Is Trump Fit? Congresswomen Calls for Medical/Mental Examination
August 20, 2017
Casey Tolan / Bay Area News Group & Bill Curry / Salon &
Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has introduced a congressional resolution urging President Donald Trump to undergo a medical and psychiatric examination to determine if he should be removed from office. Over time, says one observer, Trump's mental health has seemed to decline as "he threw more and bigger public tantrums; lied more often and less artfully." Trump doesn't like being forced to denounce racism for the very simple reason that he himself is, and always has been, a racist.
Zoe Lofgren Calls for Trump to Get Mental Exam
To Determine If He Should Be Removed from Office
Casey Tolan / Bay Area News Group
SAN JOSE, Calif. (August 18, 2017) -- Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren introduced a congressional resolution Friday urging President Donald Trump to get a medical and psychiatric examination to determine if he should be removed from office.
Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat, said Vice President Mike Pence and the members of Trump's Cabinet should use the results of the exam to decide whether to yank him from the Oval Office under a never-before-used constitutional provision.
"President Donald J. Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties," Lofgren's resolution states. It urges the Cabinet to "quickly secure the services of medical and psychiatric professionals to examine the President . . . to determine whether the President suffers from mental disorder or other injury that impairs his abilities and prevents him from discharging his constitutional duties."
In a statement, Lofgren's office questioned whether Trump has "early stage dementia" or whether "the stress of office aggravated a mental illness crippling impulse control."
"I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist," Lofgren said in an interview Friday. "If it was a physical ailment, you would be getting the advice of doctors. The same thing should be true to take a look at his stability here."
The 25th Amendment states that the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet can temporarily remove the president from office by declaring him or her "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" in a letter to Congress. The vice president would then become the acting president.
If the president objects to his or her removal, the debate goes to Congress. A two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Congress is required to keep the president from returning to office.
Lofgren's resolution follows calls from her fellow Bay Area Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, for Trump to be removed under the 25th Amendment.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump has faced a tsunami of criticism and increasingly loud calls for his ouster since his comments about the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend that left three people dead. Trump equated white nationalist protesters with counter-protesters and suggested that removing statues of Confederate generals could lead to removing statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Lofgren said she had been worried about Trump's stability since long before those comments.
While past presidents have used other provisions of the half-century-old amendment to temporarily cede power to the vice president while undergoing medical procedures, the power has never been used by the vice president and the cabinet to remove a sitting president from office.
It's exceedingly unlikely that Lofgren's resolution could pass in the Republican-controlled House -- and even if it did, congressional resolutions are nonbinding, unlike bills. Still, the strongly worded resolution goes further than most Democrats in Congress have in questioning Trump's mental stability.
"The bill probably will not pass, but it will stimulate a conversation," Lofgren said. She said Trump should accept a mental examination "if he cares about the country."
Also on Friday, several Democrats introduced a resolution aiming to formally censure Trump for his Charlottesville statements. "Democrats will use every avenue to challenge the repulsiveness of President Trump's words and actions," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said in a statement.
My Meeting with Donald Trump: A Damaged, Pathetic Personality
Whose Obvious Impairment Has Only Gotten Worse
Bill Curry / Salon
(August 12. 2017) -- In 1994, I visited the home of Donald Trump. He was a Democrat then, of sorts, and I was the party's nominee for governor of Connecticut. He'd taken an interest in our state owing to his keen desire to lodge a casino in Bridgeport, an idea I found economically and morally dubious. I had scant hope of enlisting him, but made the trip anyway, thinking that if I convinced him I might win, he'd be less apt to bankroll my opponent.
I arrived at Trump Tower in early evening, accompanied by my finance chair and an old friend and colleague. Stepping off the elevator into his apartment, we were met by a display of sterile, vulgar ostentation: all gold, silver, brass, marble; nothing soft, welcoming or warm.
Trump soon appeared and we began to converse, but not really. In campaigns, we candidates do most of the talking; because we like to, and because people ask us lots of questions. Not this time. Not by a long shot.
Trump talked very rapidly and virtually nonstop for nearly an hour; not of my campaign or even of politics, but only of himself, and almost always in the third person. He'd given himself a nickname: "the Trumpster," as in "everybody wants to know what the Trumpster's gonna do," a claim he made more than once.
He mostly told stories. Some were about his business deals; others about trips he'd taken or things he owned. All were unrelated to the alleged point of our meeting, and to one another. That he seldom even attempted segues made each tale seem more disconnected from reality than the last. It was funny at first, then pathetic, and finally deeply unsettling.
On the drive home, we all burst out laughing, then grew quiet. What the hell just happened? My first theory, that Trump was high on cocaine, didn't feel quite right, but he was clearly emotionally impaired: in constant need of approbation; lacking impulse control, self-awareness or awareness of others. We'd heard tales of his monumental vanity, but were still shocked by the sad spectacle of him.
