Many have argued that US President Donald Trump is mentally unfit, but he is just an overgrown school bully craving for some attention.
Is US President Donald Trump suffering from a mental problem? That is the debate raging in the US as Trump hops, jumps and skips from one controversy or the other.
Trump is not the only president with a `problem in the brain.’ Questions about presidential psychology are not new in the US. But the issues have largely been shrouded in secrecy until now. Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression. It is widely known that John F. Kennedy secretly took prescription medicines to treat anxiety. Lyndon B. Johnson had a major problem and aides were so worried and distraught that they sought the help of three major psychiatrists. These experts diagnosed that Johnson’s behaviour as signs of paranoid disintegration.
Richard Nixon took Valium. He was so worked up occasionally that during his final days when he was caught in a scandal, advisers took precautions. They were constantly overseeing him to avoid any rash orders for military action.
Late in his tenure, Ronald Reagan created major embarrassment for the US. He forgot names of dignitaries during official functions and often did not know the occasion he was attending; his wife and close aides had to constantly prod him to speak. His mental state was so alarming that lawmakers discussed whether to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to impeach him. Only years later was Reagan diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
But just because Trump is outspoken and unpredictable, can he be charged with accusations of having a mental problem. Many consider him a `man-child’ – a school bully at 73. His actions betray that status. He punches presidents in their tummy for fun, shakes hands vigorously, sometimes he refuses to shake hands, he always wants to be in the centre in group photos, loves people who praise him and always wants to be the centre of attraction.
Like all school bullies, he is poor in dealing with the female sex and is obsessed with wealth and luxury. He is totally unpredictable and loves to pick up a fight by raking up needless controversies. He is also in love with twitter with most of his tweets coming at midnight. And, like school bullies, he hates to be challenged; if challenged he loves to give it back and that is what happened with the North Korean president whom he called Rocket Man. He can also be rude and crass in communication.
Trump suffers from what is classically called `I am ok, but you are not ok.’ But can all these behaviourial hiccups be classified as a mental issue? Psychiatrists are divided. So is the medical fraternity. “These amateurs shouldn’t be diagnosing at a distance, and they don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Allen Frances, a former psychiatry department chairman at Duke University School of Medicine who helped develop the profession’s diagnostic standards for mental disorders.
Dr. Frances, author of “Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump,” said the president’s bad behavior should not be blamed on mental illness. “He is definitely unstable,” Dr. Frances said. “He is definitely impulsive. He is world-class narcissistic not just for our day but for the ages. You can’t say enough about how incompetent and unqualified he is to be leader of the free world. But that does not make him mentally ill.”
Democrats in the Congress recently introduced a legislation to force Trump to submit to psychological evaluation. Mental health professionals have signed a petition calling for his removal from office. Trump supporters say that many are indulging in armchair diagnoses and `tabloid psychiatry’.
While some Republicans have raised concerns over Trump’s erratic and unpredictable behaviour, they do so mostly in private. Others scoff at the question, dismissing it as outrageous character assassination.
Advisers to the president in private have at times expressed concerns. In private conversations over the last year, people who were new to Trump in the White House have tried to understand with difficulty the President’s speaking style, his temper, his disinterest in formal briefings, his obsession with physical appearances and his concern about the theatrics and excitement of his job.
But Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, feels Trump is “crazy but he’s a genius.” Other advisers speak about the president as a volatile personality who has to be managed carefully; otherwise he would explode without warning. He is reported to have mood swings and unpredictable behaviour.
But Trump is least bothered about all this and dismisses the criticisms and critics with disdain. Trump has accused his critics of being mentally impaired. He regularly describes adversaries with words like “crazy,” “psycho” and “nut job.”
“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Trump said in a tweet. He added that he was a “VERY successful businessman” and television star who won the presidency on his first try. “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”
Critics are raising such issues due to jealousy, feels Trump. “I went to the best colleges, or college. That makes me a genius,” he said.
Adding to the confusion is a new that reported concerns among the president’s own advisers about his fitness for office. For the first time, the question of Trump’s mental state came up at two White House briefings and the secretary of state was asked if he was indeed mentally fit.
This came after a series of tweets and conversations where Trump showed signs of eccentricity. First he boasted that his “nuclear button” was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s in North Korea; then he said people of some African nations were living in shitholes. At a meeting on immigration, Trump reportedly lashed out at lawmakers about immigration reform, demanding to know why the US should accept citizens from what he called “shithole” countries.
The president was referring to Haiti and a few impoverished African countries, and then suggested the United States should welcome immigrants from places like Norway. The comments alarmed and mystified the people attending the meeting.
One danger about Trump’s sudden outbursts and use of what many call gutter language is that America is increasingly becoming isolated. America has very few friends today to count on. UK Prime Minister Theresa May hates Trump; so does Angela Merkel of Germany. When Trump invited Norwegians to immigrate to America and replace Africans, he was promptly snubbed. After his shithole comment, African nations are increasingly looking upto China for help and support.
Apart from Africa, he has also angered UK when he suddenly cancelled his visit to the nation because he felt that the Brits may not give him enough love and affection. And one thing that Trump is crazy about is adulation.
There were other decisions too that caught many off guard. This week, the President announced Fake News Awards to leading news media outlets like CNN, Washington Post and New York Times. He considers all mainstream media as fake and disillusioned persons.
As if all this was not enough, he suddenly decided to shift the US Embassy to Jerusalem, triggering an uproar in the Middle East and all across the globe.
Richard W. Painter, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, has said that all these boastful claims and outbursts from Trump proves that he is “psychologically unfit” and should have his powers transferred to Vice President Mike Pence under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.
Experts like Bandy Lee says that “The level of concern by the public is now enormous.” Bandy X. Lee is a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine and editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” a book that was released recently.
Following all this uproar, Trump this week subjected himself to mental evaluation and came out in flying colours. Usually, US Presidents are only required to undergo a physical fitness test so that the nation can know the details of their chief’s health. But Trump insisted that he be evaluated for cognitive skills as well.
But experts are not satisfied and want an independent panel to access Trump’s mental health.
What triggered all this was a recent book by a White House expert. Michael Wolff’s book, `Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’ showed the president in extremely poor light. He had serious problems focussing on issues, used foul language and threw matters and etiquettes out of the White House window.
But one danger about Trump’s sudden outbursts is that America is increasingly becoming isolated. America has very few friends today to count on. UK Prime Minister Theresa May hates Trump; so does Angela Merkel of Germany. When Trump invited Norwegians to immigrate to America and replace Africans , he was promptly snubbed. After his shithole comment, African nations are increasingly looking upto China for help and support.
India will have to be extremely careful in dealing with the unpredictable Trump. The Modi hug will cut no ice with Trump. In their meeting, it was obvious from the body language that the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had for Barack Obama was not there when he met Trump. India also has to deal with the mercurial decisions on H1-B visas. Privately Trump admires Indian skills and is scared that a wrong move on the visa issue may lead US to intellectual bankruptcy.
The best policy for India is to keep a safe distance from Trump and refrain from commenting on the internal matters of the US. External Affairs policy makers will have a tough job ahead in trying to read the mind of a man who craves to be misunderstood than being understood.