I resist applying clinical diagnoses to people, and that includes Donald Trump. I’m not a doctor, and a proper diagnosis would require a personal evaluation.
But I would be basking in false virtue if I simply pretended that I’m not aware that some of the behaviors displayed by this man line up with the symptoms of certain personality disorders.
So I must couch my concerns this way: There is no way for me to know for sure, but all indications lead me to believe that Donald Trump struggles to fit into the frame of what we call normal behavior, and he often fails at it in spectacular ways.
And it is not only you and I worried about the president’s mental stability. According to Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury,” the book that has so gotten under the president’s skin and into his mind, those closest to him also worry about his mental health.
Trump was so bothered by the book that he took to Twitter over the weekend to defend himself against the damaging portrait it contains: that of a mentally unstable simpleton.
Trump wrote that “throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart” and then upped the self-accolades by writing that being elected would “qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!”
Whatever you say, Wile E. Coyote.
The truth is that it appears that most of the conservative architecture in this country – members of the administration, members of Congress, Fox News, the Republican National Committee, and Trump’s die-hard base – are all engaged in an exercise to defend, excuse, protect and absolve a man and his behaviors, which may well do irreparable damage to the country.
They have learned to praise him in order to steady him. His weakness is an unending need for affirmation. Anyone who provides it, he abides. It’s simple. Also sad. Actually, pathetic.
Trump’s defenders have bolstered his insistence that all questioning of his competence is purely political.
I will be the first to admit that everything in politics has a political component.
Would liberals relish more discord in the conservative caucus? Yes. Would Democrats like to see Republicans dispirited going into the midterm elections? Yes. Would many people like to see Trump’s political wounds worsen and possibly see him impeached? Yes.
Personally, am I opposed to his policies? Yes. Do I find his obsessive Obama-erasure quest both pathological and a poor policy mission? Yes. Am I offended to the highest order by his coddling of white supremacists, his clear hostility to minorities, his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican rhetoric and his misogyny? You bet!
But can I also have legitimate, nonpartisan, nonpolitical concern about Trump’s stability, fitness and basic intellectual capacity? Of course I can, and so should everyone else.
Let’s start here: From everything I have ever read about the man, he is not particularly smart. This is sometimes hard for people to understand. They equate financial gain with intellectual gifts, but the two are hardly synonymous.
Being gifted at exploitation is not the same as intellectualism. It is a skill, but one separate from scholarship. Being able to see and exploit a need, void or insecurity in people can be an interesting, and even lucrative, endowment, but it is not enlightenment.
He is also not a reader. That is not to say that he can’t read, but rather that, given his druthers, he won’t.
But mental instability – whether a diagnosable disorder or just a combination of crippling character traits – is a problem of another magnitude. That goes to basic competence and substantially raises the stakes.
This is the problem we face: We have a person occupying the presidency who is impetuous, fragile, hostile, irrational, intentionally uninformed, information-averse and semiliterate.
The question we have to put to the elected officials protecting this president, and indeed to all those being paid a taxpayer-funded salary and then concealing, distorting or denying the truth to make this man look competent, is: Don’t you have an obligation, either moral, ethical, patriotic or otherwise, to level with America that you, too, are concerned by Trump’s erratic behavior?
At the very least, don’t the members of the House and Senate, who swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, have an obligation to rebuke this president for his attacks on the press and free speech, both protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution?
These elected officials in particular are not only obsequiously placating a man nursing a god complex, they are displaying a staggering lack of national fealty.
You can’t say that you love America and not take a stand to defend it from harm.
These politicians are taking the politically expedient track for political gain or political survival. They would rather defend a compromised Republican president than have to live in the wake of a deposed one. They would like to try to manage the damage Trump may do, rather than prevent that damage from occurring.
And in so doing, they are moving dangerously close to the day when being a loyal Trump Republican could be seen as being an unpatriotic American.