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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Brave Psychiatric Professional Diagnoses the Mental Condition of President Trump

It’s easy for non-professionals, journalists and anyone with eyes and ears to label President Trump as a narcissist and pathological liar, but what do mental health professionals have to say about him?

A reader sent me a fascinating 32-page academic paper by Vincent Greenwood, PhD, executive director of the Washington Center for Cognitive Therapy, with the catchy subtitle, “The Substance Behind the Assertion the President Has a Serious Psychiatric Condition.”  Click here to view the full 32-page document, or click here to read a shorter 12-page version of it. It’s worth checking out, whether or not you’re a supporter of President Trump.

The full-length paper is so long because it’s incumbent upon the author to justify his attempt to diagnose someone without a personal interview. Normally, that would be hard to justify, and would be considered a violation of Sec. 7.3 of the American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics, which states that it is unethical to offer a professional opinion on a public figure who has not been personally examined and where consent has not been obtained.

Dr. Greenwood, however, cites a 2017 paper which argues that a diagnosis is possible and reasonable when there is substantial information available from the subject himself, from informants and from archival data such as “speeches, tweets, taped interviews, autobiographical efforts, court records, real-time observations, etc.,” which is certainly the case with President Trump. Although Dr. Greenwood doesn’t say it directly, one could surmise that the APA opposes diagnosis of public figures at a distance because of the damage it could do to the reputation of the mental health profession.

In his paper, Dr. Greenwood describes at length the instrument he used to diagnose the president, something called the Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised, which he describes as a “reliable instrument that yields a valid diagnosis, but also spells out a rigorous process for how to go about making a possible diagnosis. This process involves the collection, integration, and interpretation of multiple sources and types of information. The process is comprehensive and detailed and strives to go well beyond just citing examples of Trump’s more outlandish behavior as definitive proof of a psychiatric disorder.”

So how does President Trump score on the 20-point checklist for psychopathy?  I don’t have the space here to relate Dr. Greenwood’s thorough documentation of each of the 20 items on the checklist. I encourage you to click on the link above for either the 12- or 32-page paper and see how persuasive his reasoning is. Suffice it to say that Dr. Greenwood concludes that the President “is a clinical psychopath (in the moderate to severe range).”

Personally, I was shocked at the severity of the diagnosis, although convinced by Dr. Greenwood’s analysis. Previously I had been convinced of an alternative diagnosis, that of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). On page 26, Dr. Greenwood describes “the low-hanging fruit of narcissism,” noting that many of the nine criteria of NPD “seem to be written almost with the President in mind” and that only 5 of the 9 criteria are needed to warrant the diagnosis. However, Dr. Greenwood writes, “To highlight Trump’s narcissism is misleading because the psychopathic elements of his personality are more central to who he is and how he operates.”

Another and related must-read is A Warning, liked by 83% of Google users.  It is described by Wikipedia as “a 2019 book-length exposé of the Trump administration, anonymously authored by someone described as a ‘senior Trump administration official.’  It is a follow-up to an anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times in September 2018.” It provides countless additional “datapoints” to support Dr. Greenwood’s diagnosis, and is reinforced by what former National Security Advisor John Bolton has written in his best-selling book, The Room Where It Happened.  It is liked by 80% of Google users.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Trump Appears Uninterested in Winning Others Over, Content to Energize His Base

