FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Perilous Unknowns: the Mental Health of Presidential Candidates

It’s become normal for Americans to demand—and receive-a professional assessment of the physical health of the candidates for president—just as they expect updates on the medical state of the president himself. After all, there have been many infamous cases of presidents, from Franklin Roosevelt to Jack Kennedy, who secretly endured serious debilitating illnesses.

Thus, the current crop of presidential hopefuls has provided medical information—though not necessarily from the most objective sources. Hillary Clinton’s doctor, for instance, declared her “fit to serve as president”. Donald Trump’s physician, opined that Trump’s blood pressure and lab results were “astonishingly excellent”, his “physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.” He concluded, “If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”

But what about Trump’s mental health?

Surely, we care if a candidate is mentally deranged. If we consider it reasonable that someone with severe psychiatric problems be prevented from purchasing a firearm, why go along with a system that might permit a similarly disturbed individual to gain control over the largest military arsenal the world has ever known?

Indeed, the power of an American president to declare war, to secretly dispatch special forces units to all corners of the globe, to okay the execution by drone or killer teams of anyone he deems a threat to the United States, that power has dangerously escalated over the past few years under Barrack Obama as Congress has refused to even debate Obama’s military actions abroad.

It’s O.K., we’re reassured: you can trust Obama. But what if he we were replaced by someone with a serious character disorder?

Such as, arguably, Donald Trump?

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 5.07.13 PM

What character disorder? Recent articles from Vanity Fair to Time to Psychology today suggest that Trump is a textbook study of Narcissism. He’s a swaggering egotist; vain, self-centered, convinced of his own greatness, who (some theorize) unconsciously compensates for an underlying low self-esteem with bullying, blustering and braggadocchio.

“He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics,” clinical psychologist George Simon, who conducts lectures and seminars on manipulative behavior recently told Vanity Fair. “Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes. He’s like a dream come true.”

On the other hand, some of the world’s greatest political and business leaders have also been labeled narcissists, from Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, to Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Elon Musk, and George Soros. Though difficult to live and work with, they’ve proved extremely valuable and productive members of society. We wouldn’t want to be without them.

But, as the Harvard Business Review recently wrote, “The danger is that narcissism can turn unproductive when, lacking self-knowledge and restraining anchors, narcissists become unrealistic dreamers. They nurture grand schemes and harbor the illusion that only circumstances or enemies block their success…

Given the large number of narcissists at the helm of corporations today, the challenge facing organizations is to ensure that such leaders do not self-destruct or lead the company to disaster.”

“…the very adulation that the narcissist demands can have a corrosive effect. As he expands, he listens even less to words of caution and advice.…The result is sometimes flagrant risk taking that can lead to catastrophe.”

Dr. George Simon, an expert on personality disorders, explains, “Narcissism becomes particularly “malignant” (i.e. malevolent, dangerous, harmful, incurable) when it goes beyond mere vanity and excessive self-focus. Malignant narcissists not only see themselves as superior to others but believe in their superiority to the degree that they view others as relatively worthless, expendable, and justifiably exploitable.

“This type of narcissism is a defining characteristic of psychopathy/sociopathy and is rooted in an individual’s deficient capacity for empathy.  It’s almost impossible for a person with such shallow feelings and such haughtiness to really care about others or to form a conscience with any of the qualities we typically associate with a humane attitude, which is why most researchers and thinkers on the topic of psychopathy think of psychopaths as individuals without a conscience altogether.”

Extreme narcissists, we are told, lash out brutally at those who would dare question their talent or goals. They lie, cheat, change their story from one moment to the next; ignore anything that might challenge their view of the world or of themselves.

According to a recent cover story in Time about Donald Trump and Narcissism,  “Trump indeed appears to be emotionally incontinent, a man wholly without—you should pardon the expression—any psychic sphincter. The boundary most people draw between thought and speech, between emotion and action, does not appear to exist for Trump. He says what he wants to say, insults whom he wants to insult, and never, ever considers apology or retreat.”

