Questions about Trump’s fitness to lead go far beyond his temper and disinterest in formal briefings. Concerns about his mental health are not reducible to his slurred speech, or difficulty forming complete sentences. A tsunami of news reports, books and professional panel discussions have characterized Trump as volatile, impulsive and unpredictable. He is also known to suffer from mood swings. As reported in the Times trump is self-absorbed, lacking in empathy and prone to conspiracy theories. They also cite his “tenuous grasp of facts”.
A new book takes a look behind the scenes and confirms what we already know. A book by Michael Wolff titled, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, draws upon more than 200 interviews with those who know and work with Trump. These interviews portray Trump as highly unstable.
The Wolff book is scathing but it is not new. Its characterization of Trump as unhinged and utterly unqualified corroborates the plethora of reports which suggest that Trump is intellectually challenged and psychologically unfit to lead. People have questioned Trump’s fitness for a while, the Wolff book simply adds weight to those concerns.
Democrats are not the only ones who worry about Trump’s basic competence. A September poll revealed that 56 percent of Americans do not think Trump is fit to lead. Months before he was elected president large numbers of Republicans made the same point. It would appear that these concerns are shared by those who know him best. Here is a summary of some of the things said about Trump by those who work closely with him.
Many prominent individuals think Trump is unfit to lead including some of Trump’s closest associates. Republican Senator Bob Corker has said that Trump does not “demonstrate the stability” required to be president of the United States. Many of the Republican legislators and advisors that laud Trump in public have also privately expressed concern.
Steve Bannon, once Trump’s chief strategy advisor, compared Trump to an 11-year-old child. H. R. McMaster has reportedly referred to Trump as an “Idiot”, and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner”. This sentiment is shared by David Brooks who said the nation is now dependent on a child.
Rupert Murdoch allegedly called him “a fucking idiot” and his secretary of State Rex Tillerson famously called him “a fucking moron”. Trump staffer Sam Nunberg, who allegedly knows Trump well called the president, “a fucking fool”.
Even beyond his intelligence, many have questioned his basic sanity. Former G.W. Bush advisor Richard Painter recently said that Trump is “psychologically unfit” to govern. During the 2016 campaign, Senator Rand Paul called Trump a “delusional narcissist” and Senator Lindsey Graham said, “I think he’s a kook. I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office”. More recently Thomas J.Barrack Jr. said, “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid”.
Before November 8, 2016 large numbers of people openly speculated about his sanity. After he was elected a group of Mental health professionals was so concerned that they signed a petition seeking Trump’s removal from office. Questions about Trump’s mental health were also explored in a book edited by a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine Brandy X. Lee. The book is called, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President“. This anthology of essays concludes that Trump is not fit to be president of the United States.
Dr. Lee was also invited to Capitol Hill to brief legislators on Trump’s psychological wellbeing. In response to concerns about his sanity lawmakers crafted legislation seeking to force Trump to submit to psychological testing.
Other mental health professionals are more cautious. Allen Frances, the former psychiatry department chair at Duke University School of Medicine has called such armchair diagnosis irresponsible. He said the fact that Trump is unstable, impulsive, narcissistic, incompetent and unqualified does not necessarily make him mentally ill.
Whether or not Trump is bipolar or suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder is a matter of debate best left to the professionals. However, we cannot dismiss concerns about Trump’s ability to execute his office as partisan politics. Wolff said that “100 percent” of those he talked to questioned Trump’s fitness to lead. When a point of view is corroborated by so many independent perspectives, including those closest to him, credence must be given to those observations.
In a series of Twitter tirades, Trump dismissed the Wolff book and defended his mental fitness by saying he is “like, very smart” and a “very stable genius”.
Trump’s erratic behavior has consequences both domestically and abroad. A Der Spiegel editorial by Klaus Brinkbäumer wrote Trump has, “transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world.” On December 5th, 2017 German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel gave a speech in which he talked about the fact that Trump is driving a wedge in the US alliance with Europe.
Trump’s mental instability is a domestic and international tragedy.