Trump is seriously, frighteningly unstable – the world is in danger
In retrospect, what’s most disturbing about “Sharpiegate” isn’t Trump’s clumsy effort to doctor a National Weather Service map or even his brazen move to get the same agency to lie on his behalf.
It’s how utterly petty his motive was. We’ve had presidents trying to cover up a sexual liaison with an intern and a botched burglary, but never have we had one who went to such lengths to cover up an inaccurate weather forecast. Alabama being hit by a hurricane? Friends, this is not rational behavior.
Trump also cancelled a meeting with the Taliban at Camp David. The meeting was to have been secret. It was scheduled for the week of the anniversary of 9/11. He cancelled it by tweet.
Does any of this strike you as even remotely rational?
Before that, Trump cancelled a state visit to Denmark because Denmark wouldn’t sell Greenland to the US. Hello? Greenland wasn’t for sale. The US no longer buys populated countries. The state visit had been planned for months.
He has repeatedly told senior officials to explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes hitting the US. He believes video games cause mass shootings. He thinks climate change is no big deal
He says trade wars are “good and easy to win”. He insists it’s Chinese rather than US consumers who pay his tariffs. He “orders” American firms to stop doing business in China.
He calls the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy”. He retweets a comedian’s sick suggestion that the Clintons were responsible for the suicide of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
I think we have to face the truth that no one seems to want to admit. This is no longer a case of excessive narcissism or grandiosity. We’re not simply dealing with an unusually large ego.
The president of the United States is seriously, frighteningly, dangerously unstable. And he’s getting worse by the day. Such a person in the Oval Office can do serious damage.
What to do? We can vote him out of office in 14 months’ time. But he could end the world in seven and a half seconds. There’s also the question of whether he’ll willingly leave
Can you imagine the lengths he will go to win? Will he get Russia to do more dirty work? Instruct the justice department to arrest his opponent? Issue an executive order banning anyone not born in the US from voting? Start another war?
By the time the courts order him to cease whatever unconstitutional effort he’s making to remain in office, the election may be over. Or he’ll just ignore the courts.
It’s almost too late for an impeachment. Besides, no president has ever been sent packing. Nixon resigned because he saw it coming. Trump would sooner start a civil war.
Also, being unstable is not an impeachable offense. Two Republicans who have announced primary challenges to him have suggested another possibility: the 25th amendment.
Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld recently tweeted that Trump is “a clear and present danger” to the US, with the hashtag “#25thAmendment”. Former Illinois representative Joe Walsh says the amendment should be “looked at”.
Last February, former deputy director and acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabe said officials in the Department of Justice had discussed using the 25th.
Ratified in 1967, it allows the vice-president to become “acting president” when “the vice-president and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or such other body as Congress may by law provide” declare a president incapacitated.
The only attribute Mike Pence has displayed so far is sycophancy: most recent illustration, overnighting at Trump’s golf resort in Ireland. But with rumors flying that Trump might exchange the vice-president for another lapdog, who knows? Maybe Pence will discover some cojones.
Another problem: the amendment doesn’t define who “principal officers” are and the constitution never mentions the word “cabinet”. If Trump thought a revolt was brewing, he’d fire everyone instantly.
I wouldn’t completely rule out the 25th amendment, but the only thing that’s going to get Pence and a majority of Trump’s lieutenants to pull the plug before Trump pulls it on them may be so horrific that the damage done to America and the world would be way beyond anything we’ve experienced to date.
Which is to say, be careful what you wish for. Pray that we make it through the next 14 months. Then do everything in your power to remove this man from office.
Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many,
Not the Few and The Common Good. He is also a columnist for Guardian US
Joining up the dots shows the true depths of Trump’s dangerous narcissistic pathology
There has only been one headline worth printing since Donald Trump was elected president. That headline is "Donald Trump suffers from a dangerous incurable narcissistic disorder which makes him incapable of empathy and reason.
Instead of stating this disturbing fact, the evidence for which is voluminous, the mainstream media have over the last three years led America down the rabbit holes of normalising him and trying to understand him as you would a psychologically healthy human being.
But Donald Trump is not a psychologically healthy human being and reporting on him as if he were, empowers him and disempowers people of reason. Acknowledging his pathology is fundamental to reversing this imbalance.
Although the mainstream media have largely refused to name Trump’s disordered mind, a cohort of mental health professionals have been consistently sounding the alarm.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, three psychiatrists wrote to then-President Barack Obama warning that Trump’s widely-reported symptoms of mental instability led them to question his fitness for office.
Since Trump was sworn in as president, Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee has been leading a group of mental health professionals in a concerted campaign to raise awareness of the dangers posed by Trump’s pathological mental state.
While individual characteristics of Trump’s behaviour are routinely covered in mainstream media, there has been no concerted effort to connect these disparate symptoms to this underlying pathological condition that unites and explains them all.
