No One is “Mentally Fit” to be President

Seal of the President of the United States
Seal of the President of the United States


“Most voters in six 2020 swing states,” an early September CNBC/Change Research poll finds, “do not consider either President Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden mentally fit to be president.”

In Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, 51% consider Trump mentally unfit for the office, while 52% feel the same way about Biden. Biden holds steady at 52% nationally, while Trump’s unfitness number ramps up to 55%.

Frankly, I find those numbers surprisingly low. No, not because both Trump and Biden are clearly narcissistic sociopaths. Nor because the two of them frequently and publicly behave and speak in ways consistent with dementia or brain damage.

Yes, those things are disturbing, but they’re not anomalous. Most if not all politicians are sociopaths, and at least one (Ronald Reagan) suffered from dementia while still in office and remains well-remembered by many.

The problem is the idea that any human being is even remotely “mentally fit” to the office of President of the United States as that office exists today.

George Washington presided over a federal government weaker than any of the 14 then-existing state governments, boasting a population smaller than that of Los Angeles alone today, lacking foreign territories or possessions, and for the most part eschewing foreign policy entanglements.

Donald Trump presides over a too-strong federal government and a sprawling global empire. He rules a population of more than 300 million at home — nearly 3 million of them employed by that government itself — and complicates the lives of billions around the planet with military interventions, economic sanctions, election meddling, etc.

Washington’s writ ran as far as he could plausibly (and personally) lead an army on horse.

Trump, like other recent presidents, can order a drone strike halfway around the world on a whim, and is never more than seconds away from a briefcase containing the codes for consuming the planet in nuclear fire.

Who can be trusted with that kind of power? Whose IQ and moral fiber are up to mastering it, using it wisely, resisting corrupt temptations, and exercising monumental self-restraint? No one, that’s who.

Even if the US Constitution’s original restraints on presidential power still held, and they haven’t for more than a century, the duties of the office are just too inherently complex for a single manager to do well, and  too lucrative and empowering to avoid attracting corrupt megalomaniacs like Trump and Biden and their hangers-on.

As a Libertarian who considers my party’s presidential nominee, Jo Jorgensen, a trustworthy human being who’s likely competent to any doable task, I’d like to believe that if elected she would (with the help of a hostile Congress) rein in the office, shrink its power to back within constitutional limits, and begin dismantling the post-World War Two imperial project.

But even a Libertarian president would merely be a stopgap solution to the problems the presidency itself represents. Until we rethink  not just who we allow power over us, but how much power we allow them, we’re increasingly exposing ourselves to both social and physical extinction.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Trump vs. the Marines: Semper Lactentem

World War I: The fight of the U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood. From the painting by the French artist Georges Scott. Public Domain.
World War I: The fight of the U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood. From the painting by the French artist Georges Scott. Public Domain.

We don’t really know (and probably never will) whether President Donald Trump really called America’s World War One dead “losers” and “suckers,” as Jeffrey Goldberg claims in a September 3 piece in The Atlantic.

On one hand, the claim rings true. Trump has a history of publicly spitting in the faces of war veterans both individually (calling Vietnam POW John McCain a “loser,” vilifying administration appointees who even briefly remove their lips from his posterior, etc.) and collectively (for example, pardoning war criminal Eddie Gallagher in the face of his comrades’ reports of his atrocities).

On the other hand, that it rings true makes it somewhat irrelevant. His “pro-military” supporters knew he was a snake when they picked him up, and they’ve continued to embrace him no matter often or brazenly he sinks his fangs into their favored people and causes.

Amid the howling commentary and “analysis,” what I’ve not seen is any substantial discussion of two questions: Were US troops in World War One “losers?” Were the Marines who died at Belleau Wood “suckers?”

“Losers,” I think, is pretty much an obvious falsehood. The US and its allies won that war, the Central Powers lost it, and the entry of US forces almost certainly changed that outcome from stalemate to rout.

