I can’t say I’ve had the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) test administered to me, the one Donald Trump told Chris Wallace that he “aced,” but I have read through all the questions. It is laughably easy. I can’t imagine why anyone would brag about results from this particular test. Put another way, I could understand why someone would be embarrassed to admit they’d had it administered to them. It’s insulting and clearly intended to test people suspected of being cognitively disoriented or impaired. Look it up on the internet and I’m sure you will agree, it’s no Stanford-Binet IQ test.
The MoCA is, in effect, an extended cognitive orientation test. A crude form of the MoCA test is used by paramedics. How many fingers am I holding up? Who’s president of the United States? What day is this? And so on. It’s how they determine when a person is “oriented, times three” to person, place, and time. The MoCA is a cut above those questions in complexity and difficulty and subtlety, of course, but it is used to measure essentially the same thing, extent of cognitive impairment, if any.
I don’t mean to disparage the test. It’s useful for finding evidence of the early stages of Alzheimer’s and similar impairing disorders. But it does give one pause that it’s thought prudent by medical doctors to administer the test to the president of the United States, let alone that the president should brag about “acing it.”
MoCA was developed by Dr. Ziad Nasreddine in 1996. “This is not an IQ test,” Dr. Nasreddine said. “The test is supposed to help physicians detect early signs of Alzheimer’s, and it became very popular because it was a short test, and very sensitive for early impairment.”
As much as I detest Donald Trump, I found it painful to watch him crow about the test. Trump is a stupid man, but I don’t hold his stupidity against him. I hold his arrogance and his narcissism and his evil against him. But he was born with an unimpressive, second-rate mind. Intellectually he compares badly with everyone who was ever president of the United States, including George W. Bush and Warren G. Harding.
Most of us know instinctively that Trump isn’t very bright on any level, without being necessarily able to define exactly how or why they know it specifically. That is, Trump hasn’t or won’t take a real IQ test. But I think I may have stumbled on a way where you can administer your very own quasi-IQ test on him by way of a thought experiment. Everyone knows at least three bits of trivia that are fairly obscure, but not so obscure as to be wholly unknown by others. So I imagined asking both Donald Trump and Barack Obama the following three questions of my own: What is a differential equation? What is significant about “Bloomsday” in literature? And what does a classical musician mean when she refers to “the 48”? These are questions that specialists in the field of mathematics, literature and music could easily answer, but could not be necessarily easily answered by a person not specializing in any of those disciplines.
I think President Obama would probably know the answer to at least two of those questions, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he knew all three. I would be staggered if Trump came within shouting distance of answering any one of those questions. In fact, shouting is probably what would happen. I could imagine asking them of him and being shouted at and insulted for daring to ask, being told they were trick questions or even “fake” questions. We all know perfectly well in the easily accessible realm of our imaginations that Trump is a moron. Try this little thought experiment and prove it to yourself with obscure questions of your own. Like the MoCA, it’s a short but effective way of exposing an obvious reality.
I will even go further. I would bet Barack Obama could have told me a thing or two that I didn’t know about the three above questions, told me little fascinating or arcane details. But Barack Obama is a brilliant man, and it’s intuitively obvious. In the many ways Obama was qualified to be president of the United States, his compassion, his leadership, his experience, he was also intellectually qualified because he was brilliant. We were all truly blessed to have Barack Obama as the leader of the free world for one brief shining moment in our history.
I’ve never believed that Donald Trump was a “genius” in any sense of the idea, not even a specialised kind of genius or a “savant.” He is one of the most talent-bereft people I know. He’s even rubbish at his chosen field, real estate developer. There are a million reasons why Donald Trump is unfit to be president of the United States, and this has been another one. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.