The condition that these mental health professionals converge upon to explain Trump’s wide range of abnormal behaviours is a disorder known as malignant narcissism.
While individual characteristics of Trump’s behaviour are routinely covered in mainstream media, there has been no concerted effort to connect these disparate symptoms to this underlying pathological condition that unites and explains them all. An understanding of Trump’s dangerously disordered mind,
however, demands that we join the dots between the various aspects of his extreme behaviours; particularly his narcissism, his paranoia and his incapacity to accept reality.
Individuals with pathological narcissism see others as “lesser beings” who deserve to be treated with contempt, a contempt that is ameliorated only to the degree that they can be of instrumental use to the narcissist.
One set of “dots” that illustrates Trump’s contempt for others as “lesser beings” is his disdain towards women, migrants and foreigners, the disabled and non-white Americans.
To take just one example, Trump’s attacks on women reporters are long-standing and well-documented. This behaviour makes sense given that his narcissistic pathology compels him to see women as inferior.
Any woman (particularly a non-white woman) asking an “impertinent” question is an affront to this superiority. His conditioned response to this violation of the natural order is fury and contempt.
Pathological narcissism also explains two other set of “dots” in Trump’s behaviour, namely his cruelty and his criminality. Cruelty is one of Trump’s core character traits, it is a central theme of Trump’s rallies and, as Adam Sewer has written, is arguably Trump’s only real, authentic pleasure.
Trump’s immigration policies are explicit examples of this cruelty, including his policy on separating migrant children from their families at the border,
his call to deport 800,000 ‘Dreamers’ brought to the US as children, and his plan to end a program that deferred deportation for migrants suffering from debilitating illness to countries where the treatments keeping them alive are not available.
Trump’s “criminality,” too, reflects his narcissistic assessment of himself as a “special being.” As Sewer again points out, Trump’s attitude towards the law is based upon a clear principle:
“Only the President and his allies, his supporters, and their anointed are entitled to the rights and protections of the law, and if necessary, immunity from it. The rest of us are entitled only to cruelty, by their whim.”
Individuals with acute paranoia are characterised by a worldview that sees other people as inherently untrustworthy, along with an unshakable conviction that these others are out to harm them.
Paranoid conspiracy theories are a prominent feature of Trump’s mindset. As US president, he has available to him the intelligence and knowledge systems of the most world’s powerful country, but time and again, he has proven himself to be psychologically incapable of accepting what they are telling him.
Trump’s psychopathology means that intelligence information that does not comport to his worldview simply cannot be processed. Divorced from the ability to fact-check the reality around him, his internal world is populated with fact-free conspiracies that fit with his emotional needs.
Trump’s distorted, paranoid view of reality shapes his policies, most notably foreign policy. A pathologically paranoid leader would be expected to recoil from alliances as inherently untrustworthy and seek to fortify their territory against internal and external threats. Trump’s major foreign policy stances are consistent with such extreme paranoia.
Trump’s attacks on membership organisations, such as NATO and the European Union, reflect a paranoid conviction that such alliances cannot be trusted and will serve only to rip off the United States, a view he has expressed repeatedly.
Trump’s affinity for violent authoritarian leaders is also consistent with the interpretation that they are more in tune with Trump’s own narcissistic and paranoid worldview, than the “weak” leaders of America’s major democratic allies.
A third feature of malignant narcissism is perhaps the most dangerous - and the least commented on - aspect of the condition. History suggests that leaders with this condition tend to view themselves as world figures capable of bending history to their will, and that they harbour simplistic pathological fantasies for reshaping the world in their own disordered image.
This was certainly the case, for example, with Hitler, who’s pathological narcissism fuelled his vision of Germany as a “master race” that needed to be “cleansed” of the “germs” of the disabled, foreigners and Jews.
Mao, too, was a malignant narcissist, who breezily declared that half of China may have to die for him to realise his vison of China as a new society and a leading world power. “Of course, there are people and objects in the world,” Mao wrote, “but they are all there only for me.”
Given the voluminous evidence of Trump’s malignant narcissism, the debate on his mental health must consider the possibility that he, too, harbours a pathologically narcissistic fantasy.
Trump clearly believes that the world is a dangerous and threatening place, that alliances are treacherous, and that only strong nations standing alone can survive.
The outline of such a possible fantasy can be discerned thus: Trump clearly believes that the world is a dangerous and threatening place, that alliances are treacherous, and that only strong nations standing alone can survive.
He appears to believe that in this dangerous world the “superior” white, Christian civilisation is existentially threatened by “invasion” of “inferior” civilisations, chiefly non-white people,
Islam and China. His policies are consistent with a vision that, under these circumstances, the US must ‘purify’ itself of immigrants, build up its military strength and seek new alliances with “strong” powers in place of the “weak” nations with which it is currently aligned.
