The Danger of Donald

Donald Trump making a cuckoo sign

Donald Trump making a cuckoo sign

Last week I addressed the threats that have been made upon Donald Trump’s life, or what we might call, “The Dangers TO Donald.” However, given the Republican nominee’s recent gaffes, and a rash of articles that call into question his mental stability, it seems appropriate to also address the threats that Trump himself might pose to the rest of us. In other words, “The Dangers OF Donald.”

Mr. Trump’s outrageous behavior has included: mocking a disabled reporter; suggesting that FOX anchor Megyn Kelly was a hostile debate moderator because she could have been having her menstrual period; saying that women should change jobs if they are sexually harassed in the workplace; attacking the Gold Star family of a fallen hero, then claiming to have made an equal sacrifice (“I’ve hired thousands of people”); saying that the world would be a safer place if more nations acquired nuclear weapons; referring to a black man at his rally as “my African American”; doubling down on his claim that POWs are not heroes; claiming to have seen a video of an Iranian cash drop, when no such video existed; flippantly accepting a Purple Heart from a veteran; and, most recently, implying to a crowd of supporters that if Hillary is elected, they might take a shot at her.

The preponderance of these Trumpisms has caused some leading Republicans to denounce his candidacy, and question his fitness to occupy the White House. Soon after President Obama’s declaration that Trump is “unfit to be Commander-in-Chief”, fifty former Republican security officials and cabinet secretaries issued an open letter saying that if Trump is elected, he would be the most reckless president in our history. That letter followed a public statement by former CIA Director Michael Morell, who said Trump, “may well pose a threat to our national security… and would be a dangerous Commander-in-Chief.” The timing of these criticisms coincided with the announcement that both Trump and Hillary will soon begin receiving security briefings. Pundits of all political stripes have suggested that neither candidate should be trusted with classified information. But while Hillary’s lack of credibility in that regard is based on her mishandling of emails, Trump’s lack of trustworthiness seems to be tied to his mental fitness. Libertarian vice-presidential candidate William Weld, who has served as a governor and in the Justice Department, didn’t mince words, telling CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Trump has, “a screw loose.”

But last week, the American Psychiatric Association issued a warning to journalists and partisans who are suggesting that Trump is mentally ill. Said APA President Maria Oquendo, “The unique atmosphere of this year’s election cycle may lead some to want to psychoanalyze the candidates, but to do so would not only be unethical, it would be irresponsible.”

Ms. Oquendo also reminded us that such armchair analysis of presidential candidates is nothing new. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign ran a TV ad that suggested Senator Barry Goldwater was unfit to be president because he (Goldwater) was likely to drop an atomic bomb on Russia. The media and others jumped on the “Goldwater is dangerous” bandwagon, and the senator lost in a landslide to Johnson, who turned out to be the real military aggressor of the two candidates. Fifty-two years after the hatchet job on Goldwater, Trump has also come under fire from his opponent and from the media. But unlike Goldwater, Trump’s own words and actions have contributed to the perception that he is somewhat unstable. In fact, one need only to read the Mayo Clinic definition of “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”, to see that Donald Trump displays nearly all of the clinical symptoms of NPD, which include:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior without achievements that warrant it
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Having a lack of empathy for others

It is important to note, however, that one can be narcissistic without having NPD. In fact, the Pew Research Center recently released a ranking of U.S. Presidents according to their level of narcissism (LBJ was #1, JFK #5, Nixon #6, and Bill Clinton #7). Regardless of their ranking, none of those men were diagnosed as having NPD, and none were precluded from doing their job effectively because of their narcissistic traits. The question then remains, if in fact Donald Trump suffers from a clinical disorder, can he be an effective commander-in-chief?

Unlike other diseases and disorders (like depression or bi-polar) whose chemical imbalances can be controlled with medication, NPD is purely behavioral in nature, thus not so easily checked or treated. Clearly Donald Trump can function effectively as a TV host and real estate developer, but his extreme narcissistic behavior would seem to preclude the kind of clear thinking and diplomatic restraint needed to be the president of 350 million people, and commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military.

In his defense, Trump assures us he will act presidential once he’s become president. Translation? His goofy behavior is all just a carnival act designed to energize disaffected voters and close the deal. The problem is that his act is wearing thin, and every day he falls further behind in the polls. That means we may never get to see him act presidential. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.


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