One certainty of the Coronavirus briefings is that Donald Trump will make an outlandish statement, unsubstantiated claim or berate a member of the media. Often it’s all three.
Another certainty is that he will invariably deny what he previously said, seeking to reframe the narrative, re-write history or blame a reporter for misquoting him, or taking his remarks out of context.
Are these the acts of a compulsive liar or signs of dementia?
Known as the Goldwater Rule, after former United States Senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, it prohibits psychiatrists from offering their professional opinions on public figures that they have not directly examined. This resulted from a smear campaign against Senator Goldwater, where people were asked leading questions to suggest Goldwater was mentally unstable, and therefore unfit for office.
When it comes to Donald Trump, psychiatrists are asking that the rule be reversed so they might offer their professional evaluation of Trump’s erratic behavior. While the Goldwater Rule prevents them from elaborating on their suspected diagnoses, they have offered theories as to what they see.
In a 2017 book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President”, Dr. Leonard Glass and others discussed Trump’s reactions to perceived threats to his self esteem.
They faced backlash from others in their field who described their findings as “frivolous armchair psychoanalyzing”, thereby discrediting their alleged findings and leaving their conclusions in doubt. They claimed that only an in-person analysis would be acceptable if someone was to diagnose Trump’s behavior.
Since it’s unlikely Trump would ever subject himself to such a study, we are left with our own opinions.
But it’s hard to deny that Trump’s behaviors are, at best erratic, and at worst, the acts of a sociopath. The daily briefings are an obvious example of someone who is far from normal. His compulsive lying, denial of the facts and attacks on the media are examples of his instability.
Most recently, he has fired those who gave testimony during the House Impeachment Hearings. And, he also fired the watchdog overseeing the dispersal of Coronavirus relief funds, replacing him with a supporter and opening the door for Trump to reap benefits from this program.
These are the basis for psychiatrist’ fears. Too bad we may never know the real details.