That visit colored all my later impressions of Trump. Over time, his mental health seemed to decline. He threw more and bigger public tantrums; lied more often and less artfully. The media, also in decline and knowing a ratings magnet when it saw one, turned a blind eye. Sensing impunity, Trump revived the racist 'birther' lie. In 2011, he told the "Today" show's Meredith Vieira he had unearthed some dark secrets:
Vieira: You have people now down there searching, I mean in Hawaii?
Trump: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.
As Trump recycled old lies, Vieira had a queasy look but no apparent knowledge of the facts. Of course, there weren't any. Trump had no proof of Obama being born in Kenya. (Since there is none.) It's highly doubtful he had any researchers in Hawaii. (It was only after Vieira asked him that he claimed he did.)
Later, when Trump's story crumbled, he followed a rule taught by his mentor, Roy Cohn, infamous architect of McCarthyism: Admit nothing. To Trump, a lie is worth a thousand pictures.
By 2016, the private Trump was on permanent public display, raging over mere slights, seeing plots in every ill turn of events and, as always, stunningly self-absorbed. He was called a racist, a sexist and a bully. But his mental health issues were euphemized as problems of "temperament."
He lied ceaselessly, reflexively and clumsily, but his lies were called merely "unproven" or, later, "false." The New York Times called the birther story a lie only after Trump grudgingly retracted it. Not till he was safe in office claiming that millions of phantom immigrants cast votes for Clinton did the paper of record use the word "lie" in reference to a tale Trump was still telling.
In 2016, the precariousness of Trump's mental health was clear to all with eyes to see, but like extras in a remake of "The Emperor's New Clothes," reporters averted their glances. The day after the election, they were all in a state of shock, like staff at an asylum who woke one morning to find that the patient who thought he was Napoleon had just been named emperor of France.
Once he took office, many publications began keeping running tallies of his lies. But all take a more cautious approach to questions of their origins in his deeply troubled psyche. To date, no major network, newspaper or magazine has run an in-depth analysis of Trump's mental health.
The pathologies of American journalism are by now clichés: aversion to policy analysis; addiction to horse-race politics; smashing of walls that once separated news, opinion and advertising; an ideology that mistakes evenhandedness for objectivity.
Yet we hear scant talk of reform. The press excels at public rituals of soul-searching but has little taste for the real thing. That said, its reluctance to discuss mental health reflects its virtues as well as its vices. Of major outlets, Fox News does by far the most psychological profiling. (It turns out all liberals are crazy.)
Like the language of politics, the language of psychology is imprecise; the term "sociopath" is as hard to nail down as "liberal" or "conservative." What separates a serial liar from a pathological liar? Mere suspicion from paranoia? Righteous anger from uncontrolled rage? How do we ever tell mental illness from ill character?
Our view of any antisocial behavior hinges on whether we view it through a moral, legal or therapeutic lens; to take a human life other than in self-defense is insane, and also criminal and, to many, sinful. Do we treat, punish or forgive? It's so hard to say.
The diagnosis we associate with Trump is "narcissistic personality disorder" (a term that only lately replaced "narcissistic character disorder"). You'll find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, fifth edition.
Back in February, a principal author of the prior edition, Dr. Allen Frances, wrote a letter to the Times rebuking mental health professionals for "diagnosing public figures from a distance" and "amateur diagnosticians" for "mislabeling" Trump with narcissistic personality disorder. Allen says he wrote the criteria defining the disorder and Trump doesn't have it. His reasoning: Trump "does not suffer the disorder and impairment required to diagnose mental disorder."
Frances does what he accuses others of doing. By saying flatly that Trump doesn't suffer a disorder, he diagnoses a public figure we assume -- for multiple reasons -- he hasn't treated. Nor can he or anyone else tell "from a distance" that Trump doesn't suffer the requisite impairment and disorder.
No president ever seemed so impaired or disordered, but we needn't compare him only to other rotten presidents. Trump is the Chuck Yeager of lying, a shatterer of records thought untouchable. That he is frozen in pathological, crotch-grabbing adolescence is well documented; that his judgment is often deranged by rage is self-evident.
This week the world watched two men of obvious, serious emotional impairment in control of ungodly nuclear weapons trade puerile taunts while threatening to incinerate millions of innocent human beings. Donald Trump, having made war on Mitch McConnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nordstrom, China, Mexico, Australia and the cast of "Hamilton," baiting a man who idolizes Dennis Rodman and just murdered his own brother. This is simply unacceptable.
We know how Kim Jong-un got his job. It's time we thought about how Trump got his. One answer is that he got it the way authoritarian leaders do in liberal democracies: by exploiting the weakness and naïve politesse of the old order. To contain him, let alone remove him, we must relearn the rules of debate.
