It’s hard to get through a day without encountering multiple examples of “liberals” accusing Trump as having impaired mental function. One of my most respected professional contacts (whose I’m reluctant to embarrass by identifying him) has on more than occasion tweeted a news item about some Trump peccadillo adding only one word of text: “Moron.” Another friend of mine called him a “POS.” In my opinion, comments like this are not just wrong, they are counterproductive for two reasons:
- If we don’t understand Trump’s problems, we won’t understand how to deal with him, and
- When frustrated people call him names, it makes them sound just as angry and unreasonable as Trump’s supporters.
After all, don’t “liberals” like to consider themselves thoughtful and reasonable?
I have one question for “liberals” who like to say Trump is mentally slow: Would a stupid person have managed to accumulate so much money (albeit with a lot of help from his rich father), to have had a very successful “reality” TV show and even get himself into the White House?
The fact is that Trump is not stupid, not at all. He is actually very intelligent–in his own odd way.
Trump often does things that seem stupid to normal people because he has a truly bizarre personality. I don’t say this with the intention of insulting Trump, but merely to accurately describe him so that people will understand him better.
I am acutely aware that I am not a doctor, but in my opinion you don’t have to be a doctor to see that Trump has a very strange personality. I also believe that Trump’s odd behavior has harmed our country in many ways and makes him a threat to our democracy.
Trump’s Personality Problems
By this time I don’t think anyone who has observed Trump for the past few years would say he is normal:
- Would a normal person be boasting about his high TV ratings while millions of Americans are out of work, millions are sick, and thousands are dying?
- Would a normal person respond to a reasonable question by insulting the person who asked the question and calling him names?
- Would a normal person talk for 13 hours at his corona virus press conferences, but only letting his top expert (Dr. Fauci) talk for two hours?
- Would a normal person say he bore no responsibility for the problems, in effect saying that his performance had been perfect?
That type of behavior is not normal.
A guy named George Conway, a longtime Republican, wrote up the best explanation of Trump’s personality that I have seen in a 2019 Atlantic magazine essay named Unfit for Office. Conway is married to a key Trump advisor named Kelly Ann Conway.
In the article Conway explains that he believes Trump has a form of mental illness that doctors call “Narcissistic Personality Disorder” (NPD).
I am not a doctor and don’t necessarily agree with Conway, but his article is thought provoking. Doctors at the respected Mayo Clinic explain what NPD means in an article at the hospital’s website.
In support of his opinion Conway quotes the standard reference that doctors use to diagnosis mental illness and personality problems, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The most recent edition of this reference, the DSM (version 5), published in 2002, long before Trump ran for President, lists nine symptoms of NPD. If a person displays five of these symptoms, doctors consider them to have Narcissistic Personality Disorder:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement (i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings or needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Is there any objective, rational person who would deny that is impossible for Trump to speak more than 30 minutes without displaying most or all of these symptoms?
Not every doctor agrees that Trump is “mentally ill,” but just about all of them agree that he has a very strange personality.
One respected doctor, an expert in this field, has stated “Trump “may be a world-class narcissist but this doesn’t make him mentally ill, because he does not suffer from the distress and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder. Mr. Trump causes severe distress rather than experiencing it and has been richly rewarded, rather than punished, for his grandiosity, self-absorption and lack of empathy.”
Whether or not Trump meets the technical definition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I don’t think any objective and reasonable person who has observed Trump would disagree with that doctor’s assessment of Trump’s personality.
I believe, like many other Americans, that Trump’s strange personality makes him a clear and present danger to the nation. We need a calm and rational discussion of what we should do as a people when someone with Trump’s problems is in the White House.
A Note for Those Who Disagree
I am definitely not infallible, and I am very willing to listen to contrary arguments presented in a cogent, reasonable way.
I do respectfully suggest that those inclined to defend Trump would be better off to address the substantive argument in a cogent manner, rather than through personal attacks on me or anyone else who shares my view.