Observers Increasingly Fear Trump Is Not Fit For Office
September 27, 2017
Sam Levine / CNN & Paige Lavender / Huffington Post & Michael Calderone / The Huffington Post
Members of a CNN panel have openly questioned whether Donald Trump is mentally fit for office. Psychologist Dr. John Gartner has warned: "If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump. He's a paranoid, psychopathic narcissist who is divorced from reality and lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies." The 25th Amendment allows for the vice president to remove the president from office if the Cabinet deems him unfit.
CNN Panel Openly Questions Whether Trump
Is Fit For Office After Wild Arizona Rally
Sam Levine / CNN
"I'm not joking about it or being a smartass;
this is a man who is not well."
(August 23, 2017) -- Members of a CNN panel on Tuesday openly questioned whether President Donald Trump is mentally fit for office after he held a boisterous and unrestrained rally in Phoenix.
The rally was wild, even by Trump's standards. He accused the media of "trying to take away our history, our heritage," and threatened to shut down the federal government in order to get funding for a wall between the United States and Mexico.
CNN commentators said it was difficult to watch Trump speak and not question whether he was fit for office. They discussed the 25th Amendment, which allows for the vice president to initiate a process by which the president can be removed from office if his Cabinet deems him to be unfit.
He alternated between being a whiny 6-year-old who's had his Nintendo taken away and between being the cranky old man who's being out there condemning everyone who doesn't worship him adequately. Rick Wilson, conservative pundit
"There was no sanity there. He was like a child blaming a sibling on something else," CNN's Don Lemon said immediately after the rally. "A man clearly wounded by the rational people who are abandoning him in droves, meaning those business people and the people in Washington now who are questioning his fitness for office and whether he is stable."
David Chalian, CNN's political director, said Trump was "totally unhinged" during the speech. Rick Wilson, a conservative pundit, went even further.
"It was an astounding chain of lies tied together by lunatic asides by a man who obviously is mentally unstable. I mean, I'm not joking about it or being a smartass; this is a man who is not well," Wilson said. "This is a man who is not qualified or mentally or morally fit to be the president of the United States and tonight was one more proof of it."
"He alternated between being a whiny 6-year-old who's had his Nintendo taken away and between being the cranky old man who's being out there condemning everyone who doesn't worship him adequately," he added. "I know the 25th Amendment is a remote possibility, but if people around him don't think this guy is absolutely batcrap crazy, they are mistaken."
Carl Bernstein, one of the journalists who helped uncover the Watergate scandal, said Sunday during an appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources" that reporters needed to ask more questions about Trump's ability to be president.
Even among Washington's heated rhetoric, it's unusual for pundits and journalists to comment on someone's mental state. But Trump's erratic behavior has pushed boundaries, leading many to speculate on his fitness for office.
The American Psychoanalytic Association has offered ethical guidance to members for decades, typically telling them to refrain from weighing in on the psychological state of public figures. But in July, the organization encouraged members to publicly offer behavioral analysis if they wanted.
Maria Cardona, a CNN political contributor, said Tuesday that Trump might be "psychotically demented."
"I do believe that after tonight a lot of people are going to be thinking that he's not just completely unfit, that he's just completely ill-equipped to hold this office but that he might be psychotically demented and ill of the mind in order to take this office and in order to continue with this office," she said.
Lawmakers have also questioned Trump's competence.
"The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. And we need for him to be successful, our nation needs for him to be successful," Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told reporters last week.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has called for Trump to be removed from office using the 25th Amendment. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a resolution calling for Trump to undergo a mental health exam.
Here Are The Wildest Moments From
Trump's Wild Arizona Rally
Paige Lavender / Huffington Post
President Donald Trump blasted the media, criticized members of Congress and suggested he'd shut down the government to build a border wall during a frenzied, 77-minute campaign-style rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night that left some commentators wondering about his fitness for office.
Trump is known for his lively rallies, but even by those standards this one was a particularly unrestrained and boisterous spectacle.
Here is a breakdown of some of the wildest moments.
1. He kicked off the speech by rereading all his responses to the protests in Charlottesville. While going over his widely criticized initial response, Trump omitted the most controversial part of the statement, in which he blamed "many sides" for the violence there.
2. He called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "We have to speak to Mitch" about eliminating the Senate filibuster, Trump said. (The filibuster was not a factor in stopping the Republican health care bill.) Earlier on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Trump and McConnell have not spoken in weeks.
3. He suggested he'd shut down the government if it meant he could get a wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If we have to shut down that government, we're building that wall," Trump said. "One way or another, we're going to get that wall."
4. He argued the media are "trying to take away our history, our heritage."
"The only thing giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news," Trump said.
"I really think they don't like our country. I really believe that," he added.
5. He defended his remarks on Charlottesville by saying he "hit" various racist groups.
"I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything," he said. "I got the white supremacist, I got the neo-Nazi, I got 'em all in there. Let's see. KKK? We have KKK. I got 'em all."
6. He lied and said cameras at the rally were being turned off as live-streams of the speech on cable news networks continued to roll. He specifically called out CNN, which aired Trump's speech until the end.