“Make no mistake,” warns Dr. Simon, “no one is more dangerous than a person who sets him or herself above others to the point that he or she feels entitled to prey on those viewed as inferior

So, bottom line, in light of such warnings about how the dangers of malignant narcissists, after following the outrageous actions of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, why shouldn’t the American people demand assurances that Donald Trump–and all candidates for that matter—are mentally stable enough to become president of the United States.

More bluntly, why on earth should America’s leaders knowingly let a nut-case take over the White House?

At the very least, why not insist that that all the candidates undergo some kind of psychiatric examination?  That would of course include Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz—seemingly another mentally–challenged figure.

More articles by:

BARRY LANDO is a former producer for 60 Minutes. He is the author of  “Deep Strike” a novel about Russian hacking, rogue CIA agents, and a new American president. He can be reached at: barrylando@gmail.com or through his website.

Weekend Edition
August 07, 2020
Friday - Sunday
John Davis
The COVID Interregnum
Louis Yako
20 Postcard Notes From Iraq: With Love in the Age of COVID-19
Patrick Cockburn
War and Pandemic Journalism: the Truth Can Disappear Fast
Eve Ottenberg
Fixing the COVID Numbers
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose
Paul Street
Trump is Not Conceding: This is Happening Here
Robert Hunziker
The World on Fire
Rob Urie
Neoliberal Centrists and the American Left
John Laforge
USAF Vet Could Face ‘20 Days for 20 Bombs’ for Protest Against US H-Bombs Stationed in Germany
Andrew Levine
Clyburn’s Complaint
Kavaljit Singh
Revisiting the Idea of Pigou Wealth Tax in the Time of Covid-19
Paul Ryder
Here Come the 1968 Mistakes Again
T.J. Coles
Fighting Over Kashmir Could Blow Up the Planet
David Macaray
Haven’t We All Known Guys Who Were Exactly like Donald Trump?
Conn Hallinan
What’s Driving the Simmering Conflict Between India and China
Joseph Natoli
American Failures: August, 2020
Ramzy Baroud
Apartheid or One State: Has Jordan Broken a Political Taboo?
Bruce Hobson
The US Left Needs Humility to Understand Mexican Politics
David Rosen
Easy Targets: Trump’s Attacks on Transgendered People
Ben Debney
The Neoliberal Virus
Evelyn Leopold
Is Netanyahu Serious About Annexing Jordan Valley?
Nicky Reid
When the Chickens Came Home to Roost In Portlandistan
Irma A. Velásquez Nimatuj
The Power of the White Man and His Symbols is Being De-Mystified
Kathy Kelly
Reversal: Boeing’s Flow of Blood
Brian Kelly
Ireland and Slavery: Framing Irish Complicity in the Slave Trade
Ariela Ruiz Caro
South American Nations Adopt Different COVID-19 Stategies, With Different Results
Ron Jacobs
Exorcism at Boston’s Old West Church, All Hallows Eve 1971
J.P. Linstroth
Bolsonaro’s Continuous Follies
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Right-Wing Populism and the End of Democracy
Dean Baker
Trump’s Real Record on Unemployment in Two Graphs
Michael Welton
Listening, Conflict and Citizenship
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump Is The Only One Who Should Be Going To School This Fall
John Feffer
America’s Multiple Infections
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Thinking Outside the Social Media Echo Chamber
Andrea Mazzarino
The Military is Sick
John Kendall Hawkins
How the Middle Half Lives
Graham Peebles
The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid
Robert P. Alvarez
The Next Coronavirus Bill Must Protect the 2020 Election
Greg Macdougall
Ottawa Bluesfest at Zibi: Development at Sacred Site Poses Questions of Responsibility
CounterPunch News Service
Tensions Escalate as Logging Work Commences Near Active Treesits in a Redwood Rainforest
Louis Proyect
The Low Magic of Charles Bukowski
Gloria Oladipo
Rural America Deserves a Real COVID-19 Response
Binoy Kampmark
Crossing the Creepy Line: Google, Deception and the ACCC
Marc Norton
Giants and Warriors Give Their Workers the Boot
David Yearsley
Celebration of Change
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail