Trump: The sanity question
Is the 45th president of the United States mentally ill? In the month since the election, said Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times, Donald Trump’s mental state has become an issue of “fierce public debate.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) claimed that several Republican colleagues have admitted they’re concerned about the president’s mental well-being; other Democratic lawmakers have raised the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment, under which a president can be declared “incapacitated” and removed from office. The psychiatrist who defined narcissistic personality disorder reacted to the speculation by saying that the president couldn’t be diagnosed as mentally ill, because he “causes severe distress rather than experiencing it.” Then came the bizarre press conference last week, when Trump repeated several blatant falsehoods and went on a series of angry “tirades.” The man is clearly “kind of crazy”—but is he “crazy crazy”?
I don’t know about crazy, but Trump is clearly “not well,” said Jacob Bacharach in New Republic.com. At that alarming press conference, the president seemed unhinged, making faces and doing “silly voices,” badly stating falsehoods about his electoral college margin, and referring off-handedly to “blowing up a Russian ship” and to a nuclear holocaust. “It was all quite bonkers.” Actually, it’s Trump’s critics who’ve lost their minds, said Keith Ablow in FoxNews.com. This is a man who has “acquired billions of dollars through complex real estate transactions”; built his name into a “worldwide brand”; and beat 16 Republicans and a Democrat to win the presidency. Could he have achieved all that if he were mentally unstable? “Trump is stone cold sane.”
Please, enough with the “armchair diagnoses,” said Olivia Goldhill in Qz.com. Not only does all this baseless speculation stigmatize people suffering from genuine mental illness, it’s also impossible to diagnose people without examining them in person. Indeed, the American Psychiatric Association actually prohibits its members from “commenting on a public figure’s mental health.” There’s another reason we should “avoid psychiatrically labeling our leaders,” said Richard Friedman in The New York Times. “It lets them off the moral hook.” You can be vain, mean, and incompetent without being mentally ill, and “the nation doesn’t need a shrink to help it decide whether President Trump is fit to serve.” All we need is “common sense.” ■