In previous columns, I have shared my belief that Trump supporters are unreachable. (They have been labeled “Cult 45.”) One could conclude from watching Trump’s rally in Tulsa that either he believes he can win over the rest of us or, more likely, that he sees electoral success in further demonizing us and thereby energizing his base to turn out for him on Nov. 3.  What he doesn't seem to realize is that his words energizes his oponents to turn out, too.
Rita and I watched his full speech at the Tulsa rally, fascinated as always at how he appeals to that base. But that base may be shrinking. He was understandably furious about the poor turnout, filling only 6,200 of 19,000 seats, but that was an improvement from how he boasted that attendance at his inauguration was the largest ever. (It was in defense of that claim that Kellyanne Conway made her famous statement about “alternative facts” on Meet the Press two days later, setting the tone for his entire presidency.)
We continue to be intrigued by how Trump supporters are able to overlook his lies, dog whistles to the “deplorables,” scorning of allies and flattering of dictators, obscene language and generally despicable behavior. How would you feel if someone you supported (or just liked) was adored by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists and the like? (I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s now-famous September 2016  “deplorables” speech last week, when this column appeared only on this blog.)
Like me, you probably know respectable, college-educated professionals who say they like Trump, and I enjoy conversing with them to figure out why. What I usually find is that they like how his tax cuts benefited them financially — as they did Donald Trump himself. 
One such supporter is a friend of mine, a highly successful Realtor whom I’ve known and admired for over a decade.  She said she supports Trump because his tax cuts have benefited her personally. (She’s far more successful that I am, with 59 closings, two of them over $1 million, in the past 12 months.)  She told me she is willing to overlook his negatives because of that, which I find disappointing.
    There’s another group of non-deplorable Trump supporters that surprises me, because it is in our local Rotary club, to which Rita and I both belonged.  I love and appreciate Rotary for  its “Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do,” which Rotarians recite at every meeting following the Pledge of Allegiance.  It goes like this:
  •  First, is it the truth?
  •  Second, is it fair to all concerned?
  •  Third, does it build goodwill and better friendships?
  •  Fourth, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

As Rita and I joined in reciting the Four-Way Test every Tuesday, it occurred to me after Trump took office, that our president’s thoughts, words and deeds would fail that test. We will never forget when a visiting Rotarian leader gave a talk about the Four-Way Test early in Trump’s reign.  During the Q&A part of the meeting, I thought it appropriate, despite the unspoken rule about avoiding politics, to ask the speaker how we as Rotarians should relate to a president who consistently violates all four tenets of the Test.
The following week, I was told by the club president that “several” Rotarians had complained about me asking that question — although not to me directly. The following week four female members of the club, including Rita, all resigned in protest. I stayed on, but only for another year. I believe in my heart that the vast majority of Rotarians are good people who reject Donald Trump’s leadership or lack thereof.
I considered submitting an article to Rotarian magazine raising this issue, but I never did.  I decided — hopefully wrongly — that it would not have been published, because Trump’s 30% base probably includes many Rotarians, and the organization can’t afford to offend them.  I’m happy to raise the subject in print here for the first time. 
I’m disappointed that any Rotarian thinks the Four-Way Test need only apply to them and it’s okay to support others who blatantly violate it, as Trump does every day.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Thanks, Mr. President, for allowing your supporters to test how contagious Covid-19 is

I hope Trump's supporters appreciate his willingness to subject them to a contagion as a service to the rest of us who believe in White House guidelines about protecting ourselves from transmission. They are truly patriots!

Two weeks from now we should have the results of this human experiment being conducted by our all-knowing president who some accuse of using the rally only to feed his narcissism. It turns out that he knew only his followers would be so naive as to participate voluntarily in this test!

Thank you, Mr. President, for sacrificing the lives of what you hope will be only a small percentage of your voters!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Let's Revisit Hillary Clinton's 'Basket of Deplorables' Remarks About Trump Supporters

Read this and tell me if this doesn't have the ring of truth.  Hillary was pilloried for her "basket of deplorables" comment, but we need to remember the full context of her comments. She didn't say all Trump supporters were deplorable, but who can deny after witnessing three-plus years of Trump's dog whistles to alt-right white supremacists in Charlottesville and elsewhere that enough of his supporters are truly deplorable and that they provided the margin of victory in an election where he only won in the Electoral College? 

Does the rest of America have any remorse for liking a candidate who is adored by racists, white supremacists and other people who the average American would indeed consider deplorable?  

Read what Hillary said two months before the election, taken from a Time magazine posting online, and see for yourself if it doesn't ring true in hindsight:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well."
Right there is the explanation for why Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and thereby lost the election.  She knew Trump appealed to those voters, but she didn't even campaign in those states, taking those working class, mostly Democratic, voters for granted.