His policies are consistent with a conviction that America must therefore seek the dissolution of its alliances with NATO and its small East Asian allies, along with the breakup of the European Union, and form a new and stronger alliance with white, Christian Russia.
An alliance of the US and Russia, which would command 92% of the world’s nuclear weapons, would be unassailable in any coming confrontation with Islam and China, North Korea or Iran. In this pathological narcissistic fantasy, Donald Trump would become “King of the World.”
Donald Trump is in a life or death struggle to assert his pathological values and views on the US and on the world. He has gathered around him many who share his pathology and his worldview.
As Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an expert on authoritarianism, has written, Trump has already accomplished some of the most important things an authoritarian leader must do in order to consolidate their power for the longer term.
He has cultivated ties within the structures of government that are based primarily on loyalty to his person rather than to the rule of law or democratic norms. He has ignited the flames of a cultural civil war within the US that continue to benefit him by polarising the country and mobilising his base.
And he has succeeded in discrediting institutions and individuals who might hold him accountable in the eyes of a substantial proportion of the American population
It is long past time to acknowledge the truth that has been staring us in the face all along – Donald Trump is clearly mentally disordered and poses a grave danger to us all.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the danger that Trump poses is twofold. First, his mishandling of the crisis has already cost countless lives.
His paranoid, narcissistic and psychopathic characteristics are certain to mean that many more lives will be lost due to his handling of the crisis than would be the case if a president of sound character and mental health were in office.
Second, there is a danger (whose probability is simply unknown), that Trump might trigger an even more catastrophic event, such as a war or the collapse of relations between nations upon whom essential global supply chains depend.
For those looking to November’s election as the safety stop that will secure all our futures, Irish journalist and author Fintan O’Tooles has issued a prescient warning:
“As the cost of [Trump’s] terrible failures of public duty and common decency becomes ever more starkly evident, he will revert in his re-election campaign to an explanation of the disaster,
not as a consequence of his own incompetence and contempt but as a punishment inflicted on the United States for its failure to build his wall,
keep out foreigners, and crush the enemy within. Like a medieval quack making a profit in times of plague, he will offer a stricken people an ever-higher dose of a toxic cure.”
It is long past time to acknowledge the truth that has been staring us in the face all along – Donald Trump is clearly mentally disordered and poses a grave danger to us all
Trump is ‘dangerous and incapacitated’ and urgent action must be taken, psychiatrists say in wake of Iran crisis
A group of mental health professionals have warned Congress it must act urgently to demand Donald Trump undergo an evaluation to determine his continued fitness for office after nearly a week of heightened tensions with Iran.
The World Mental Health Coalition made the statement a month after warning Congress that the stress of impeachment could cause Mr Trump's mental state to deteriorate to a dangerous level.
"We have been seriously warning about this for some time. The US Congress must act immediately and forcefully without further delay," the group said in a statement obtained by The Independent shortly after the president struggled to pronounce words and sniffed repeatedly while delivering a scripted statement on the Iran crisis at the White House.
Mr Trump, they said, is "psychologically and mentally both dangerous and incapacitated" and has a presentation that is "consistent with a person who, when his falsely inflated self-image is questioned, or when his emotional need for adulation is thwarted, lashes out in an attempt to restore his sense of potency and command over others".
The group noted that while senior military leaders must pass yearly psychological evaluations, their commander-in-chief is exempt from such a requirement despite being "the person in most need and who is a maximum danger",
and added that current tensions in the Middle East make this a "critical time", at which Americans "cannot wait any longer to deal with the dangerous situation caused by a mentally compromised person acting in erratic, reckless, impulsive, and destructive ways".
Because Congress has the constitutional power to declare and finance wars, it must "act immediately to take any war-making powers out of his hands",
they said, adding that it is "imperative that the Congress be equipped with accurate information" from those in the medical community who are qualified in "assessment and management of psychological dangers".
"We urge Congress to consult with us for a profile, if not evaluation, and to take seriously the mental health aspects that are at play in this mentally impaired president," they said
While no one in the group has examined the president personally, one member, George Washington University Professor Dr John Zinner, told The Independent last month that the so-called "Goldwater Rule" which purportedly prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing a person they have not examined is "more of a principle or a standard",
which is different from a rule "because the preamble of the code of ethics of the American Psychiatric Association that establishes the basic guidelines for the ethical canons says that a psychiatrist's responsibility, first and foremost, is to his or her patients and to society and to his colleagues and himself in that order".
The group's president, Yale University professor Dr Bandy Lee, told The Independent that Mr Trump's decision to respond to an incursion into the US embassy in Baghdad with an airstrike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was expected because he opted for the most extreme of the options with which he was presented.
