Lawrence O'Donnell gets it right!


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.

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.
Say what? O'Donnell was going to "take a professional look" at Donald J. Trump's "mental health?" Is that sort of thing allowed?

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."

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.
Dodes did appear that night. He was interviewed about Trump's mental health during one full solo segment.

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:

"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."
Sullivan isn't a psychiatrist or a psychological specialist, and he knows he isn't.

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.


  1. Narcissistic personality disorder is not "mental illness". It is a dysfunctional way of coping with life's challenges. The term "mental illness is generally reserved for what used to be called Axis I disorders, including schizophrenia, mood and anxiety disorders, the kinds of problems that arise from underlying organic causes (brain malfunction) and prevent a person from functioning at all, typically requiring hospitalization and thereafter, medication.

    But Somerby throws the term around (as does Trump) as if his layman's diagnosis meant anything at all.

    Then he reverts to his insulting immigrant metaphor (which arose from Somerby's misapplication of a Bob Dylan lyric). The problems discussed by Dylan are not any sort of mental illness but refer to greed and lack of empathy, more often traits accompanying sociopathy/psychopathy and Machivellianism, again not mental illness but personality disorders.

    Personality doesn't change. It is, by definition, a fixed method of dealing with people and situations, a way of living that transcends place and time. In therapy, you can modify specific behaviors, but you cannot change a person's personality. That narcissism is personality, not illness, no matter how dysfunctional it gets.

    But Somerby doesn't care whether Trump is mentally ill or not. He wants to use that purported diagnosis to excuse Trump, to buy him some compassion when he deserves none. Trump is harming our country and has harmed countless individuals and if he is not stopped, he will do more harm. THAT is the reason to remove him, to stop him. Not some illness being used as a way of attacking him by the experts shows manage to dig up, much like the body language experts Fox News used to dig up to say bad things about Hillary and other liberal politicians, to prove they are lying or weak or guilty of awfulness. No reputable psychiatrist or psychologist will diagnose someone on TV without any systematic assessment, no matter how weird that person behaves. Because psychiatric diagnosis is complex and there are major consequences for getting it wrong. But you can always find someone lacking in ethics to do a hit job, and it is unnecessary in this case, because Trump's ineffectiveness in office, his lying, his misbehavior should provide sufficient cause to remove him without increasing the stigma and decreasing public acceptance of those who actually do have mental illnesses.

  2. "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."

    Bad things are happening so no one can ever laugh again. No time for fun or entertainment or pleasure and love is way out. Everyone must go around with long faces and put away the games and books and forget about smiling until the good times return.

    Movie ticket sales boomed during the depression because people sought diversion. The time for humor and laughter is during dark days. The time for human connection and games and fun is when people need cheering up. Somerby has this ass backwards. I am glad these paid news analysts can lighten things up for us, since otherwise the gloom might make it difficult to persist with the difficult business of carrying on in the face of Trump and his minions, the sure knowledge that humanity is failing the earth and that people put someone like Trump into office just when we urgently need to fix our planet. Should we all cry? If those on TV are crying, what hope for the rest of us? Their job is to do exactly what Somerby complains about and I am glad they are still doing it.

  3. "Sullivan isn't a psychiatrist or a psychological specialist, and he knows he isn't."

    Sullivan supposedly knows his limitations and yet he wrote what he did. That suggests he doesn't know.

    Somerby has praised Sullivan fairly frequently over the past year or so. Sullivan is a Republican who supported Hillary over Trump. But he is still a Republican, a conservative, not someone a liberal blogger would quote so often and so warmly.

  4. "Actually, the question of Donald Trump's mental health is an extremely easy thing to discuss."

    Sure, Bob, clown away.

    One question you might want to consider, though, is why a "mentally ill" had won the election against your zombie psycho-queen -- all while spending half of the money she spent, without her zombie army on the ground, and with the massive resistance of your establishment zombie media.

