Donald Trump: Presbyopia and National Security

President Trump, like every human past middle age, has presbyopia -- difficulty focusing visually on a nearby objects, as when reading. While George Washington's presbyopia arguably prevented a mililtary coup in 1783, Donald Trump's was a fiasco that not only threatened national security but also epitomized the unsophisticated recklessness of a "norm-breaking" approach to the presidency. SEE BELOW
During an outdoor dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Feb. 12, 2017, word arrived that North Korea had launched a missile. As the two leaders quickly conferred about this development, written documents were placed in front of them... which were apparently difficult to read in the available light. "The patio was lit only with candles and moonlight, so aides used the camera lights on their phones to help the stonefaced Trump and [prime minister] read through the documents" 1.

Comment: Presbyopia -- difficulty focusing visually on a nearby objects -- is especially troublesome in poor light, when the pupil dilates and loses its depth-of-field effect. Adding illumination can restore depth of field, making letters clear enough to read without glasses.

This was quickly reported as a potential security hazard, because adversaries could have hacked the waiters' mobile phones to gather image data (the documents being reviewed) or audio data (the conversation) while the phones were in proximity to the president 1.

Comment: This episode is most notable for what it says about the complexity of the presidency, i.e. the fact that White House aides must, at least indirectly, worry about the national security implications of the lens of the president's eyes! (It reminds Dr. Zebra of the similar wonderment of a U-boat medic in World War 2 who was discussing a sailor's case of gonorrhea with his surprisingly knowledgeable captain. The captain believed that the resolution of the sailor's urethral discharge was likely due to encapsulation of the gonococci. "The things that a U-boat commander had to know!" 2a) One must wonder, however, whether mobile phones are routinely removed from anyone who gets in conversational range of the president, given that they could be used for eavesdropping at any time.

In January 2018 Trump's "visual acuity" without glasses was 20/30 in both eyes 3, but the report did not specify if this was distance vision or near vision (deliberate ambiguity?). Based on the universality of presbyopia, it is certain that 20/30 represents distance vision and that his near-vision acuity is publicly unknown.

The image below -- from the now defunct Twitter feed of a Richard DeAgazio -- shows light being shined on the dinner table where the President and the Prime Minister were sitting. However, in the top photograph it is not actually clear that President Trump is at the table, and the other two photographs do not show phones being used as flashlights.

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Cited Sources
  1. Bump, Philip. Trump ran a campaign based on intelligence security. That's not how he's governing. (Published 13 Feb. 2017. Downloaded on 2019-12-01.) Available on the web:
  2. Hirschfeld, Wolfgang; Brooks, Geoffrey. The Secret Diary of a U-boat. London: Frontline Books, 2011.
    a  p.152
  3. Sanders, Sarah; Jackson Ronny. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Dr. Ronny Jackson. (Published 16 Jan. 2018. Downloaded on 2019-12-28.) Available on the web:

    Comment: A transcript of the press briefing is archived here --> MORE

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