7. He teased a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County who was convicted of criminal contempt.
8. He bragged about how he lives in a "bigger, more beautiful apartment" than the journalists who cover him.
9. He lamented CNN's firing of Jeffrey Lord, a pro-Trump commentator formerly featured on the network. Lord was firedfor tweeting the Nazi salute "Sieg Heil" earlier in August.
10. He slammed both Republican Arizona senators: Jeff Flake, who has recently spoken out against Trump, and John McCain, who cast a pivotal vote that caused the GOP's Obamacare repeal bill to flame out in the Senate in July. McCain is currently receiving treatment for brain cancer.
11. He, again, requested statues of George Washington be protected, a request he's made since many Confederate statues and monuments around the U.S. have been removed or relocated.
12. He suggested "we will probably end up terminating NAFTA at some point."
13. He praised Fox News and Sean Hannity.
Fears Over Trump's Mental State
Gaining Traction In The Media
Michael Calderone / The Huffington Post
(May 16, 2017) -- Donald Trump's reported disclosure of sensitive intelligence to Russian officials, soon after his abrupt firing of the FBI director, has led reporters and commentators into usually verboten journalistic terrain -- speculating more openly about the president's mental state, and reporting more deeply on what the people close to him have to say about it.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Tuesday described Trump as "isolated and out of control and in decline," noting that even some in the president's orbit are concerned with his decision-making.
"People on the inside say he keeps getting worse -- and mentally, keeps getting worse," Scarborough said during Tuesday's episode of "Morning Joe." "This is, unfortunately, not a learning curve. This is a man in decline."
The Washington Post reported Saturday on concerns within the administration about Trump's "state of mind" after he fired FBI Director James Comey amid the bureau's probe into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
"Across Washington, Trump's allies have been buzzing about the staff's competence as well as the president's state of mind," the Post's Phil Rucker wrote. "One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was 'in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.'"
Even lawmakers are raising the subject, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) questioning Trump's fitness for office. Meanwhile, Trump ally Roger Stone declared the president "perfectly sane" this week in a video alongside conspiracy-monger Alex Jones.
Political journalists are often loath to speculate or report on a politician's mental state, since making diagnoses from afar -- something most journalists are not even qualified to do up close -- is fundamentally at odds with the confirm-before-you-print ethos of reporting.
But Trump's erratic behavior, his history of lashing out at foes, his gratuitous falsehoods, his tendency to contradict past claims or deny having made them, and his embrace of conspiracy theories have prompted commentators, reporters and politicians alike to push those boundaries in radical ways.
Neither Scarborough nor Rucker is simply playing armchair psychiatrist. Both are relaying the private fears of the president's allies in Washington, details that shed light on how those close to Trump perceive his mental state as one self-inflicted crisis morphs into the next.
The legendary journalist Carl Bernstein, whose revelations about the Watergate cover-up helped unravel a corrupt presidency, recently argued that such closed-door concerns over Trump's stability are inherently newsworthy.
"We have many reporters, myself included, who have talked to numerous people, Republicans on Capitol Hill, who in private will tell you they doubt the stability of this president," Bernstein said Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "And in the last week, it has really been demonstrated. It's part of the story and it's very hard to cover."
Though the topic is often taboo, some journalists have argued that the chaotic character of the Trump administration is a reflection of the president's own mental state -- and that, therefore, his psychological health is a story the press should cover.
"I know we're not supposed to bring this up -- but it is staring us brutally in the face," New York magazine's Andrew Sullivan wrote in a February piece, "The Madness of King Donald."
Sullivan described Trump as appearing "deranged," "delusional," and "bizarrely living in an alternative universe." In a CNN interview at the time, he argued that "tiptoeing around it or not saying it plainly is a failure of our duty as journalists, as writers and reporters to say and call it as we see it."
On Tuesday, Sullivan told HuffPost he was pleased to see more media coverage of what he called "an imminent threat to all of us."
"At some point reality becomes unavoidable," Sullivan said. "If you met someone in real life who speaks and acts the way Trump does, you would conclude there's something very very wrong there. The recent interviews are unhinged babble.
"It seems obvious to me we can't maintain the pretense that Trump is a sane and balanced adult, however much we'd like to. He's extremely damaged and therefore an imminent threat to all of us. I'm glad the media is bringing the analysis into line with the facts."
But even with more reporters and commentators asking questions about Trump's well-being, newsrooms are still approaching the subject gingerly. Part of this reluctance may be a legacy of the so-called "Goldwater Rule," which the American Psychiatric Association added to its code of ethics after thousands of psychiatrists participated in a Fact magazine survey about whether, in their view, 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was "psychologically unfit" to be commander-in-chief. Goldwater later successfully sued the magazine for libel.
Psychologists today remain wary of assessing the president's mental state based on his public statements or late-night tweets. During the campaign, several psychologists contacted by HuffPost declined to diagnose Trump. (In media coverage of this issue, the informal diagnosis that sources usually offer is narcissistic personality disorder -- although Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who wrote the formal criteria for NPD, has argued against that conclusion.)
Still, some experts are speaking out, like Dr. John Gartner, a psychologist who argues that his colleagues have a "duty" to do so.
"If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump," Gartner said during a February appearance on MSNBC. "He's a paranoid, psychopathic narcissist who is divorced from reality and lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies."
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