We’re finally seeing mainstream media headlines this month questioning Donald Trump’s cognitive abilities. But for anyone who’s been paying close attention, it’s not news. Every time Trump has occasionally appeared in public over the past two and a half years, he’s come off senile. It’s fairly obvious that this is why his handlers worked so hard to keep him out of the public eye for as long as they did. But now that he’s been indicted in more states than most people have vacationed in, he’s been insistent about putting himself out there in the hope of being seen as a candidate not a defendant. All it’s doing is allowing the general public to see that he is indeed senile – to the point that now even the media has to start reluctantly acknowledging it.
But even as Trump has done one softball media interview after another over the past few weeks, he’s clearly in no condition to do something like appearing on stage with rival candidates. If he were to do so, he could fall completely to pieces the minute other candidates started haranguing him, and it would be so utterly humiliating that his entire 2024 faux-campaign might implode on the spot.
This isn’t just my opinion; it’s also apparently the opinion of Trump’s babysitters. When Trump was missing in action from the first 2024 Republican primary debate, it was framed as a one-off stunt, and the media mostly gave him a pass on it. But on Tuesday it was revealed that Trump will be missing in action from the second primary debate as well. This gets riskier.
Trump’s babysitters are clearly hoping that he can win the Republican nomination without having to appear in any of these primary debates, and that might be possible, given how pathetic the rest of the Republican field is. But with Trump putting himself out there in embarrassingly senile fashion in interviews, even as he keeps skipping the debates, the media is now going to start asking why he’s skipping the debates. It’s not going to be enough for him to say “Well, it’s because I’m in first place in the primary.” The narrative is going to end up being that his senile ass is dodging the debates because he’s not in any cognitive condition to handle debates.
The mainstream media, on both sides, has been propping up Trump for two and a half years now. They haven’t bothered to question why he’s appeared in public so rarely since leaving office. They’ve ignored the fact that he’s come off as senile in every public appearance he occasionally made across 2021, 2022, and early 2023. But now that Trump is insisting on putting himself out there and falling to pieces on a daily basis, the media knows it can’t cover for him anymore.
If the mainstream media decides that the prevailing narrative around Donald Trump is his worsening cognitive condition, then the game is over. The only reason Trump is still in first place in the Republican primary is that the media keeps unanimously insisting he’s going to be the nominee “no matter what.” That kind of thing becomes a self fulfilling prophecy with voters. But if the narrative becomes that Trump is senile, that’s going to cut into his political prospects even more quickly than his criminal trials can. Not everyone understands yet that Trump is going to prison. But everyone understands senility when they see it. And he’s so desperate to distract everyone from his criminal trials, he’s finally letting everyone out there see just how senile he is.
So if Donald Trump wants to keep hiding from Republican primary debates even as he appears in TV interviews and comes off like a dementia-riddled version of his former self, then so be it. He’ll only be helping to make sure that the national discussion is exactly what it needs to be: not only is he a career criminal who’s on his way to prison, he’s too senile to even participate in his own party’s primary debates. At this point Trump is going to bury himself before the courts can.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report