After Controversial Statements Many Left Wondering Is Trump Mentally Ill After All?

 It has long stopped being a matter of idle thought to wonder if Donald Trump is mentally ill. In the latest chapter of his bizarre statements, the New York Times has reported that he has recently told a U.S. Senator and a White House aide that he does not think, after all, it was his voice on the Access Hollywood tape where he bragged about sexually assaulting beautiful women. (Notably, fired Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush has replied in the Times that he plus eight other crew members heard Trump make the statements and his recent denials are utterly false.) Trump has also begun to again claim that President Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate is a forgery. Both of these recent bizarre statements came after he previously acknowledged publically that it was his voice on the tape and the birth certificate is genuine. Mind you, Trump is now reportedly making these statements via tweets. He often pursues that avenue to change the subject from something or other he did to worry the world. Rather, he was reportedly talking with the U.S. Senator and an aide. In this context, one has to wonder: what is wrong with him?  To what degree is Trump’s grasp on reality and truth impaired? The question is crucial as there is no one in the world whose mental stability is more critical to the planet’s wellbeing.   


     Consider for the moment two opposing propositions: (1) Trump really believes what he says about the Access Hollywood tape not containing his voice, and Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate being a forgery; or (2) Trump does not believe either of his two statements, but rather is lying (again). What does either proposition say about him and the state of his judgment/mental stability? After all, the entire nation heard his voice on the tape, and Obama released his birth certificate for everyone to examine. 


     Comedian Seth Myers ridiculed Trump over the matter and concluded by asking, “Is he insane?” Though a few people might wonder if our president is actually “insane,” the answer is clearly that he is not. Individuals can possess a host of extraordinarily serious mental health problems without being insane. Insanity is both a medical and legal term of art. In a court of law, to be insane a person must possess a severe mental disease or defect such that he is unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. An example can include a person who hallucinates and is thus unaware of what is occurring around him. No one can reasonably suggest that Trump meets this standard, as he would be unable to function as President or in any other important role.  Yet that hardly provides reassurance and a basis for Americans to feel confident we are being led by a man who is free from serious mental illness. 


     Recently, dozens of renowned physiatrists and other mental health experts wrote a book entitled, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (Saint Martin’s Press, October 2017).  In it, they discuss their substantial concern that the President is possessed of narcissism, among other serious mental problems, to such a degree that he presents a significant danger to our country. Although they are prevented by the “Goldwater Rule” – a rule barring psychiatrists from rendering a formal mental illness diagnosis’ without conducting an in-person mental evaluation – from diagnosing the President with a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the overarching conclusion one reaches in reading between the thinly veiled lines is that we are being led by a person with exactly such a disorder. These experts describe generally what traits lead to a NPD diagnosis and discuss years of public statements and actions in which Trump looks like a duck and quacks like a duck. One NPD characteristic is an individual who not just thinks extremely highly of himself, but who feels little or no empathy for others. Everything is about him, including his insistence that the truth is whatever he says it is. Everyone else is unreasonable if they do not accept what he insists the truth is. (Reporters who question Trump’s false assertions are being “unfair” to him and treating him “very badly;” no matter the degree of evidence, their reports are “fake” news.) These mental health experts note with alarm the degree to which Trump is increasingly endeavoring to insist that the world accept his many false statements as true, rather than confirm his statements and beliefs to the reality of the world. 


     For some, medical labels are difficult to interpret in the context of an individual engaged in politics. Some think what he says is just for effect. For a moment then, put aside diagnostic labels. Instead, consider whether Donald Trump has the basic credibility that we expect from our friends, neighbors, business associates, etc., for everyday activities.  Ask yourself, if Donald Trump was crossing the street and he alone observed a serious car accident, could he serve as a credible witness? Before you say of course he could, consider the following: if one of the drivers is being investigated for a vehicle crime, could a prosecutor have sufficient confidence in Trump’s credibility to conclude that he could be called as a witness at trial? Experienced prosecutors would quickly conclude that the President of the United States has immense baggage when it comes to his history of truthfulness. Moreover, when someone testifies at trial, by taking an oath to tell the truth, he or she automatically puts their credibility into issue, and can be challenged while they are on the stand. It is the job of prosecutors not to call witnesses where there is substantial reason to believe they either will not be truthful or cannot be relied upon by the jury. The issue would not just be testimony about the car accident, but the witness’ general history of truthfulness on other topics. Donald Trump has lied so often throughout his life, including well before his time in office, and has so often contradicted or changed his own version of events, that his cross-examination by defense counsel would take longer than the patience any court could summon. His history appears utterly consistent with a mentally disturbed narcissist who thinks whatever he says is what lesser others should have to accept as the truth. 


      When matters of dishonesty arise in the course of daily briefings, Trump’s public relations officials take advantage of his status as President to brazenly defend his often racist, mean-spirited, or just bizarre statements. Constant respect for the Office prevents him from being proverbially tarred and feathered for his deceits. While it may seem as if his honesty is regularly challenged, it is nothing compared to how it would happen were he not President. 


    Imagine if Special Counsel Mueller obtains an indictment against Trump. If he decides to testify on his own behalf our nation will be reduced in prestige to a degree never before seen. A stunned world will witness a cross-examination that will bring out the dramatic lies Trump has told over and over again. Such testimony will leave foreign leaders and citizens from nations across the planet wondering how the American people could have ever put such disturbed man in power.