One of the favored attacks on President Donald Trump by his detractors is that he is mentally unstable and emotionally unfit for the office. This perspective has attracted quite a following, and has grown to include fears of doom and catastrophe. And, in order to protect the nation from the eventual horrible fate he will bring about, a few congressional Democrats have taken the unusual step of suggesting the invoking of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from office.
Surprisingly, some of these detractors are mental health professionals. In a book titled “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts – including Yale professor of psychiatry, Dr. Bandy X. Lee – argue that, in Trump’s case, their moral and civic “duty to warn” America supersedes professional neutrality, according to comments about the book on McMillan Publisher’s Website. They then explore Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man.
Trying to provide some balance to this bandwagon rolling out-of-control downhill is Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, who appeared on “Fox and Friends,” the Fox News Network’s morning show. Dershowitz, a long-time Democrat, termed the speculation about Trump’s mental state as “very dangerous.” "I have railed against the criminalization of political difference," he said.
"The psychiatrist-ization of political difference is much more dangerous,” he said. “It's what they did in Russia, it's what they did in China, it's what they did in apartheid South Africa. If you don't like a candidate, first lock them (sic) up. If you can't lock him up, commit him to a mental hospital.”
Dershowitz provided some badly needed instruction to the detractors, explaining that the 25th Amendment "is designed for when somebody has a stroke or somebody is unconscious, perhaps what happened when President [Woodrow] Wilson was president. He had a serious stroke. It's not designed for differences about a person's emotional makeup."
He also explained to them that since the vice president is the one to actually invoke the 25th Amendment, Vice President Mike Pence likely would not do so, and if he did and the president disputed the matter, which Trump undoubtedly would, then it would have to be supported in a vote by two-thirds of both houses of Congress.
"It would happen only if any president, I'm not talking about a particular one, had a major psychotic break," said Dershowitz. "Look, we once had a secretary of defense, his name is [James] Forrestal, he jumped out of the window of the Walter Reed Center. He thought the communists were coming after him."
No doubt some of the detractors imagine that Trump has similar visions, however, the product of their imagination about his imagination is well short of actionable evidence.
Regarding the armchair, arms-length diagnosis of mental instability by mental health professionals, the American Psychiatric Association has properly condemned it, and publicly admonished those who indulge in it.
"We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media," the APA wrote. "Arm-chair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical."
We should expect professionals to embrace the ethical demands of their profession, but alas, we now see that some mental health professionals have joined the parade of people who have abandoned professional ethics for political reasons.
This is not the first time for the mental health profession. Forty-five years ago, in 1973, the Goldwater Rule came was created. “The Goldwater Rule [Section 7.3 in the Principles of Medical Ethics with Annotations Especially Applicable to Psychiatry] ... makes it unethical for a psychiatrist to render a professional opinion to the media about a public figure unless the psychiatrist has examined the person and has proper authorization to provide the statement,” Dr. Saul Levin, the APA’s CEO and medical director, said in a statement. “APA stands behind this rule.”
And to add to the embarrassment of a public rebuke by the APA, the American Medical Association delivered a second scorching dressing-down. "A proper psychiatric evaluation requires more than a review of television appearances, tweets and public comments," the AMA wrote.
"Psychiatrists are medical doctors; evaluating mental illness is no less thorough than diagnosing diabetes or heart disease. The standards in our profession require review of medical and psychiatric history and records and a complete examination of mental status."
It appears more and more as if the worst thing about Donald Trump is his talent for creating enemies. A large number of people in government agencies and Congress, as well as people outside government, dislike him and/or his behavior, and they possess a low regard for their professional standards and ethics. They are ruled by their emotions, and that failure of character allows them to willingly destroy their professional credibility by going after Trump.
The 64-dollar question that now begs an answer is, exactly who really exhibits mental instability, Trump or many of his critics?