White House physician Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson delivered the results Tuesday afternoon of President Donald Trump’s physical exam, which took place last week at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Jackson began his presentation with such typical data as the president’s weight, blood pressure, and assorted lab test results — and concluded the commander-in-chief’s “overall health was excellent.”
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In other words: The president, 71, was given a clean bill of health. “I’ve found no reason to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes,” Jackson, a rear admiral in the Navy, also told reporters.
The test that the press — and later wannabe social media pundits — keyed in on ad nauseum was the one Jackson had never intended to administer. The doctor explained he’d done a cognitive dysfunction screening assessment at the direct request of the president. He reiterated more than a few times from the podium that, in his clinical opinion, the tool was unnecessary, and he included it only because the president asked him to do so.
He often interacts with the president multiple times a day, he said, in part due to the proximity of his office to the president’s elevator — and said he had no concerns at all about the president’s cognitive abilities.
Nonetheless, Jackson carefully selected a cognitive screening tool to use during the president’s examination. He chose the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) — a widely validated tool that is commonly used to screen for cognitive dysfunction, such as that seen among dementia patients.
Trump scored 30 out of 30 on the exam.
That wasn’t good enough for members of the liberal media. They peppered the physician with such questions as: “Are you ruling out things like early-onset Alzheimer’s?” and “On what basis would you advise the Cabinet that the president is unable to discharge his duties?” One reporter asked about the president’s use of Twitter — while another even asked if he watched too much TV.
The MoCa screens for cognitive disturbances along several dimensions. Those are described in the test’s scoring instructions as “attention and concentration, executive functions, memory, language, visuoconstructional skills, conceptual thinking, calculations, and orientation.”
Yet even with Trump’s perfect score, folks on the Left — including many in the briefing room — scrambled to make sense of information that did not comport with their preconceived notions of this president’s mental fitness. Memes that began flooding Twitter immediately showed more about the tweeters’ misunderstanding of what the test measures than they did President Trump’s performance on the test.
Much of the social media comments are woefully misinformed. Posts and tweets about the president’s performance and Jackson’s evaluation erred on a number of points:
First, the MoCA is not a tool used to evaluate psychopathology. Psychopathology includes mental illnesses such as personality disorders, which tabloid psychiatrists, armchair psychologists and assorted liberals have thrown around since long before President Trump took office. Calling Trump a “sociopath” (a diagnosis that is no longer used, by the way) and a “narcissist” are among the most common ill-informed jabs.
Second, the MoCA is not a tool used to evaluate intelligence. Folks on the Left were quick to attack the test, which is widely available online for anyone to review, noting the “answers” appear to be quite simple. The problem — the test is not meant to assess intelligence. It is meant to evaluate signs of cognitive disturbance such as dementia. Calling President Trump “stupid” or a “moron” is a daily occurrence among folks who dislike him and/or his policies — but his MoCA results neither support nor refute that obviously silly assertion.
Finally, the MoCA is not a comprehensive tool that can definitely rule out (or in) any particular cognitive issue. It is a screening device, and an excellent one. However, the fact that Trump’s score on the test was flawless suggests the much-batted-around idea that he is suffering from some sort of cognitive impairment like dementia is extraordinarily unlikely.
Despite the perfect MoCA score and the outstanding results on the bulk of the physical assessments, even prominent political figures were quick to attack it.
Martin O’Malley, for example, the former Democrat governor of Maryland and a failed presidential candidate, said to Martha MacCallum on Fox News Tuesday night, just a few hours after the announcement, “He’s in perfect health — which means he’s only going to get worse.”
Way to stay positive, Gov. O’Malley. (Maybe no one told him that having a negative outlook on life can be hazardous to one’s mental health.)
And check out just a sprinkling of the many comments posted Tuesday on Twitter:
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The White House physician commented that he and the president spoke about his weight — which is 239 (Trump is 6 feet 3 inches tall). “The president, he and I talked,” Dr. Jackson said. “He would like to lose 10 to 15 pounds. We talked about diet and exercise a lot. He’s more enthusiastic about the diet part than the exercise part, but we’re going to do both.” Dr. Jackson also served as White House physician for former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.
Michele Blood is a freelance writer based in Flemington, New Jersey.