Psychologists divide memories into three categories, and assess functioning in each category: Episodic Memory (memories of personal experiences), Semantic Memory (general knowledge), and Personal Future (remembering what you are in the process of doing). When a demented man cannot remember something important, he will invent memories to fill the holes, and will not recognize that the invented memories are not accurate. Demented people are known to invent memories to fill in gaps in all three of these areas. This process of inventing memories is called "confabulation." Since a person cannot distinguish real from confabulated memories, the effect is to put them increasingly out of touch with reality as the process runs its course.
Sadly, Senator McCain shows significant problems in all three types of memory. As one example of a problem with his memory of personal history, he often recounts a story that when he was a prisoner of war, he gave his captors the names of the Green Bay Packers instead of informing on his comrades. Sometimes, though, he says he named the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As examples of apparently confabulated "fills" in semantic memory, he has asserted that Pakistan and Iraq share a border, which they do not, and that Vladimir Putin is President of Germany.
In terms of personal plans and commitments, he seems to have forgotten a number of things. He once vowed never to attack Social Security, but now supports privatizing it, claiming that this has always been his position. Likewise he now opposes abortion and wants to continue tax cuts for the rich, saying that he has always stood where he does now on these issues, even though he used to vehemently favor both abortion and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Can America afford to elect a leader who is already showing signs of mental deterioration? Do we dare put someone in charge of our nuclear strike capability when we have evidence that he may not always be in touch with reality, and when we have already seen that he lacks control over acting upon whatever outlandish impulses might occur to him?
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