    That's what you should be pondering, not what your zombie cult's hacks and bullshit 'experts' say. We know what they'll say.

    Yeah, and God willing he'll do it again in 2020.

  5. The word, "Obviously", is a cop out.

    Sullivan wrote: "[Trump's] psychological disorder—the narcissism that guards against any hint of his own absurdity—is getting obviously worse."

    "Obviously" is what one says when one doesn't have actual proof of one's allegation. IMHO nothing is getting worse. Trump uses outlandish exaggerations that are designed to get him media coverage, but that's not new.

    1. Nothing is new with Trump. He's your standard issue Reagan Republican, from the racism to the lack of understanding about economics and all the rest of the nonsense in between.

    2. Punditry is fun.

      We can all argue, discuss, and pity (?) Mr. Trump's mental state as much as we wish, for our own amusement. It doesn't mean anything concrete until/unless "the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet recommend the removal of the president in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” which allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the president’s objection by two-thirds vote."

      Not happening, so why bother discussing it? Instead, discuss productive ways to work around him, such as state-level and even local initiatives.

      Q: Whadaya do with a whirling dervish? A: Let him whirl.

    3. mm - I don't see the "chaos and disruption". Can you give some examples?

    4. That's it, David. You are voted off this island.

  6. Trump is a bully and he has embarrassed our country again.

    He picks on a small country, Denmark, with no strategic importance, but nevertheless a long time ally. Then he kicks sand in the face of the Queen by (1) trying to buy Greenland, and (2) canceling a state dinner that he had previously requested, and (3) calling the Danish PM a nasty person. Note that the word nasty applied to a woman has a special connotation that it doesn't have when applied to a storm or a head cold.

    This is more than just trying to attract attention or win a news cycle. He is no doubt getting back at every person in Manhattan who called him crass and boorish, by affronting those who have the ability to make him feel small, just by who they are.

    If he did that in his business life or his personal life, no one would mind, but doing this in international politics right before a G7 meeting doesn't enhance his stature. It makes him repulsive to anyone who is not also a bully. I cringe that our country is represented by someone like him.

    And this has nothing to do with mental illness. It has to do with having too much money and never giving a shit about anyone. No man can be said to be powerful when he is held in thrall to compulsions like that.

    Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan spent all of his spare time trashing Hillary, then warned everyone that Trump might win, then said "I told you so," when it was morons like him (and Somerby) that made such a prediction a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Somerby might predict again that Trump will win another term, but it would be better for him to ask what he has done lately to stop that from happening. (Hint: the answer starts with "nothing")

    1. Embarrassing the US is a very small sin for a President. How many American's died because President Obama escalated a pointless, unwinnable war in Afghanistan? How many of us died in George W. Bush's foolish efforts to establish an American-style democracy in Iraq?

    2. I would wager that none of "us" died or we would not be writing comments here.

      Trump is escalating a pointless border war, but worse than that, he is endangering the entire planet by obstructing scientific research and trying to derail efforts to slow global warming. He will not be remembered for that if there is no one left alive on the planet after he does his worst.

    3. It makes him repulsive to anyone who is not also a bully. I cringe that our country is represented by someone like him.

      David finds him, what's the word?, ah yes, "charming".

      He is the President* of the United States of America, followed by the largest press corps devoted to one single person on the face of the planet. Every word he tweets or speaks is covered by an army of observers and commenters and governments word wide.

      Naturally, David, the treasonous bastard, thinks he lies like a mentally disturbed megalomaniacal narcissistic lunatic because he wants to get "media coverage"! Bwahahaha!!

      This is a cult we're dealing with. It is useless to try to discuss as though you're talking to a rational person anymore.

      How many of us died

      Us? Who is "us" Kemosabe.
      By the way, who is George W. Bush? I don't recognize this republican president you and your party of treasonous bastard cowards have erased from recent history. Go Tea Party!!!! Deficits! Deficits! Deficits!

