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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Is Trump nuts, treasonous or just an asshole? Two perspectives

It's a serious question
By Will Collette

Pic of the MomentHere we are, the bewildered citizens of the United States, trying to make sense of what makes no sense. 

Who and what is this guy who was selected by that arcane creature of the Constitution, the Electoral College, to be President of the United States.

Even his die-hard supporters, such as Jim Mageau, are twisting themselves into pretzels to try to justify conduct that can't be justified.

Part of what Americans are trying to puzzle out is whether Donald Trump is crazy (clinically or otherwise), a puppet of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin or, as Dr. Jen Gunther puts it, just an asshole.

Among the many recent commentaries on this subject, I have selected two for your consideration. One is by Dr. Gunther herself and the other is from economist and former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Please read both, look hard at the facts and make up your own mind.

There is no DSM-V for privileged asshole: diagnosing Trump is hurtful and the ultimate white, male privilege.

I worked with a few older, white, misogynistic, ill-informed, amoral, racist, conspiracy theory loving, less qualified, cruel surgeons when I trained.

They were privileged, white males so they failed up and because they were a product of an older time their misogyny and racism was sadly not that different from the background.

Their privilege was either from money, a 2nd or 3rd son who was not going to get the family business so being a doctor was a good option that brought respect and wealth which they deserved.

Sometimes their privilege was a respected physician father, so basically if they spelled their name correctly on the application they got into medical school. Some of these men were competent surgeons (you can teach anyone with basic manual dexterity to physically operate) and others were not.

The ones who were technically not proficient were covered by residents, medical students, nurses, and even other surgeons. There was a time that being a man was the only requirement for a job and this was not unique to medicine.

Some of these asshole (because that is the best summary of the litany of character flaws) surgeons may well have had mental health issues.

I suspect some drank too much and others may have had anxiety or depression, but their mental health issues did not make them cruel or racist or drive them to pinch my ass. Their character, or lack thereof, and upbringing did that.

Yes, they were grandiose, but every person who thinks they are better than they are is not manic. Delusions don’t make you racist, being a racist does.

I have also worked with a few older, white, male surgeons who clearly had mental health issues. One had PTSD from war service and a couple who seemed pretty clearly to have bipolar disease.

These men were kind, and tolerant, and skilled surgeons who did not pinch bottoms. One of them specifically lectured us on treating every hospital employee, from cleaning person to Chief of Staff with the same level of respect.

Mental health disorders and character are very different things, something many people seem to forget in their desire to explain Trump’s behavior.

It is not possible to diagnose a mental disorder remotely

While somethings can be diagnosed with a degree of certainly by observation, mental health conditions cannot. The ethics of playing remote diagnostician aside, no one impaired medically enough to be disqualified from the Presidency by any health issue could get through televised debates and addressing congress so just let it go.

Don’t confuse ignorance and self-importance and racism with mental health conditions

Trump has false beliefs, but not because he is delusional  because he is surrounded by sycophants and gets his information from Breitbart and Fox News. He’s wearing blinders on purpose because it is convenient. 

My dad is a hydro-electric engineer and doesn’t believe in global warming (sun cycles or something). My dad also doesn’t want to believe in global warming and so never reads anything except articles that support his bias. My dad is willfully misinformed, not delusional.

Trump is grandiose for sure, but he is not unrealistically powerful or important. He is also ostentatious with vulgar tastes. His brand is extreme. Nothing he does or says is out of character.
Trump has a long history of racism that predates his run for office. Brushing that off as a mental health condition is not only insulting and stigmatizing to those with mental health conditions,

What about a personality disorder?

“He’s a classic narcissistic personality disorder!” I hear that all the time. One has to be distressed and impaired and of course if one manages to get through debates and an election and get to be President one isn’t impaired in the way the criteria mean. Don’t believe me? That’s what the doctor who wrote the criteria says as well.

Lots of people are narcissists, but that doesn’t make them impaired it just means they have an elevated sense of self. I suspect that trait is common in Washington.

