That Bush was in the throes of “pre-senile dementia” was catnip for the left-wing blogosphere. The former president doesn’t often speak in public these days, but does anyone still believe he is suffering from dementia? Bush was said to have come away from Trump’s inaugural address thinking “that was some weird shit” — pithy proof, if you ask me, that 43 is compos mentis.
When it comes to Trump, there is a temptation to medicalize his many deficiencies of character and intellect. I entertain these theories myself, especially the quite compelling theory that he is a pathological narcissist. But none of us can know for sure. As a practical matter, yes, it does seem like Trump could speak more fluently as a younger man than he does today. But in those interviews with Larry King, Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, and Charlie Rose, he evinces the same basic worldview that he does today; there may be more words per minute and the occasional pleasing turn of phrase, but there is no deeper knowledge of policy, no subtler grasp of international affairs. At bottom, it’s the same simplistic shtick about America not winning anymore. (Back then, it was Japan screwing us, not China.)