During the 1968 presidential campaign over 2000 mental health professionals (many with thinly-disguised political motives, I might add) declared Senator Barry Goldwater to be psychologically unfit to serve as president. Goldwater sued and won.
As a result the American Psychiatric Association declared it unethical to render a diagnosis without first examining the subject. But recently some concerned psychoanalysts have joined together anyway in an effort known as "Duty to Warn" to voice their opinions on Donald Trump’s mental health.
They have reported "We believe that we are legally and ethically obligated to break confidentiality to warn a potential victim of violence. Our duty to warn the public trumps (?) all other considerations."
The President has been diagnosed by these professionals as having a narcissistic personality disorder and a loose association with reality. But Dr. Allen Frances, renowned psychiatrist, author and former chair of psychiatry at Duke University Medical School (and no Trump fan), disagrees with this diagnosis. He describes Trump as being "more bad than mad."
Although he agrees "Trump absolutely is a world-class narcissist; grandiose, self - absorbed and unempathic," Frances fails to find any signs of psychological distress or impairment pointing to a disabling mental illness. Trump exhibits personality disorders, yes, but not psychoses. And mental problems are not necessarily disabling to political leaders anyway. Both Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill suffered from severe periodic clinical depression, yet they steered their nations through some critical times. Mental illness does not necessarily disqualify someone from being an effective leader.
Donald Trump is an impulsive, blustering out-and-out liar and conman. But bad, unethical behavior is not, in itself, mental illness. While Trump causes untold distress to almost everyone with whom he comes into contact, he suffers very little distress himself. In his business dealings and in his political life he has caused immense problems for others but has emerged relatively unscathed. In fact, he has often been well rewarded financially for his bad conduct. But who ever said this world was fair anyway?
Dr. Frances doesn’t believe, as some do, that Trump could be removed from office under the 25th Amendment for being psychologically disabled and unfit to run the country. That would require Vice President Pence, House Speaker Ryan and a majority of the Cabinet to agree he is unfit to continue holding office. That simply isn’t going to happen. For us to take our government back Trump is going to have to be defeated in the Congress and at the ballot box. And that process may have already begun. But the basic trouble isn’t with our president, it’s with us. We have allowed ourselves to become seduced, hoodwinked and bamboozled by a known self-serving con artist. Why? Because we were more than ready to listen.
The loss of medium-to-low-skilled jobs along with our deteriorating basic way of life in this country was never caused by illegal (or legal) immigrants or by corporations fleeing to off-shore tax havens as Trump claims. It was caused by the microchip, by technological displacement and automation. And so far neither party is realistically addressing that problem. Trump also convinced his followers that Hillary Clinton intended to open the flood gates to illegal immigrants in order to increase Democratic voting numbers. But Trump is not the real cause of anything, he is the result of subtle but radical changes in the American political and social psyche which we apparently have yet to recognize, much less face. Self- diagnosis can often be an exercise in futility. Nevertheless, we need to begin.
Donald Trump is not really mad (psychotic), he’s merely very bad. But he didn’t get elected by himself. According to the familiar lines in Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar" from high school English class: "The fault is not in our stars, Dear Brutus, it’s in ourselves."
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at email@example.com.