"And there’s so much more than I find deplorable in his campaign: the way that he cozies up to white supremacist, makes racist attacks, calls women pigs, mocks people with disabilities — you can’t make this up. He wants to round up and deport 16 million people, calls our military a disaster. And every day he says something else which I find so personally offensive, but also dangerous. You know, the idea of our country is so rooted in continuing progress that we make together. Our campaign slogan is not just words. We really do believe that we are stronger together. We really do believe that showing respect and appreciation for one another lifts us all up."


Here's another excerpt from Hillary's speech that resonates:

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Trump’s Worst Legacy May Be Modeling His Communication Style to His Followers

Actually, President Trump will have many “worst legacies,” but the one that’s most present for me at this time is how he has emboldened ordinary people to think it’s okay to communicate like him. That’s what presidents do, after all. They become role models for Americans who look up to them.
Let’s look at the role model being demonstrated day in and day out by our current president.
I received a hand-written letter just this week from a reader, who wrote as follows:
Dear Mr. Smith,
I enjoy your column and wanted to say my piece.
Being 89½ years old and a retired R.N., I’ve seen much in my lifetime but nothing like Mr. T. His Narcissistic Personality Disorder disturbs me most. Each time he speaks, all the symptoms come forth: Profound arrogance, hypercritical, public ridicule, no sympathy, a bully.
It is a mental illness and is untreatable. Were he my child, he would have been put in time-out long ago. As you said, his supporters are unreachable and that is baffling. Look forward to reading your thoughts. 
Sincerely, Mrs. Vivian S.
Yes, Vivian, one wonders whether his supporters would tolerate those same “symptoms” in anyone else. Who among them would like a person displaying “profound arrogance," being hypercritical, using public ridicule, evidencing no sympathy, and being a bully?  I doubt any of his supporters like those traits in another human being — any human being — but they accept them in Donald Trump. Worse, they are adopting those traits for themselves.
    Unless your circle of friends includes Trump supporters, you may not witness those behaviors much, but, thanks to this column, I receive emails every day from them, evidencing such language.
    Here’s a recent email from Steve M.:
    You are a lousy journalist.  You cant even spell my name correctly.  No wonder you cant earn a living doing journalism. So you resort to petty name calling and a completely lame attempt to sell real estate.  You or your parents wasted a lot of money at MIT.” (The writer went on at length -- too long to share here.)
Trump supporters, while they admit he’s crude and rude (“but gets things done!”), they deny those symptoms.  One, however, admitted the narcissism this way:
The potus is a narcissist?  Not really startling news! Btw, bho’s picture is featured in the DSM-5 manual in the section defining a narcissistic personality? Trump simply took a page from bho’s book? Why doesn’t bho’s narcissism bother you?
(“bho” is Obama, referred to by another Trump supporter in emails only as “B. Hussein O.”) 
The president also is a role model for lying — even when it’s not necessary. While he said, metaphorically, that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters, it’s just as likely that he could say the earth was flat (okay, metaphorically) and his supporters would accept it as the truth — and Fox News would promote it! 
It’s one thing that supporters don’t think Trump lies, despite repeated evidence of it, but, worse, he’s made bending the truth acceptable by modeling it.
Parents of bullies and the bullied alike have decried bullying in our schools, yet millions of American have learned from “Mr. T.” that bullying is acceptable in adults. This is nothing less than hypocrisy, unless they now accept bullying among school children.
The same for ridicule. Who thinks that ridiculing others is acceptable discourse? Again, it’s being normalized by this president in virtually every tweet. I expect to receive emails ridiculing Vivian S. for her letter above. That’s what they've been taught — by example.
Would Trump's supporters like anyone other than Trump criticizing and ridiculing a newly deceased war hero, as Trump did Sen. John McCain because he opposed Trump politically?
Maybe the tide will turn, now that we are seeing the generals speaking up. And what will we learn from Steve Bannon’s book, due this month or next?
Speaking of books, I’m currently reading A Warning by “Anonymous, A Senior Trump Administration Official,” available for as little as $3.99 on eBay with free shipping. It’s an insightful and scary look inside the Trump White House.  I consider it a must-read!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Washington Post Fact-Checker Staff Publishes Book on Trump's Lies (19,000 to date)

I'm looking forward to reading this book and using it as a reference document.