We can start by distinguishing name calling (bad) from merely naming (which is not just good but vital). I too recoil from quack therapists diagnosing strangers on cable TV. But you don't need to be a botanist to tell a rose from a dandelion.
In 2016 Trump compared Ben Carson to a child molester and pronounced him "incurable," but few raised the far more real question of Trump's own mental health. Do we dare not state the obvious? You needn't be an amateur diagnostician to see that Donald Trump is mentally ill.
Trump embodies that old therapists' saw "perception is projection." You can use this handy tool to locate the truth, exactly opposite from whatever he just said. He has a weight management problem, so women are "fat pigs." He can't stop fibbing, so his primary opponent becomes "Lyin' Ted Cruz." His career is rife with fraud so the former secretary of state becomes "Crooked Hillary." He is terrified of ridicule, so Barack Obama is a "laughingstock." When he says America's a wasteland but he'll make it great again, we know his secret fear.
Late in the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton famously dubbed some large portion of Trump's base a "basket of deplorables." A constant theme and core belief of her campaign was that his campaign was fueled by racism and misogyny, evils against which Democrats stand united. The evils are genuine and enduring, but political corruption and the economic inequality it fosters did at least as much and probably more to fuel Trump's rise.
It's likely that Trump's arrested development also got him white working-class votes, among males especially. The infantilization of the American male is a phenomenon we have been slow to recognize. It is a product of fast-narrowing economic horizons fueled by cultural forces; by beer ads and anti-intellectualism, by addiction and violent video games, and now by Trump, on whom Jon Stewart pinned the fitting moniker "man baby."
Countless surveys say our children are less racist and sexist than our parents. What many may not be is more adult. The issue isn't the bros in the beer ads; we assume they have jobs. It's the tinderbox we create by mixing ignorance and inequality with dashed hopes and an overwrought sense of victimization. They say presidents lead us down the paths we're already on. It's our job to make sure this one doesn't.
One thing Trump has taught us is that the drafters of the 25th Amendment weren't thinking about mental illness. It is unlikely anyone it puts in charge would have the courage to take action. In any case, progressives must put their primary emphasis on crafting a blueprint for political reform and economic justice. While they're at it they could try making better cases on national security and climate change.
They must take another lesson from Trump: to say out loud things they never said before, not as Trump does, but with honesty, decency, reason and specificity. Trump got to be president in part because there were so many things Democrats and the media didn't think or couldn't bring themselves to say.
Trump's whole life is a fraud that Robert Mueller may soon expose as a criminal enterprise. His business career was a disaster till a book someone else wrote and a TV show someone else produced made him a celebrity. He then fell into the only line of work he ever prospered in: licensing that celebrity. He does it pretty well, but Zsa Zsa Gabor did it first and Kim Kardashian did it better and neither of them should be president.
In 2016, Trump's real vulnerabilities were his mental health and personal finances. We can now add his proto-fascism and his possible or intended treason to the list. Trump was lucky in the draw. His defects were so monumental, so toxic, we had no protocol for talking about them.
There are effective and responsible ways to talk about all such things, but first our media and political elites must find the courage to name them. They know as well as you or I who he is.
Bill Curry was White House counselor to President Clinton and a two-time Democratic nominee for governor of Connecticut. He is at work on a book on President Obama and the politics of populism.
Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life --
And He Isn't Going to Change After Charlottesville
Mehdi Hasan / The Intercept
(August 15 2017) -- "RACISM IS EVIL," declared Donald Trump on Monday, "and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."
OK, "declared" may be too strong a word for what we heard from the president. "Stated" is perhaps a better descriptor. "Read out" might be the most accurate of all.
Trump made these "additional remarks" with great reluctance and only after two days of intense criticism from both the media and senior Republicans over his original remarks blaming "many sides" for the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The words were not his own: they were scripted by aides and delivered with the assistance of a teleprompter. The president reserved his personal, off-the-cuff ire on Monday for the black CEO of Merck, not for the white fascists of Virginia.
Much of the frenzied media coverage of what CNN dubbed "48 hours of turmoil for the Trump White House" has overlooked one rather crucial point: Trump doesn't like being forced to denounce racism for the very simple reason that he himself is, and always has been, a racist.
Consider the first time the president's name appeared on the front page of the New York Times, more than 40 years ago. "Major Landlord Accused of Antiblack Bias in City," read the headline of the A1 piece on Oct. 16, 1973, which pointed out how Richard Nixon's Department of Justice had sued the Trump family's real estate company in federal court over alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act.
"The government contended that Trump Management had refused to rent or negotiate rentals 'because of race and color,'" the Times revealed. "It also charged that the company had required different rental terms and conditions because of race and that it had misrepresented to blacks that apartments were not available." (Trump later settled with the government without accepting responsibility.)
