WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2020
Who is Donald J. Trump?: Early this morning (Eastern time), a fully engaged commander-in-chief delivered winged words to his people.
The commander revealed that he had spotted a "major fraud." He vowed that he was on his way to the nation's Supreme Court.
In the wake of his action, a question arises: Who is Donald J. Trump? We turn today to the published assessment of his niece, Mary L. Trump.
Mary Trump's best-seller, Too Much and Never Enough, was published in July of this year. In her prologue, she described her training and experience as a clinical psychologist.
Who is Donald J. Trump? In her Prologue and in her Chapter One, Mary Trump used her training and her professional experience as she addressed that question. She also used her family experience and her knowledge of Trump family history.
Who the heck is Donald J. Trump? In Chapter One of her best-selling book, Mary Trump describes her uncle's extremely difficult upbringing. In part, the difficulty of his upbringing resulted from his mother's ongoing physical ailments from the time he was two years old.
Deprived of a mother's attention and affection, Donald J. Trump's only active parent was his father, Fred Trump. In Chapter One, Mary Trump described this man—her own grandfather—in the following way:
TRUMP (page 24): Whereas [Trump's mother] was needy, [Trump's father] seemed to have no needs at all. In fact, he was a high-functioning sociopath. Although uncommon, sociopathy is not rare, afflicting as much as three percent of the population. Seventy-five percent of those afflicted are men. Symptoms of sociopathy include a lack of empathy, a facility for lying, an indifference to right and wrong, abusive behavior, and a lack of interest in the rights of others. Having a sociopath as a parent, especially if there is no one around to mitigate the effects, all but guarantees sever disruption in the way children understand themselves, regulate their emotion and engage with the world.
In that passage, Mary Trump described Donald Trump's father as "a high-functioning sociopath." She described the difficulties awaiting the child who's unlocky enough to have "a sociopath as a parent."
In this context, we'll guess that the term "sociopath" might be unfamiliar, and puzzling, to many people. We'll guess that most people would be surprised, and perhaps a bit puzzled, to be told that three percent of the population is afflicted by this disorder—a number which rises to roughly five percent in the case of adult men.
What does it mean to say that something like five percent of American men are "afflicted" with—could be diagnosed with—this psychiatric disorder? We'll guess that very few of us the people are in a position to say.
In this society, we often picture "sociopaths" in their Hollywood raiment. We may tend to picture the Hannibal Lecters of the world when we hear that frightening term.
As best we ourselves understand it, most "sociopaths" actually aren't mass murderers. Except in the figurative sense, they don't have bodies buried in their basements. They don't make a point of frightening Jodie Foster.
Mary Trump's Chapter One starts on page 21. In the early passage we've posted, she offers a quick thumbnail portrait of a "high-functioning sociopath."
Such people will typically display "a lack of empathy, a facility for lying, an indifference to right and wrong, abusive behavior, and a lack of interest in the rights of others," she rather briefly says.
Mary Trump's book might have been more instructive if she'd spent more time discussing and explaining the fact that a "sociopath" can also be "high-functioning." (We recall discussing this fact decades ago with comedian NAME WITHHELD, who told us that his own father had fit that description.)
How can a sociopath also be high-functioning? It's possible that Mary Trump should have discussed this point at greater length. That's especially true, because at an earlier point, in her book's Prologue, she'd come close to diagnosing her uncle, Donald J. Trump, the sitting commander-in-chief:
MARY TRUMP (page 12): In the last three years, I’ve watched as countless pundits, armchair psychologists and journalists have kept missing the mark, using phrases such as "malignant narcissism" and "narcissistic personality disorder" in an attempt to make sense of Donald’s often bizarre and self-defeating behavior. I have no problem calling Donald a narcissist—he meets all nine criteria as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—but the label only gets us so far.
[Clinical] experiences showed me time and again that diagnosis doesn't exist in a vacuum. Does Donald have other symptoms we aren't aware of? Are there other disorders that might have as much or more explanatory power? Maybe. A case could be made that he also meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which in its most severe forms is generally considered sociopathy but can also refer to chronic criminality, arrogance, and disregard for the rights of others. Is there comorbodity? Probably. Donald may also meet some of the criteria for dependent personality disorder, the hallmarks of which include an inability to make decisions or take responsibility, discomfort with being alone, and going to excessive lengths to obtain support from others. Are there other factors that should be considered? Absolutely. He may have had a long-undiagnosed learning disability that for decades interfered with his ability to process information...
The fact is, Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for.
In that passage, Mary Trump seemed to say that her uncle could be diagnosed with "narcissistic personality disorder." She plainly said "a case can be made" that the commander "meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, which in its most severe forms is generally considered sociopathy."
Mary Trump flatly declared that her grandfather was a sociopath. In that passage, she seemed reluctant to offer a specific diagnosis of her uncle, the man who offered winged words this morning.
That said, she seemed to say that the sitting commander is likely a "sociopath" too. Early this morning, the commander emerged to warn us about a "major fraud" he'd spotted.
Mary Trump's remarkable book includes a remarkable claim. Also remarkable is the extent to which the modern American upper-end press corps has refused to discuss her claims.
She said that her uncle, the sitting commander, may well be "afflicted" with sociopathy. Along the way, she told a very sympathetic family story about the way a two-year-child may have ended up that way.
Her grandfather was a sociopath; her uncle may be one too. Last night, her uncle appeared in public to describe a "major fraud."
Tomorrow, we'll discuss the remarkable way the press corps chose to ignore Mary Trump's diagnosis. We'll discuss the way Mary Trump seems to have played along with this silence herself.
Is this president afflicted with a severe psychiatric disorder? And if he actually is so afflicted, what's everyone else's excuse?
Tomorrow: What is a "national discourse?"
Friday: Anthropologists muse