At the time, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — which includes animal pictures and other simple queries aimed at detecting mild cognitive impairment such as dementia — was intended to quell questions about Trump’s mental fitness. But in recalling it, Trump said he thought presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden would never be able to pass it and suggested challenging him to take the test, said the people familiar with Trump’s comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private details.
The seeming non sequitur was part of Trump’s growing preoccupation in recent weeks over perceptions of his mental and physical health, at a time when critics have mocked him for episodes in which they say he has appeared frail or confused. The attacks Trump has previously levied against Biden — dismissing the former vice president as “Sleepy Joe,” secreted away in his basement and enfeebled — have boomeranged back on him, as opponents have seized on Trump’s own missteps to raise concerns.
Another sign of Trump’s unease came Saturday night in Tulsa, when the president devoted more than 14 minutes to regaling a campaign rally crowd with the tale of “the ramp and the water.” Eager to dismiss questions about his fitness after he struggled with a glass of water and walked unsteadily down a ramp following his June 13 commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Trump offered a revisionist history.
The ramp on that sunny day, Trump asserted, was as slippery as “an ice-skating rink.” But he “ran down” it nonetheless, he claimed, despite video evidence showing him shuffling down the incline haltingly. As for the water, Trump said, he used two hands to drink because he didn’t want to spill on his expensive silk tie.
“Anyway, that’s a long story, but here’s the story,” the president said, finally winding down. “I’ve lived with the ramp and the water since I left West Point.”
He had previously obsessed about the episode to aides in private and during a Wall Street Journal interview, when he brought the incident up unprompted and offered to produce the leather-bottom shoes he had been wearing that day, which he said were “not good” for ramps.
“In the middle of the worst economy in a century and with more than a hundred thousand Americans dead this guy is primarily concerned with not looking weak,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), referring to the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic. “And his endless, bottomless insecurity was onstage, in three dimensions, during that storytelling moment, for everyone to see. I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in the last four years but that display of juvenile behavior and self-regard will go in the Trump time capsule.”
In recent weeks, Trump has fixated on Biden’s physical and mental acuity, aides said, casting about for ways to attack his Democratic rival and stewing over media coverage that he believes makes him look weak or feeble.
Read More: Trump is increasingly preoccupied with defending his physical and mental health