Presidential Speech Disorders
Georgetown University Medical Center
During J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure as Director of the FBI (from 1924 to 1972), the Bureau collected information on the speech habits of incumbent US Presidents and had it analyzed to determine whether the President might be diagnosable as suffering from a neurologically-based speech disorder. If the determination were positive, then the analysis could be used as a weapon against any President who tried to infringe on Hoover’s perquisites; i.e., an attack on the Bureau’s autonomy could lead to a counterattack based on accusations of mental incompetence for Presidential duties. In fact, the determination was positive in five out of eight cases. Having obtained copies of the files created under this program through the Freedom of Information Act, I have decided that the positive diagnoses would be of interest to many of my colleagues and so have excerpted them below.
The Presidential Speech Disorders project was shut down upon Hoover’s death; hence, there are no analyses of Presidents after Nixon. But I have no doubt that Democrats among us could come up with compendious diagnoses of neurological disorder in Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush, while Republicans could spend years explaining the deficiencies of Jimmy Carter’s brain.
|Coolidge:||“...almost complete loss of speech production ability... is probably indicative of severe damage to Broca’s area. Either that, or he’s just a cretin.”|
|Roosevelt:|| ||“...displays a fascinating ability to create lovely-sounding but nonsensical phrases—e.g., ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’... the syndrome is similar in some ways to so-called ‘Wernicke’s Aphasia’ but probably actually represents some other deficiency.”|
|Kennedy:|| “...seems to have an advanced case of Roosevelt’s syndrome... nice sounding phrases such as ‘Ask not, etc.’ are legion... a pretty façade devoid of content... wish we had FDR’s brain available for dissection—a comparison would be instructive.”|
|Johnson:|| “...classic Tourette’s syndrome... speech (full of) random obscenities, nasty comments, grunts, groans, and snarls... as with most Tourette’s victims, the President’s close friends and advisers pay less attention to his outbursts than would those who do not know him.”|
|Nixon:|| “...a milder case of Tourette’s syndrome than Johnson’s compounded by mild Broca’s aphasia... speech also affected by occasional memory loss...”
The following was added to Nixon’s file in 1974: “...memory loss has assumed tremendous proportions... seems unable to recall any conversations held in the Oval Office in 1972...”
||Ndaba Forms of Address—Hiroko Watanabe
||Is Manateean a Delphinic Creole?—Horatio Phocaena
||Gaugauh Kamadugha — JLSSCNC Vol I, No 4 Contents