    4. DinC,
      In your fervid imagination Obama stated the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
      Who the hell is G.W. Bush?
      Who ordered Bin-Laden killed?

      You lying sack of shit.

    5. “You are an actuary, so when are you going to die?”

      If we’re having a pool, put me down for Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020, 30 seconds after the polls close.

    6. DinC,
      At regular intervals, Trump kisses PUtin's ass, and vouches for the good intentions of Kim Jong Un every time N.Korea launches a missile.

      At least California is pretty close to N.Korea.

      You are a stupid, lying sack of shit.

    7. 8:42 Obama campaigned on escalating the war in Afghanistan.

    8. Obama promised to end the war by 2014. The increase in forces was intended to do that. He didn't keep that promise, but let's be fair about what his campaign promises were.

    9. David supports global climate change because he hates his grandchildren.
      You would too, if you met the little bastards.

  7. I think people need to ask themselves if they want to call the president mentally ill because they feel more secure looking down on sick people, or because it's actually necessary to do so. It would be incredibly dangerous to make mental illness a wedge issue -- not just a wedge issue, but a righteous thing to hurl against the most hated person in the country.

    All that said, he's obviously never had compassion for weakness or regret. Nobody in his family ever bothered to look into that, so you can even broaden it and ask whether Europeans can even be pathologized at all when they obey our culture's expectations of merciless businessmen.

  8. This is Andrew Sullivan:

  9. One attempt to interpret Pity the Poor Immigrant, by Tony Attwood, says:

    "Really the song isn’t that complex. If you are as bitter as the immigrant and adopt as simplistic a vision of life as the immigrant, then inevitably when you get one of the simple things that you believe will make your life perfect and it doesn’t, you get fairly fed up.

    So I don’t see the immigrant making a free choice between good and evil and choosing evil. I see him as a guide stuck in that simplistic vision of the world that says, if only I could do this or have that or get the other, everything would be perfect.

    In the end I don’t think it is a particularly important song, and I keep coming back to the notion that Dylan perhaps found the phrase, and just played with it."

    He says it is a Leviticus approach to following a set of rules to find happiness. The "immigrant" thinks that changing to a different location will improve his life because that new place promises riches. When he gets there, however, he finds that the new place is much like the old one. So, you cannot change your life by changing superficial elements of it, such as location.

    Attwood runs through the use of immigrant in Scottish and Irish ballads to refer to wayfarers and itinerant ramblers. He talks about how such songs often turn dark. But he also traces phrases from the lyrics to Leviticus, then discards the idea that Dylan intended the religious instruction. Then he winds up with the idea that you can wander all you like but simply changing location doesn't let you escape yourself, and how disappointing that must be to the traveler.

    I have no idea what Somerby has intended with his Dylan quotes, but his likening of the immigrant to Trump with his distorted personality and wealth (and dislike of travel) makes no sense at all in any common interpretation of the song, either on the face or as Dylan may have intended it.

    1. Somerby perhaps grabbed that lyric because it talks about pitying and he wants us all to pity Trump, for some reason.

  10. Wow, this was both boring and amazingly incoherent. Somerby's losing his marbles.

  11. Off topic: Bob so often complains about high medical costs. Here's a plan to fix the problem:

    The U.S. can slash health-care costs 75% with 2 fundamental changes — and without ‘Medicare for All’

    two simple policy changes could slash U.S. health-care costs by 75% while increasing access and improving the quality of care.

    These policies have been proven to work by ingenious companies like Whole Foods and innovative governments like the state of Indiana and Singapore. If they were rolled out nationally, the United States would save $2.4 trillion per year across individuals, businesses, and the government.

  12. Stormy Daniels will take down Trump. Remember that one? Another thing Bob was right about and you idiots got wrong.

    1. The "religion" of Evangelicals is bigotry.
      The President cheating on his wife with a porn actress, and committing multiple crimes to cover it up, isn't even a blip on their radar.
      OTOH, if the President calls for reparations for slavery...