Over the last two years–especially since his upset victory–Donald Trump has given us a lot of reasons to question his mental state. His tendency to tell blatant lies and troll in conspiracy theories has left even the most seasoned pundits and reporters shaking their heads.
This past week offered yet more proof. We learned that Trump not claims that the “Access Hollywood” tape may not be real–even though he apologized within hours of it being released last October. Not only that, but he is once again peddling birther nonsense and claims that his low approval ratings are fake news. All of this prompted a leading psychoanalyst to warn the nation that we may have a president with serious mental problems.
Lance Dodes of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute stopped by MSNBC’s “The Last Word” to discuss Trump’s recent spate of bizarre behavior. Watch here.
Dodes told host Lawrence O’Donnell and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson that when Trump started saying the “Access Hollywood” tape wasn’t real, it showed that he is “close to psychosis when he is stressed.” As unnerving as that sounds, Dodes believes that when Trump “goes back and denies reality,” he does so because “he is not in control of himself”–a phrase psychiatrists use when someone is “becoming psychotic or briefly psychotic.”
While most of us think that it’s fairly easy to tell when someone is mentally healthy, the truth is more complex. There are actually people who are on the line between normal and abnormal, and “slip into delusional thinking when stressed.” He believes Trump is one of those people–and that makes him dangerous, given that he is “wantonly unconcerned about the welfare of others” and is “willing to do anything to promote himself.”
In a colossal understatement, Dodes called Trump “an enormous present danger,” given his access to nuclear codes and his contempt for democracy. He believes that once people see that Trump is “a very sick man,” they won’t be surprised by most of what he does. Robinson agreed, wondering if Trump has actually convinced himself that his loonier remarks are actually true.
At this point, Dodes won’t be surprised if Trump tries to shred the Constitution, fire members of the Supreme Court, or start a war with North Korea. He sees a disturbing consistency in Trump’s actions. From where Dodes is sitting, Trump’s refusal to accept reality is a way of protecting himself from “what he sees as an existential threat.”
Dodes has a message for Trump’s diehard supporters.
“I think that not just the commentators, but the Congress needs to understand–all those people who are now supporting Donald Trump–are kidding themselves if they think this is not an extremely incapable, disturbed, sick individual. They’re kidding themselves, and no one seems to want to accept that.”
Dodes went on to say that Trump may represent “the worst possible case for America”–a president who is not full-on psychotic, but “close enough with a veneer to get by.” Although he sees Trump as “villainous,” he believes this veneer allows him to hide it very well most of the time.
In the last few days, Dodes has come under fire for potentially violating the “Goldwater rule,” which bars psychiatrists from giving their professional opinion about public figures whom they have not personally examined.
Lance Dodes is in violation of his professional code of ethics and MSNBC is complicit in the violation. pic.twitter.com/LczDflqbee
— NotThatFranken (@FrankenSeuss) November 30, 2017
But Dodes is a psychoanalyst, not a psychiatrist, so that rule doesn’t apply to him. Indeed, the American Psychoanalytic Association has encouraged its members to speak their minds about Trump’s mental health.
Even without that to consider, a convincing argument can be made that in Trump’s case, that rule should be suspended at the very least. Jeannie Suk Gersen of The New Yorker argued that the Goldwater rule risks “withholding expertise from a vital public debate.” Time’s Jeffrey Kluger agrees, saying that Trump’s “profound impact” on the world demands that we at least have a conversation about his mental health–a conversation that “the people who know the most–the doctors” should lead.
It doesn’t take a professional to know that this president is not well. But to hear a professional tell us why he’s not well is no less staggering. For all intents and purposes, Dodes was calling for the 25th Amendment. Anyone who has watched this president would find it hard not to agree.
(featured image courtesy Gage Skidmore, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)