right-wing caricatures running for president. We may have gone beyond the point of no return, and China and Russia know it.

  10. I do not share Todd’s pessimism nor his rationale for such negativity. We have had rough spots to surmount before (Civil War, Great Depression etc.) and have survived. Democracy is fragile but resilient, and we are far from the point of no return. Killer Joe is not in charge of Israeli policy; Netanyahu is, and is a murdering Maoist. He is killing the wrong people in Gaza.

    I am not willing to throw in the towel on America based on someone else’s policy choices or the mumblings of a criminal psychopath backed by a cult replete with fear and intimidation mongering. As a famous American admiral once remarked: “We have not yet begun to fight.”

  11. Todd, are you one who has forgotten not only Oct. 7, 2023 but the entire history of Israel and Palestine? Joe Biden is not a sociopath and this country has been “with” Israel since 1948. What about the women and children of Israel that were slaughtered? Not only do I not approve of women and children being slaughtered but gosh, also the men! who are dragged into war by the heads of state whichever we are addressing at any given time.
    If you don’t vote for Biden, you are voting for Trump. There are no other choices and YOU will be responsible along with all of the others to elect not only this monster but the whole of the MAGA movement which may destroy us. No longer will we have a democratic republic.

  12. Remember, Trump followed Bush and Cheney as Republican Presidents. Bush was a nice guy who acted Presidential (a la the Republican President he followed, Reagan), but Cheney did the work. The party must have concluded from those experiences that a puppet Presidency could work. Cheney was the real CEO, and Bush was the frontman doing the marketing.

    Their next attempt was Trump/Pence. That’s when, instead of acting as predicted, Pence folded, and Trump took over the entire party. The party were victims every bit as much as the country was. They had created a monster who first attacked his creators.

    Poly Sci 101 is to explain away rather than correct errors—never take responsibility but blame everyone and everything who is not the politician. The GOP also had FOX as a megaphone to amplify the Republican message that we are, in every way, not as bad as the opposition.

    They didn’t rewrite the Poly Sci playbook but had to the Constitution as a result.

  13. Todd and his ilk are too blinded by their rabid antisemitism to understand rationally how dangerous to not only our country, but the free world itself, their decision to essentially cast their votes for TFG. The rest of us must step up and do our part to protect democracy.

  14. Sorry, but criticizing Israel and US Zionists is NOT antisemitism. While the world wants to hold Israel accountable for their genocide of the Palestinians, only the US and UK provide diplomatic cover for murdering women, children, healthcare staff, aid workers, journalists, and teachers.

    The ICC wants to issue arrest warrants against Israel’s Zionist leaders. Still, the US has threatened the jurists once again like they did when the ICC was going to hold Iraq and Afghanistan war criminals accountable.

    Anyone with a fraction of morality cannot support Biden or Trump. Period. I am with the student protesters around the world – I will not support genocide or intentionally murdering women and children. If you can hold your nose and cast a vote supporting genocide, I’m glad I don’t have to lie down at night with your conscience.

  15. Biden simply is not the person Todd claims he is. He is a decent, compassionate public servant faced with a multitude of problems with no easy solutions. I’ve noticed that Todd never answers my question about what he wants. He just keeps spewing his hatred for others. I see him as this platform’s version of Rush Limbaugh.

  16. Todd is right about Biden and Trump. Only those dependant upon either one of the sociopaths to fill their rice bowls would support them.

    I stand against ETHNIC CLEANSING.

  17. Ian and Todd:

    How do you find yourselves able to turn away from the bathroom mirror in the morning. The self-serving, self-righteous distortion B.S. you post here must be only a fraction of your totally misunderstood views of people, the world, politics and maybe even your own personalities.

    Clever little alliterations and canned anti-progressive pap solves nothing and gives really bad people a leg-up. So, instead of not voting for Biden, Todd, realize that you are still young enough to take your skill set and your family to another country that will appreciate all the positive things you can do for it.

  18. Vernon supports ethnic cleansing. Duly noted.

    Fact: Biden was known as a segregationist. In my opinion,he is still a segregationist.

    I understand this group hates dissenting opinions. And, in Vernon’s case,he hates the people with differing views from himself. That in itself is proof of an immature,tyrannical and selfish mind.

  19. Todd. You say you are with the student protesters. Which ones? You are aware that there are protesters on more than one side, right? And I stand by my opinion that you spew hate without offering any rational solutions. Are you still supporting the claim you made March 13 that “Maybe a full-scale nuclear war would do us all a favor.”???

  20. Sharon,

    I’m with the student protesters who want the genocide to end and for their presidents to divest from investing in Israel while they are committing war crimes.

    I do not support the counter-protesters (many of them are local police) who were hired to attack the peaceful protesters. Bill Ackman was the billionaire behind the counter-protesters.

    Biden’s poor decisions, along with NATO and the EU, are pushing the envelope to start WW3 against nuclear powers. They must be comfortable with many global citizen’s deaths. China declared the US as the biggest warmonger in the world. They are correct!

    The fact that so many support #GenocideJoe on here means the “liberal press” is doing its job spreading war propaganda. It works the same way for the right-wing press.

  21. Wow, there are some sick apologists commenting on this post. Sheesh. Joe Biden is not the president of Israel. He does not get to decide what they do over there. I’m sick and tired of Biden getting all of the blame for Bibi’s actions. Let’s blame Bibi for everything he’s done since Oct 7th. He’s the one in charge.