Ever since boot camp in 1985, I’ve loved — and steeped myself in — Marine Corps history, and Belleau Wood looms large in that history. First Sergeant Dan Daly, already the winner of two Medals of Honor, is said to have yelled “come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” as he led his Marines into the fray. To this day, members of the Fifth and Sixth Marine Regiments wear the French fourragère in recognition of their units’ valor at Belleau Wood. The Marines carried the day at Belleau Wood. “Losers?” Nope.

But “suckers?” Well, maybe.

More than four million Americans volunteered for, or allowed themselves to be conscripted into, military service in World War One. 117,000 of them died. Hundreds of thousands more bore wounds that pained them for life.

And for what?

Certainly not, as US President Woodrow Wilson claimed, to make the world “safe for democracy.” Among America’s allies, Russia was an outright autocracy, while Britain and France, formally democratic at home, ran global and distinctly non-democratic empires. And Wilson himself instituted an anti-democratic police state at home, censoring and jailing opponents of the war.

Nor, as it turned out, was World War One “the war to end all wars.” US entry into the war turned a likely status quo ante into an ersatz “peace” that led directly to World War Two, as the allies divvied up new suzerainties from the Central Powers’ colonial remnants and imposed crushing reparations on Germany.

That — and everything that followed from it, including a warfare-welfare state that, like a vampire latched firmly onto his victim’s jugular, sucks peace and prosperity from Americans’ lives to this very day — is what the Marines at Belleau Wood died for.

“Suckers” sounds fair.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Silence Is Not Consent in Politics, Either

Lorelei photographed by Eric Holman. Used with permission of Open Mind Media, Inc.
Lorelei photographed by Eric Holman. Used with permission of Open Mind Media, Inc.

When you undergo a medical procedure or volunteer for a research study, you’re presented with forms to sign, outlining what’s going to happen (and what bad things could happen), and expressly consenting to have those things happen.

If you’re accused of rape, “he or she didn’t physically resist” isn’t an acceptable defense. In fact, express consent is the emerging standard, sometimes to seemingly ridiculous degrees (i.e. re-requesting consent at each stage of an encounter).

Consent, I think we can agree, is a big deal in America today.

It was a big deal in 1776, too, when Thomas Jefferson asserted in the Declaration of Independence that  governments “deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Consent is a central issue in the 27 colonial grievances listed in the Declaration, one of which (“imposing Taxes on us without our Consent”) became a primary battle cry of the American Revolution: “No taxation without representation!”

To this day, American politicians proudly claim “consent of the governed” via democratic elections. But that claim conflicts with the known facts.

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the United States, as of November 8, 2016, stood at 323,781,667. That evening, the winning candidate for President received 62,984,828 votes nationwide. To put it a different way, about 19.5% of people living in the United States consented to Donald Trump’s presidency.

In 2014, Mitch McConnell was elected to his sixth term in the US Senate with 806,787 votes from among a state population of about 4.4 million.  In other words, about 18.3% of Kentuckians consented to be represented by Mitch McConnell in the US Senate.

In 2018, Nancy Pelosi was elected to her 17th term as a US Representative from California. That state’s 12th US House District boasts a population of about 765,000. A whopping 35.5% — 274, 035 — of those she claims as her constituents consented to her claim to represent them.

One interesting dodge to the obvious implication — that our politicians don’t truly enjoy the consent of those whom they govern — is that voting implies consent to be ruled by the winner. The minority gets its say, but implicitly agrees to be bound by the results.

But even accepting that argument, it’s a rare election in which a majority of those supposedly consenting to be ruled vote at all, for the winner or otherwise.

Some aren’t allowed to vote: Minors, non-citizen immigrants, prisoners, and, in some states, felons who have completed their sentences. Others choose, of their own accord, to abstain from voting.

They are the silent majority.

They’re not represented, but they’re taxed.

They’ve chosen no rulers, but they’re ruled. And if they resist the rule of the minority and its representatives, they’re caged or killed.

Can government truly enjoy the consent of the governed? Under certain conditions, yes. Small political units operating on unanimous express consent, perhaps interfacing with other such units in a system known as “panarchy,” could work.

But in today’s America, consent of the governed is a fairy tale. America’s politicians enjoy no such consent and should stop pretending they do.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.