Over the next four decades, Trump burnished his reputation as a bigot:
* he was accused of ordering "all the black [employees] off the floor" of his Atlantic City casinos during his visits;
* claimed "laziness is a trait in blacks" and "not anything they can control";
* requested Jews "in yarmulkes" replace his black accountants;
* told Bryan Gumbel that "a well-educated black has a tremendous advantage over a well-educated white in terms of the job market";
* demanded the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers accused of raping a jogger in Central Park (and, despite their later exoneration with the use of DNA evidence, has continued to insist they are guilty);
* suggested a Native American tribe "don't look like Indians to me";
* mocked Chinese and Japanese trade negotiators by doing an impression of them in broken English;
* described undocumented Mexican immigrants as "rapists";
* compared Syrian refugees to "snakes";
* defended two supporters who assaulted a homeless Latino man as "very passionate" people "who love this country";
* pledged to ban a quarter of humanity from entering the United States;
* proposed a database to track American Muslims that he himself refused to distinguish from the Nazi registration of German Jews;
* implied Jewish donors "want to control" politicians and are all sly negotiators;
* heaped praise on the "amazing reputation" of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has blamed America's problems on a "Jewish mafia";
* referred to a black supporter at a campaign rally as "my African-American";
* suggested the grieving Muslim mother of a slain US army officer "maybe . . . wasn't allowed" to speak in public about her son;
* accused an American-born Hispanic judge of being "a Mexican";
* retweeted anti-Semitic and anti-black memes, white supremacists, and even a quote from Benito Mussolini;
* kept a book of Hitler's collected speeches next to his bed;
* declined to condemn both David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan; and
* spent five years leading a "birther" movement that was bent on smearing and delegitimizing the first black president of the United States, who Trump also accused of being the founder of ISIS.
Oh, and remember: we knew all of this before he was elected president of the United States of America. He was elected in spite of all this (yet another reminder that "not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn't a deal-breaker").
Some had hoped that Trump would be moderated by office; there was much talk of a presidential pivot. It was all utter nonsense and wishful thinking from lazy commentators who have found it difficult to cover, and call out, a president who regularly traffics in racially charged rhetoric while surrounding himself with an array of race-baiting advisers.
Since entering the Oval Office, Trump has appointed Steve Bannon -- former executive chairman of Breitbart News, which has stories tagged 'Black Crime' -- as his White House chief strategist, and Jeff Sessions -- who was once accused of calling a black official in Alabama a "nigger" -- as his attorney general; he has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that millions of immigrants "voted illegally" for Hillary Clinton; and, perhaps most shocking of all, he has publicly and repeatedly belittled Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has claimed Native American heritage, as "Pocahontas."
This is Racism 101 from a sitting US president. And it is the stark and undeniable truth, and key context, that is missing from much of the coverage of the political fallout from Charlottesville. Journalists, opinion formers, members of Congress, and members of the public continue to treat Trump as they would any previous president -- they expect their head of government to come out and condemn racism with passion, vigor, speed, and sincerity.
But what do you do if the president is himself a long-standing purveyor of racism and xenophobia? What then? Do you still demand he condemn and castigate what is essentially his base? Do you continue to feign shock and outrage over his lack of shock and outrage?
Yes, the US has had plenty of presidents in recent decades who have dog-whistled to racists and bigots, and even incited hate against minorities -- think Nixon's Southern Strategy, Reagan and his "welfare queens," George H.W. Bush and the Willie Horton ad, and the Clintons and their "super-predators" -- but there has never been a modern president so personally steeped in racist prejudices, so unashamed to make bigoted remarks in public and with such a long and well-documented record of racial discrimination.
So can we stop playing this game where journalists demand Trump condemns people he agrees with and Trump then pretends to condemn them in the mildest of terms? I hate to say this, but it is worth paying attention to the leader of the Virginia KKK, who told a reporter in August 2016: "The reason a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in."
So can we stop pretending that Trump isn't Trump? That the presidency has changed him, or will change him? It hasn't and it won't. There will be no reset; no reboot; no pivot. This president may now be going through the motions of (belatedly) denouncing racism, with his scripted statements and vacuous tweets. But here's the thing: why would you expect a lifelong racist to want to condemn or crack down on other racists?
Why assume a person whose entire life and career has been defined by racially motivated prejudice and racial discrimination, by hostility toward immigrants, foreigners, and minorities, would suddenly be concerned by the rise of prejudice and discrimination on his watch?
It is pure fantasy for politicians and pundits to suppose that Trump will ever think or behave as anything other than the bigot he has always been -- and, in more recent years, as an apologist for other bigots, too.
We would do well to heed the words of those who have spent decades studying this bizarre president. "Donald is a 70-year-old man," Trump biographer David Cay Johnston reminded me in the run-up to his inauguration in January. "I'm 67. I'm not going to change and neither is Donald."
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