Dr Lee noted that more than 800 of her colleagues had signed a petition warning Congress that the stress caused by the impeachment proceedings against him "would most certainly send him into a seething rage" because Mr Trump's "fragile, falsely inflated self-image could scarcely withstand such a wound".
She added that from her perspective as a physician and mental health professional, it would be “inconceivable” for someone who meets full criteria for an involuntary mental health evaluation since long ago, based on dangerousness to others and the self” to be able to retain “full command over warmaking powers and nuclear weapons”.
"The fact that the Pentagon officials were stunned, and even considered presenting him with the assassination option, starkly reveals how little those around him understand him and how ill-equipped they are to manage him," she said. "They essentially handed him the craved match to throw into a field of gasoline".
Trump’s war on reality just got a lot more dangerous
Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rapidly closing in on 100,000. The economic depression is stretching out ahead of us as far as the eye can see. Joe Biden is holding a steady lead in polls.
So President Trump has decided he has only one real chance at reelection: to bet mostly on his magical ability to create the illusion that we’re rapidly returning to normalcy, rather than taking the difficult concrete steps that would make that more likely to happen.
The signs of this are everywhere: in a new federal testing blueprint that largely casts responsibility on the states. In Trump’s new rage-tweets at the North Carolina governor over whether a full convention will be held under coronavirus conditions. And in demands for liability protections for companies so sickened workers can’t sue.
All these things, in one way or another, show that Trump’s war on reality has veered into a new place. Trump is responding to our most dire public health and economic crises in modern times with a concerted, far-reaching effort to concoct the mirage that we’re racing past both.
First, the testing blueprint. The administration just released to Congress a “plan” for testing, in keeping with a requirement in a recently passed rescue package.
The plan does contain some good news: The feds say they’ll distribute to states 100 million swabs for testing, along with tubes for transporting tests.
But overall, the plan is quite deceptive and insufficient. It largely transfers responsibility to states to implement their own testing and contact-tracing plans. But as public health experts point out, it does not include a massive federal mobilization to redirect supply chains to enable states to do that successfully
“You can’t leave it up to the states to do it for themselves,” one expert told the New York Times. “This is not the Hunger Games.”
Remember, a large federal mobilization of supply chains — via full deployment of the Defense Production Act — is something experts and many states have urged for months.
Meanwhile, experts also dispute the new strategy’s claim that 300,000 tests per day are enough to mitigate spread. We’re currently at around 400,000 per day, but even that’s far short.
If we sufficiently tested all people admitted to hospitals and all residents of nursing homes and their workers — and workers at meatpacking plants, where new spread is erupting — we would already likely far outpace those numbers.
Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told me the suggestion that we have enough testing “endangers people’s lives.”
“We’re not close,” Konyndyk told me. “A big part of the reason we’re not close is that rather than trying to keep scaling up testing and personal protective equipment, the administration keeps claiming we already have enough.”
The bottom line is that this document attempts to create the impression that the coronavirus is largely under control — even though it isn’t — without the government undertaking the full range of steps necessary to make that actually happen.
The crucial point here is that far more robust testing and tracing is required to accomplish what Trump himself says he wants to accomplish — a return to economic normalcy — because people will feel far more safe about resuming activity.
But Trump won’t do this. Among other things, it would expose those efforts to scrutiny and accountability to new benchmarks.
So creating the illusion of a return to normalcy is the go-to plan.
On another front, Trump is threatening to pull the GOP convention out of North Carolina, because Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has yet to guarantee it can proceed at fully packed capacity. But as the governor’s office responded, this decision will be made in keeping with what state health officials recommend.
Note that Trump is explicitly demanding that state officials prioritize his reelection needs — he views massive crowds as central to energizing base turnout — over the health of their own constituents. Here again, what matters most is marshaling the appearance of returning to normalcy, even if health officials conclude it will imperil lives.
On a third front, Trump and Republicans have been demanding protections for companies to reopen without fear of lawsuits from sickened workers. This may be a condition for GOP support for the next rescue package
In a new piece, political theorist Will Wilkinson gets to the depraved core of this idea: Trump and Republicans are implicitly conceding that returning to work now actually does put workers in great danger — hence the need for protections.
But they are proceeding anyway. As Wilkinson notes, these protections for companies — when combined with financial aid to people that’s insufficient and puts them in desperate straits — will have the effect of coercing untold numbers to go back to work despite these dangers.
If some of them do, Wilkinson notes, it will help “conjure the illusion of a successfully managed return to normality well before the election in November.”
What makes this even more depraved, however, is that this is the Trump/GOP substitute for taking steps that would enable workers to actually return to work safely in genuinely normalizing conditions. Just as with Trump’s new testing “strategy,” this requires far more robust testing than Trump is willing to marshal.
In so many ways, Trump is prioritizing the weaving of an illusory return to normalcy over taking steps within his power to make that actually happen. That’s actively dangerous. It could lead to substantially more lost lives.
M I Ro