Sullivan follows suit: Wednesday evening, Lawrence O'Donnell got it right.
He got it right right on the air! Here's the way it went down:
Donald J. Trump had seemed to be behaving so oddly that even the children had noticed. For that reason, and to his credit, O'Donnell started his program as shown below, once he'd finished his standard cloying exchange with Rachel.
It's the highlighted part of O'Donnell's remarks to which we directly refer:
O'DONNELL (8/21/19): Well, Donald Trump is behaving like a man who sees his presidency slipping away. His re-election polls are consistently bad for him. And now, what he thought was his strongest claim to re-election, the performance of the economy, is no long area sure thing in the president`s mind and—or in reality.Say what? O'Donnell was going to "take a professional look" at Donald J. Trump's "mental health?" Is that sort of thing allowed?
And so, he is blasting out enraged tweets at the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who he appointed. He is admitting that the government might have to bail out one of the most successful companies in the history of American capitalism, Apple, because the Trump tariffs are hurting Apple so badly and the president knows that.
The global economy is beginning to stagger under the weight of the Trump tariffs, which could begin costing American voters $1,000 a year. More American voters are realizing every day they are paying the Trump tariffs and China does not pay one penny of the Trump tariffs.
The Trump White House is having panicked meetings about what to do about the economy, cutting payroll taxes, an idea the president has reportedly embraced and then rejected, and then embraced and then rejected. Some of those embraces and rejections have occurred in the same day.
But tax cuts can only be done by the Congress, and the House of Representatives will not cut payroll taxes without dramatically increasing taxes on the richest Americans. In other words, restoring the Obama tax rates on the rich to replace the Trump tax cut for the rich.
All of this is maddening to Donald Trump—and so he is behaving this week as a mad king. And that is not my phrase. That's the kind of comment about the president we are hearing and seeing everywhere now.
And so, it is one of those nights when we're going to have to take another professional look at the mental health of the president of the United States.
On that morning's Morning Joe, three of the children had rather plainly refused to do so, apparently keeping themselves in line with company policy concerning this awkward matter. They've played it that way on Morning Joe roughly since forever.
O'Donnell was playing a different game. As he continued, he said this:
O'DONNELL (continuing directly): Former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Lance Dodes joined us on this program one month into the Trump presidency, in 2017, to warn us about the president's mental health because he felt what psychiatrists call "a duty to warn."Dodes did appear that night. He was interviewed about Trump's mental health during one full solo segment.
He told us then that the president's mental condition was only going to get worse. Dr. Dodes is back with us tonight. We will hear from him later in this hour.
You can read Dodes' remarks in Wednesday evening's transcript. In the segment which followed, you can see O'Donnell interviewing two MSNBC pundits about what Dodes said.
All too predictably, they dissembled, joked and generally talked around this important topic, which has been "incredibly taboo, and rightfully so. It's not an easy thing to talk about."
Or so one of the pundits said.
Actually, the question of Donald Trump's mental health is an extremely easy thing to discuss. You just have to avoid the careerist obedients who serve as pundits and entertainers on corporate "cable news."
You have to direct sensible, respectful questions at someone who may bring expertise to the table, while remembering that "expertise," of whatever type, is always imperfect and fallible.
That's what O'Donnell did when he spoke with Dodes. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan followed suit. He did so in his weekly essay for New York magazine:
SULLIVAN (8/23/19): [Trump's] psychological disorder—the narcissism that guards against any hint of his own absurdity—is getting obviously worse. And it was always going to get worse. Someone with malignant narcissism has a familiar path, as Elizabeth Mika presciently wrote the week after his inauguration:Sullivan isn't a psychiatrist or a psychological specialist, and he knows he isn't.
"It’s not only that he will never get better, but it is certain that he will get worse. There has never been a case of a malignant narcissist in power whose pathology improved, or even remained stable: They always deteriorate, and often rapidly, as they become drunk on (what they see as) now unlimited power and adulation."
Elizabeth Mika is! Like Dodes, she's one of the psychiatrists who contributed essays to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, the 2017 book which a Yale psychiatrist compiled and the upper-end press disappeared.
The press corps has been working under the so-called Goldwater Rule. According to this ancient holding, psychiatric analysis should be banned from political journalism.
This rule dates to the 1964 presidential campaign. It's a very sound journalistic rule—until such time as a sitting president seems to be in the grip of a serious mental health problem.
On Thursday night's Hardball, a panel comprised of the usual pundits was still joking and laughing and enjoying themselves as they pretended to discuss the president's recent behavior. It's amazing to see how amusing such things can be, if you're being overpaid and you're getting TV-famous.
O'Donnell took a different approach; Sullivan followed suit. For Elizabeth Mika's fuller statement in 2017, you can (apparently) just click here.
We can't swear that she was right. But this is the saner discussion.
Rachel was clowning around last night, filling our heads with sugarplums about how great all our candidates are. Two nights earlier, Lawrence had gotten it right.
Yesterday, Sullivan followed suit. We'll leave you with this one last thought:
If Trump is suffering from some severe disorder, that's cause for pity, not loathing. We "pity the poor [metaphorical] immigrant" here. We're willing to guess that this approach would produce improved political outcomes.
We "pity the poor immigrant" here. You can try it too.