Mad Man in the White House: Trump’s Mental State is a Public Health Crisis

Mad Man in the White House: Trump’s Mental State is a Public Health Crisis

Earlier this week, longtime sports and political writer Charles P. Pierce of Esquire published a piece entitled, The President Has Gone as Soft as Church Music. Though the article was written in direct response to Donald Trump’s self-anointment as the #KingOfTheJews on Wednesday, the observation that POTUS 45 might be stark raving mad is a regular feature of Pierce’s media and political criticism. And although few beg the country for a reprieve from the constant onslaught of strange and nationally threatening behavior with such panache (“For the love of god, you should pardon the expression, somebody get the damn net”), the head count of doctors, pundits and politicians publicly wondering if Trump has rats in the attic grows daily.

Just three days ago, writer James Fallows of The Atlantic published the thought provoking, If Trump Were an Airline Pilot. The piece wrestles with a historical paradigm when it comes to professional medical or mental health speculation regarding a public figure: if you haven’t examined them personally, don’t talk. Then of course, if one has treated a person of repute for a physical or emotional condition, HIPAA and confidentiality laws forbid discussing it.

Essentially health care providers are banned – by social constraint and rule of law – from offering testimony in the court of public opinion about a person’s fitness for office. Fallows challenges this assumption however and asks if the rules, at least in Trump’s case, pose a greater threat to the public good than a frank discussion about the President’s evident, erratic impulses. He reports on experts who are breaking with tradition to take their professional concerns about Donald Trump to the people:

“Recognizing patterns is the heart of most professional skills, and mental health professionals usually know less about an individual patient than all of us now know about Donald Trump. And on that basis, Dr. Bandy Lee of Yale and others associated with the World Mental Health Coalition have been sounding the alarm about Trump’s mental state (including with a special analysis of the Mueller report). Another organization of mental health professionals [doing the same] is the ‘Duty to Warn’ movement.”

In offering their professional insights on the President’s deteriorating cognitive coping skills, these experts stand on solid Constitutional ground. The 25th Amendment expressly engages questions of “Presidential Disability and Succession” because the relative health of our Chief Executive is a matter of national security. In this case, doctors who keep their concerns to themselves place the risk to Donald Trump’s pride and perceived privacy above the obvious damage an illness or pathology is inflicting on the national well-being. The growing chorus of experts questioning the President’s stability are doing their patriotic duty.

And while politicians willing to publicly ask if Donald Trump has taken leave of his senses are more commonly found on the left, it’s not like Republican snark and/or genuine concern are hard to locate. Earlier this week, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, no one’s idea of a resistant Never Trumper, accused the President of “derangement” in the Greenland controversy. Bill Weld, the 2016 Libertarian running mate of Gary Johnson, former Governor of Massachusetts and 2020 Republican challenger, has made no secret of his revulsion for the incumbent. He’s also made clear that his concerns are bigger than ambition. He recently told The Washington Post Magazine’s David Montgomery:

“I do think it’s not a stretch to say that, at some level, Mr. Trump is a sick man…And I don’t mean physically, I mean in his head. There’s lots of furies there. I wouldn’t want his demons. You know, I think that, like all bullies — and it’s clear beyond peradventure that he’s a bully — he is insecure. … Which is why anytime someone poses a slightest threat to him, he brands them a loser or an abject loser. The poor mayor of London has been called a loser so many times because he’s standing in Mr. Trump’s way of achieving in an untrammeled fashion what he wants — namely, everybody agreeing with him and telling him how fantastic he is.”

It would be one thing if Donald Trump’s narcissism, emotional immaturity and recklessness were a matter of personal and professional chaos, a bigger threat to his family, business partners and contractors than the general public. That stopped being the case on January 20, 2017 when he took the oath of office as the President of the United States. That 45 should undergo rigorous evaluation by a whole team of disinterested, third party doctors is not the suggestive propaganda of political opponents. The case is built with every recorded moment of the Trump presidency.

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at BeckySarwate.com, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.