Post scribe gets it right: Should we the people be concerned about Donald J. Trump's mental health?
In our view, the answer is obvious—yes. We think Trump's behavior and thinking are notably strange. If we plan to have a serious national discourse, we think it's time to take note of this disturbing fact.
As we noted last Thursday and also last Friday, it was our impression last week that Nicholas Kristof and Carl Bernstein were inching in the direction of some such declaration. In Sunday morning's Washington Post, Ruth Marcus dispensed with the winks and suggestions.
Marcus came right out and said it—we the people should be concerned about Trump's mental health..
In our view, Marcus got it right. Let's review what she said:
In hard copy, Marcus' column bore this headline: "An alarmingly erratic first week." As her actual column began, so did the semi-psychiatric language:
MARCUS (1/29/17): Week One of the Trump administration was among the most alarming in the history of the American presidency.According to Marcus, Trump's behavior has been "erratic" and "bizarre," to the point of being frightening.
There have been scarier weeks for the country, certainly—the Cuban missile crisis and the Sept. 11 attacks. There have been more tragic ones—the Sept. 11 attacks again, the terrible toll of wartime, the horror of four presidential assassinations.
There have been occasions of terrible presidential judgment—Franklin D. Roosevelt’s order to detain U.S. citizens and noncitizens of Japanese descent during World War II. And there have been moments of looming constitutional crisis—during Watergate alone, the Saturday Night Massacre, the showdown with the Supreme Court over the release of the tapes, the impeachment inquiry that resulted in Richard Nixon’s resignation.
But the first week of the Trump presidency was alarming in a different way, because the frightening part involved the president’s own erratic, even bizarre, behavior.
A bit later, she used semi-psychiatric language again, as Kristof and Bernstein had done:
MARCUS: And so it went, each day feeling scarier than the one before, and Trump’s sycophantic aides modeling his own fact-free rants—press secretary Sean Spicer’s falsehood-filled briefing-room tirade, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway’s brazen defense of “alternative facts,” chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s brutish admonition to the media to “keep its mouth shut.”According to Marcus, Trump's rants have involved some petty obsessions, and others she termed "delusional." We should be "rattled to the core," she said, by Trump's "unhinged behavior."
Trump himself outdid his petty obsession with crowd size with his delusional obsession with popular-vote fraud, first behind closed doors with incredulous congressional leaders, then for all the world to watch in his ABC interview. What was once delusional ego-salving now appears headed for official inquiry.
You will notice that my lament about the week is largely devoid of ideological content. That is not because his policy moves are not appalling—they are. But you don’t have to disagree with Trump’s policies to be rattled to the core by his unhinged behavior. Many congressional Republicans privately express concerns that range from apprehension to outright dread.
As Bernstein did on two occasions last week, Marcus suggested that congressional Republicans have been expressing concern (to the point of "outright dread") about Trump's erratic, unhinged behavior. Finally, as she ended her column, she made her meaning clear through use of an uncoded term:
MARCUS: There have been reasons to worry about other presidents’ mental health. Lyndon B. Johnson’s senior aides were so concerned about his behavior that they consulted psychiatrists. Nixon in the throes of Watergate was drunk and unstable, so much so that his defense secretary, James Schlesinger, reportedly ordered the military not to respond to White House orders without approval from him or the secretary of state. Still, other presidents’ outbursts occurred behind closed doors, and there was some hope that aides would intervene. Trump’s inner circle seems divided between enablers and inciters.Marcus made her meaning fairly clear. We should be concerned, even frightened, she said, about Trump's "mental health."
What is to be done? In a meeting last week with The Post editorial board, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Oversight Committee, said he was weighing legislation to require presidents to undergo an independent medical examination, including for mental health. Chaffetz cautioned that he wasn’t “talking about some of the rhetoric that’s flying around” about Trump. Still, he said, “If you’re going to have your hands on the nuclear codes, you should probably know what kind of mental state you’re in.”
That can’t happen soon enough.
We agree with that assessment. Having said that, let's add this:
For fifty years, the country has been well served by the so-called "Goldwater rule." As part of that informal agreement, people have generally avoided making psychiatry part of the political discourse.
That rule served us well for fifty years. In the past few years, the rule has started to fail us.
Make no mistake—if the Goldwater rule is abandoned, it will create a new Babel. Every crackpot and his crazy uncle will soon be offering psychiatric assessments of every major pol.
Despite that fact, we think it's good that Marcus has spoken as clearly as this. Because of his delusional thinking and weird behavior, Donald Trump strikes us as dangerous. Judging from appearances, he has problems with his mental health—and he has the nation's nuclear codes.
It seems to us that this situation should be discussed. We think other sensible scribes should build upon Marcus' platform.
Tomorrow: We consider a few percentages