Here's the write-up from today's Fact-Checker newsletter from the Washington Post:

President Trump has surpassed 19,000 false and misleading statements, according to the latest update of our database, covering all of his presidency through May 29.

The number may seem daunting, but our new book debunking the president’s greatest deceptions in his first three years in office provides a great road map to the universe of claims.

“Donald Trump and His Assault on Truth,” published by Scribner this week, methodically debunks a host of statements and tweets the president has made on the economy, immigration, foreign policy, his impeachment, the Russia probe, the coronavirus pandemic and more. It’s available in print, e-book and audiobook.

We talked about the book and took questions from readers this week in an online video chat hosted by the Washington bookstore Politics and Prose. Catch up on YouTube with a recording of the event here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Trump's "Enemy of the People" Rhetoric Led to Police Assaults on Reporters

Maybe you have seen the footage of TV reporters and their crews being targeted and even arrested while covering the demonstrations and rioting which followed the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

I'm waiting for someone to suggest that assaults by police officers on reporters displaying press credentials is the logical and inevitable result of President Trump's declaring that the mainstream media are the "enemy of the people."

As a long-time journalist myself, the CNN program "Reliable Sources" (Sunday at 9 a.m.) is a must-watch for me, and their nightly email newsletter is a must-read.  You can subscribe to it here

Here's an excerpt from the Tuesday, June 2nd, Reliable Sources newsletter:

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker says it has counted 211 "press freedom violations" since the start of the George Floyd protests, which in some cases have led to riots. The group's records show "33+ arrests, 143 assaults (118 by police, 25 by others), 35 equipment/newsroom damage."
This huge total # of infringements is partly a reflection of the sheer scope of the unrest... but it also an indication of something sinister at work. Many of the affected journalists have said they felt targeted. Tuesday's letter to Minnesota authorities addressed that: "In every case that we are aware of, there are strong indications that officers knew the journalist was a member of the press."

Words matter, especially from the President of the United States.  Since 32% of the general population is Trump's "base," which accepts as truth what their "great leader" says, it only makes sense that 32% of police officers, more or less, are part of his base, too, and have blindly accepted Trump's statement that journalists (except from Fox News, of course) are the enemy of the people.  It makes sense that some of those pro-Trump police officers would feel justified in attacking a journalist who embeds himself or herself in a demonstration. It only makes sense that a paramilitary officer would feel justified in attacking or arresting an "enemy of the people." 

We saw this same dynamic at work earlier in Trump's reign.  His anti-immigrant and anti-minority "dog whistles" emboldened white supremacists and other alt-right members to come out of hiding and participate openly and blatantly in such demonstrations as the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, where they carried torches and chanted "Jews Will Not Replace Us!"  These people always existed in society, but it was only when the President of the United States started "speaking their language" that they felt comfortable making their feelings known.

I mentioned the Charlottesville rally in last week's "Talking Turkey" column and got several emails and a few letters from Trump supporters, one of whom made a point of defending Trump's statement that there were "many fine people" among the alt-right and white supremacist demonstrators.  Here's a paragraph from Jane W.'s email:

When you refer to the statement about “many fine people” during the Alt right and Antifa demonstrators’ in Charlottesville what do you think these peoples’ “day jobs” were?   These demonstrators may have carried around their “torches” when they were demonstrating – but probably were wearing business suits and holding very important positions and jobs in their communities (fine people to those that work with them and know them-they probably don’t know their “dark” side)?  I would bet that among these demonstrators there were upstanding citizens in their communities, maybe they were leaders, business men, church goers, PTA officers, teachers, city council members – fine people respected by their communities when they are living their daily lives. (Remember the democrats KKK when very prominent men would dress up and terrorize and kill colored people – wearing hoods, of course so they were not recognized, but undoubtedly considered “fine people” when their robe and hood was off.)

Yes, and some of them may have been police officers -- very fine police officers, when among fellow white people.

And that's the problem, isn't it?