There is no DSM-V for privileged, asshole, ignorant, racist, cruel, misogynistic, short-tempered, self-centered, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, dictator aspiring, con man.

Explaining Trump’s behavior with a mental health diagnosis is insulting to those who truly have those conditions. 

It is also the ultimate in white male privilege. Imagine, people saying you can’t be as bad as you clearly are because of a health condition beyond your control! 

No one thought Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server was because she had a narcissistic personality disorder, it was because she was wrong, had poor judgement, or was #crooked.

Talking about Trump’s imagined mental health issues detracts from his policies, appointments, racism, fascism, and complete lack of preparation for office. Trump is our Barnum, so this distraction suits his agenda.

There are lots of people like Trump and they represent the Pandora’s box of humanity’s ills, but they are not psychiatrically unwell.

Yes, Trump is unqualified to be president. Not because of his mental health, he is simply unqualified.

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Early Saturday morning, March 4, the 45th president of the United States alleged in a series of  tweets that former president Barack Obama orchestrated a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap Trump’s phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election. 

Trump concluded that the former president is a “Bad (or sick) guy!” 

Sunday morning, Trump called for a congressional investigation.

Trump cited no evidence for his accusation. 

Folks, we’ve got a huge problem on our hands. Either:

1. Trump is more nuts than we suspected – a true delusional paranoid. Trump’s outburst was triggered by commentary in the “alt-right” publication, Breitbart News, on Friday, which reported an assertion made Thursday night by right-wing talk-radio host Mark Levin suggesting Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team’s dealings with Russian operatives.

If this was the case, we’ve got a president willing to put the prestige and power of his office behind baseless claims emanating from well-known right-wing purveyors of lies. 

Which means Trump shouldn’t be anywhere near the nuclear codes that could obliterate the planet, or near anything else that could determine the fate of America or the world. 

2. The second possibility is Trump is correct, and the Obama administration did in fact tap his phones. But if this was the case, before the tap could occur it’s highly likely Trump committed a very serious crime, including treason.

No president can order a wiretap on his own. For federal agents to obtain a wiretap on Trump, or anyone else, the Justice Department would first have had to convince a federal judge that it had gathered sufficient evidence of probable cause to believe Trump had committed a serious crime or was an agent of a foreign power, depending on whether it was a criminal or foreign intelligence wiretap. 

In which case we have someone in the White House who shouldn’t be making decisions that could endanger America or the world. 

3. The third possible explanation for Trump’s rant is he’s trying to divert public attention from the Jeff Sessions imbroglio and multiple investigations of Trump associates already found to have been in contact with Russian agents during the election, when Russian operatives interfered with the election on Trump’s behalf.

Maybe he’s trying to build a case that the entire Russian story is a plot concocted by the Obama Administration – along with the intelligence agencies and the mainstream press – to bring Trump down. This way, he can inoculate himself against more damaging evidence to come. 

But if it’s all a big show to divert attention and undermine the credibility of the intelligence agencies and the press, Trump is willing to do anything to keep his job – even if that means destroying the fabric of our democracy. 

So there you have it. Whatever the reason for Trump’s rant, America is in deep trouble. We have a president who is either a dangerous paranoid who’s making judgments based on right-wing crackpots, or has in all likelihood committed treason, or is willing to sacrifice public trust in our basic institutions to further his selfish goals. 

Each of these possible reasons is as terrifying as the other.

For Democrats to be the only ones sounding the alarm risks turning it into the new normal of partisanship, further dividing the country along party lines. For Obama himself to respond would only dignify it.

So the responsibility falls to Republican leaders. They must stand up and call this what it is: Dangerous demagoguery.

I call on former Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, former Republican senators and members of Congress, and current Republican senators and members of Congress, to stop this outrage. 

We are in a serious crisis of governance, and their voices are critical.

ROBERT B. REICH is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and "Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, INEQUALITY FOR ALL.