Of late, there has been an uptick in the diagnosing of Donald Trump’s mental health.
The HuffPost ran a banner headline that hailed our nation’s solipsist-in-chief as “American Psycho.”
A CNN panel, following Trump’s rambling, hate-filled speech in Phoenix this Tuesday, openly questioned whether Trump has the mental fitness to be the country’s chief executive.
And Jeannie Suk Gersen, a Harvard Law professor, just posted a story in The New Yorker, in which she suggested that the Goldwater Rule, which officially bars mental-health professionals from commenting on the psyche of a president or presidential candidate, should be scrapped so as to allow those with the most experience and apparent expertise to weigh in on the mental health and fitness of Donald Trump.
Of course, Goldwater Rule or not, the discussion about Trump’s mental health and his fitness (or lack thereof) for office has been going on for some time, even before he was inaugurated as president.
In the weeks following Trump’s election, many of the unsophisticated and even those who should have known better, including a bevy of mental-health professionals, claimed that Trump suffers from mental illness. The diagnosis typically cited was narcissistic personality disorder.
Thankfully, on February 14, Dr. Allen Frances, former professor of psychiatry at Duke University and chair of the task force that wrote the DSM-IV, the Bible of mental-health disorders, refuted that diagnosis.
At that time, Frances wrote a letter to the New York Times and pointed out with his typical insight that Trump “may be a world-class narcissist, but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder.”
The eminent psychiatrist, who has contributed to the HuffPost over the years, dryly noted in his Feb. 14 letter to the Times that Trump actually “causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.”
All this time later, I have nothing to add to Frances’ analysis. He wrote the diagnosis for narcissistic personality disorder and knows the field as well as any practitioner out there.
What I can do is write from the perspective of someone, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia about 20 years ago, who was hospitalized in psychiatric wards in 1997 and 1999, who has lost three family members to suicide, who received a Global Assessment of Function (GAF) score of 20 during my relapse in 1999, and who was suicidal in the late 1990s.
In this capacity, as one who still suffers from major depression with psychotic features, I would simply confirm that Donald Trump is not remotely mentally ill.
Those who have read my columns for the HuffPost and L.A. Times, going back to 2005, know that my goal for years has been to shed the stigma of psychosis.
I have never been violent in my life, and that is true of the vast majority of those with a mental disorder.
As I have pointed out numerous times, those with a severe mental illness, but no substance abuse issues, commit only 3% to 4% of violent crime in this country.
Donald Trump, by contrast, is nothing if not violent. It is not only that he encouraged his supporters during the campaign to rough up pro-Clinton demonstrators at rallies, nor that he condoned the roughing up of suspects by the police, nor that he stated that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and still get elected, nor that he recently drew a moral equivalence between the “many sides” at Charlottesville, Va.: the white supremacist torch bearers, who chanted Nazi slogans and protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, as well as the counter-protesters.
No, Trump exudes violence and malevolence just about every time he enters a stage and speaks without a script.
He speaks daggers, though not in any Shakespearean sense. Hamlet has the gift of eloquence, whereas Trump, whose neologisms include “covfefe” and “unpresidented,” can offer only “the best words,” as he says, without a degree of irony.
Even when Trump does speak from a teleprompter, his calls for civility and healing never ring true.
He seems to enjoy causing harm to almost everyone, except his favorite tyrants like Vladimir Putin, but Trump tends to save his greatest ire and violence for his predecessors in the Oval Office.
For all of Trump’s boasts about his being a world-class dealmaker and developer of property, he would rather destroy than build or develop a damn thing, whether it is an alliance among nations, a personal relationship, a policy or even an edifice.
Thus, he has violently tried to erase many of President Obama’s signature achievements, such as the Affordable Care Act, the Paris agreement on climate change and the fiduciary rule on Wall Street money managers.
Trump has also disparaged and tried to unwind NAFTA, a legacy of Bill Clinton’s administration, and has trashed George W. Bush for the second Iraq War, a war that Trump supported, as we know from one of his interviews on Howard Stern’s show.
It might seem odd to invoke literary criticism in a piece on the pedestrian state of mind of Donald J. Trump and his lack of fitness for office.
But I have been thinking about Harold Bloom’s seminal book in the 1970s, The Anxiety of Influence, in which, to be simplistic, the Yale critic mapped the Oedipal complex onto post-Miltonic literature.
Burdened by the brilliance of Milton, his literary father figure, Alexander Pope, for instance, tried to dodge the influence of the great poet through creative misreading, as Bloom might argue.
It goes without saying that there has been nothing creative, subtle or even truly Oedipal about Donald Trump’s behavior toward his White House precursors, like Clinton, Bush and Obama, who are essentially his age or younger.
Nor has Trump misread the last three presidents, for that would imply that Donald Trump reads, and as many of us have intuited all along, Trump does not read beyond a page or two of bullet points and only when most of those bullet points praise him.
Ultimately, when the Mueller report comes out, Trump will be jettisoned from office, not because of his inability to read, nor even due to his lack of empathy.
No, Donald Trump will have to resign, or be faced with impeachment, due to his nefarious activity with the Russians in undermining our democracy.
Even Trump, a man with the cognitive capacity and moral compass of a slug, will be able to read the prevailing sentiment in Congress.
The name, Donald Trump, may well replace that of Benedict Arnold as being synonymous with American treachery, except that Arnold at least served in our country’s military.
Trump never did that. The chickenhawk ducked the Vietnam War with four academic deferments from Fordham and his beloved Wharton, as well as a medical deferment.
The Donald’s medical excuse at the time was that he had bone spurs in one of his feet, though it has been reported that he can no longer remember which foot.
Having or not having bone spurs won’t get Trump kicked out of office, but betraying the United States and attempting to subvert our elections in 2016 will get the Donald a long vacation in Hell, where he already toils.
He might talk to Satan, when he officially takes up residence down there in the pit.
Despite the evil of Milton’s Satan, he, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, possesses a rare eloquence.
“Better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven,” says Milton’s most sublime character in “Paradise Lost.”
Donald Trump would agree with Satan’s philosophy, but Trump is as likely to articulate the sublime as is a maggot.
To paraphrase a well-known adage, it may be that a congregation of maggots could type the Gettysburg Address, but the Donald might not be able to construct a complete sentence without help from his Twitter team.