As I was preparing this commentary an article in the Saturday January 6th New York Times, “Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a ‘Very Stable Genius’” pointed specifically to the issue. “President Trump, whose sometimes erratic behavior in office has generated an unprecedented debate about his mental health, declared…that he was perfectly sane and accused his critics of raising questions to score political points,” the article began.
That article noted, “Mr. Trump’s self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have generated endless op-ed columns, magazine articles, books, professional panel discussions and cable television speculation.”
Interviewed for the article Bandy Lee, the book’s editor said, “The level of concern by the public is now enormous…They’re telling us to speak more loudly and clearly and not to stop until something is done because they are terrified.”
OK, you are thinking, “This is all a liberal/left wing conspiracy to discredit the Trump presidency.” Or, “How can people who have never been in the same room with the president make any kind of diagnosis on his mental health?”
The latter is a valid criticism, and is discussed in the book. The former is not valid. As the writers suggest, those who think this is a conspiracy may also be afflicted with some of the problems Trump exhibits.
As to the latter, as explained by several of the experts in this book, the American Psychiatric Association follows the “Goldwater Rule.” A professional can’t diagnose mental illness through anything other than having that person as a patient. In 1964 Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s affirmation that the atomic bomb could be used against the Soviet Union was viewed by a number of mental health professionals as a sign of deep paranoia and mental illness. Some went as far as to publish an article in a national magazine. Goldwater sued for libel and won. Thus the Goldwater Rule was created.
The 27 psychiatrists and mental health professionals writing in this book acknowledge this rule but are frank to state that they felt the need to get out to the public at large their diagnosis, which is based on available information and observation, and felt it was so important that they had to publish their views in a book.
This book is compelling reading. You don’t have to be a shrink to understand most of the terminology. If you follow the news with any regularity and have an unbiased view of the president, it’s probable that you, too, are wondering what his erratic presidency is all about.
Several of the writers in this book believe Trump suffers from malignant narcissism. As described in the literature, “A person with malignant narcissism has the potential to destroy families, communities, nations, and work environments. This condition reflects a hybrid or blending of narcissistic and antisocial personality disorders.”
Those with this condition “will lie and give the impression that simply because they say it that makes it reality.” These people are “jealous, petty, thin-skinned, punitive, hateful, cunning, and angry.”
According to this psychological profile, malignant narcissists “can hurt others, because they rank relationships and people based on superficial standards and categories. They want to land on top, even when pretending to be altruistic or engaging in an activity that should not be "all about them." They often view the world through a primitive binary lens (for example, winner/loser; smart/dumb; rich/poor; pretty/ugly; black/white) — all the while sustaining the belief that they are superior.
President Trump has continually lied while in office, calls people losers and as the Times article headline states, he thinks “…He’s a very stable genius.”
There is much in “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” to ponder. We must ask ourselves what are the options our nation faces if Republicans won’t act by invoking the 25th amendment, article 4. That article says a sitting vice president and a majority of the executive branch’s cabinet could, on their own, agree to transfer power out of the hands of a sitting president. At that point, those officials would notify Congress, and the vice president would assume the office as the acting president.
Until some action is taken to counter Mr. Trump’s mental health issues, or we get professional clarity on the scope of his mental health, reading this book will at least help us understand the person who can order a nuclear attack.