Just recently, after the fiasco of the first presidential debate, I got an email from an old friend of mine whom I had not heard from in years. In it, he gently chided me for ‘Trump bashing’ (his words). It is not that he is a Trump supporter. His reason is different and because it was so thoughtful and raised an important question, I am bringing it up here for discussion.
My friend wrote:
I don’t think that all the Trump bashing is warranted. It’s pretty obvious that he has a mental disorder. It’s not fair nor reasonable to have a go at the behavior of a person whose behaviour is due to a mental condition. Will anyone criticize the behaviour of a person who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, dementia or even a person who is bipolar?
I am no psychiatrist but I think Trump suffers from a form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
I replied as follows:
As for Trump, there is so much to say. It would take a whole platoon of psychoanalysts to diagnose all his pathologies. Narcissistic Personality Disorder comes up a lot in discussions but I suspect that there are more. What is clear is that he is dishonest in multiple ways and a sociopath.
As to whether criticizing him harshly (which is what I think you mean by bashing) is warranted, the answer would be no if he were a private citizen. Of course we would not criticize a private individual who has Alzheimers or other forms of dementia. But Trump is the president of the US and has caused great harm to many people and is in a position to cause even more harm. Hence he must be criticized There is a provision in the constitution for the cabinet to remove a president they think is unfit to serve but they are not only not using that provision to remove him, they are actively enabling his pathological behavior. If he were to resign and get psychiatric help, that would be a different matter. But until then, I will continue to criticize him harshly because he is dangerous and deserves it. What do you suggest should be done instead?
I then got the following reply.
I don’t understand your logic. In my humble opinion a sick person is a sick person, no matter their station in life. What should be done instead is to emphasize that he is sick and as such not in control of his behaviour. Get eminent psychiatrists to give their opinion. If these guys diagnose him with NPD or schizophrenia, then it’s pretty obvious that he is not fit to be the President of the USA. If his Cabinet will not perform their Constitutional obligations by deeming him unfit, the voters can do so in the upcoming elections.
The point I wish to make is, it does not make any sense bashing a NPD, schizophrenic or other deranged person for behaviour that he cannot control.
Of course, there are eminent psychiatrists who have said that Trump suffers from psychological impairment.
A Yale psychiatrist who has repeatedly raised questions about President Trump’s mental health argued that Tuesday’s debate against Joe Biden should never have been allowed to go forward.
Dr. Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine and the president of the World Mental Health Coalition, said in an interview with Salon that Trump lacked the basic “mental health” to participate in a presidential debate.
What we see is a “bulldozing effect” of mental pathology. The drive for psychic survival ingeniously senses what it needs to get ahead, through illegitimate means. This primitive and destructive force is a form of disorder that has no place in politics.
My friend does make a good point, though. If someone were a private citizen, then we should not publicly attack them if they are suffering from some mental issue that causes them to act erratically. But at what station in life does their behavior become fair game for harsh criticism? Even if they are a public person, say a celebrity of some sort, if they are not in a position of power over others, we should also refrain from criticizing. But Trump is in a different category. As long Trump remains in office and continues to do great damage, my feeling is that criticizing his actions harshly is justifiable even if I think he is not quite all there.
But the point is debatable and I am curious as to what this blog’s readers think about where and if one should draw the line.