    As for 45, he is a lost cause and will most definitely lose in November. I am going to buy some Champaign and put it in the fridge to remind me how we need to elect Biden again.

  22. You know, Todd, it is not a genocide. It simply isn’t, by definition. I do see, however, how powerful that word is and how it enhances arguments. What has become apparent to me lately is that so-called progressives who insist on using the word incorrectly are clearly weakening it, undermining it through overuse and inappropriate application.

    It strikes me that propagandists have used that trick many times to simultaneously exaggerate crimes begin committed while cleverly undermining the power of the word when used to describe the actual act as committed in the past. That is one powerful trick, isn’t it?

  23. Once again, Ian shows how his medication is incorrect for the reality of the world or how he views comments. NOBODY advocates for ethnic cleansing here. Try to remember what being rational is – otherwise, you continue to sound like you work for OAN.

  24. It seems that tfg had a method to his madness in 2016 and term as Potus. Word salad rants to signal his base and have them read into it what they wanted; also, to confuse and deter his non supporters. Mostly, his speech seemed intentional and still does but his command of recall and sequencing has deteriorated.
    I worked in nursing for 25 years and dealt with elderly patients a lot, some with various speech and mental/brain problems. Aphasia and confabulation were common, but most still had periods of lucidity. Communication changed but still happened in most pts.
    Tfg denies drinking alcohol, so if that’s true I doubt if his condition is Wernicke’s, even though his speech seems confabulated at times. The pattern I noticed was more a stimulant type speech, puffed up over confidence without the intellectual or factual substance behind it. It resembles how the Nazis used speed (viverin) that hyped up their paranoid fervor.
    It always seemed that tfg intentionally and continually lied, mislead and deceived through his speech, and was a con man to his core. IMO those pathways are established (hardwired by use) in his brain, and now he appears to be losing command of his thought processes and speech and can’t discern what’s real for himself. He says most everyone else is corrupt and out to get him. It’s pathetic.
    Just goes to show that staying with the facts/truth may be harder and more work in the here and now, but in the long run it definitely has its advantages.

  25. Over It projected “apologists” on others and then went ahead and apologized for Biden. LOL

    Biden received $11 million from Israeli PACs. His administration is mostly self-proclaimed Zionists. Biden has protected Bibi thrice at the UNSC and recently threatened the ICC not to issue arrest warrants for Bibi et al.

    While Congress fussed over the military aid package, Biden was sending 2,000 lb bombs to Israel so they could continue destroying all of Gaza. He sent smaller dollar shipments to bypass Congress.

    The UNSC and ICC warned countries not to ship weapons to Israel or be complicit in genocide. We ignored them. Now, you can blame Bibi all you want, but all it would take is one phone call from Biden to end it.

    Instead of ending the genocide, they are taking away our First Amendment rights to make it illegal to criticize Israel. You can’t even say that the Jews killed Christ. Trump will have to recall his golden Bibles and correct all those passages.

  26. Cringe 😬! As the fully demented president speaks gibberish, makes up stories ( lies) then shuffles his way to his helicopter being protected by staff and then barely can correctly read from a teleprompter, then can’t find his way off a stage, you think Trump has dementia?
    Keep trying to gaslight – I guess it must make you feel better.

  27. I did a good search on “Does Trump show signs of dementia”. Either this is a case where Google is suppressing left wing views, or there are very few people qualified to make a statement speaking up. I think a professor of psychology at Columbia was one of the few authoritative people I could find speaking up on this issue. I suspect from the phases used, this is the source Doonsbury is citing.

    I also realize that for someone with a license, it would be malpractice to speak up about a public figure, as well as morally and ethically wrong. Speaking up could have serious consequences for the speaker, especially against somebody as vindictive as Trump and his followers.

    It seems the signs of dementia are pretty clear once somebody translates the sign posts.

    As for Todd and his view that Biden somehow controls what is going on in Israel, I’d say it’s way more complicated than his simple world view. I’d also have to condemn Todd for enabling an anti-democratic wannabe dictator and fascist by withholding his vote, or worse yet, actually voting for an anti-democratic wannabe dictator and fascist.

  28. Coming in as late as I am, today, I will tell you that I read “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” when it first came out, not that i did not see him as a “sick puppy” before that. Any dementia comes in on top of Malignant Narcissism, which concept has fit him to a “tee,” as the saying goes. Malignant Narcissism envelops several categories of Personality Disorder, and this guy has been a “Very Sick Puppy” for most of his life.

  29. Just a random thought! Should TFG be worried that if SCOTUS grants his request for total immunity, Biden might just see that as an opportunity, convene a cabinet meeting to declare him a danger to the Republic and order Seal Team Six to take him out?

    Is he counting on Biden’s humanity to give him a free pass? The leaders of any crime family would have no problem with that, right?

  30. Someone once told me – the older we get, the more LIKE OURSELVES we get. Trump has demonstrated unbridled cruelty and virtually no self restraint throughout his life. I thought he couldn’t get worse, but he does. He’s getting more like himself.
    He didn’t listen to his own campaign managers, his White House staff, his own Attorney General who investigated every accusation of election rigging and told Trump he lost fair and square, and his own family who told him he lost the election. On January 6th, he also refused to listen to his White House legal counsel, administration officials, White House staff, his Vice President, and his family to call off the rioters. Instead, he sat by the TV watching the violence unfold for nearly 3 hours.
    The few emotional controls he ever had seem to be diminishing. He’s getting more like himself every campaign, if not every day. Scary, very scary.

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