THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2023
Dr. Dodes describes Donald Trump: As he has occasionally done in the past, Lawrence O'Donnell spoke with Dr. Lance Dodes in the final segment of last evening's Last Word.
Who the heck is Dr. Dodes? At the start of the brief closing segment, Lawrence let viewers know:
Joining us now is Dr. Lance Dodes, retired assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Dodes is a contributor to the best-selling  book. The Dangerous Cast of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.
That book was assembled by Dr. Bandy X. Lee, who was, at the time, a psychiatrist at Yale.
Why does Donald J. Trump behave in the ways he does? In the first year of Trump's presidency, the book examined that highly important question.
As Lawrence noted, the book became a New York Times best-seller, but it was largely ignored by the upper-end press. For better or worse, the following is still plainly true:
Psychiatry of the type explored within the book may be a part of 20th century medical science. But our major news orgs largely agree that it can't be part of 21st century journalism, at least not where major political figures are involved.
We're left with a stunningly bowdlerized account of Trump's extremely unusual conduct. We're stripped of the chance to hear carefully selected medical specialists offer their best estimates of where things might go next.
O'Donnell has been one of the very few high-end journalists to permit such discussions—in this case, on high nightly cable news show.
That isn't to say that he's done a good job in his intermittent, brief interviews with Dr. Dodes. But last night, the last of his five exchanges with Dodes gave viewers a chance to hear this:
DODES (6/14/23): I think to the extent that the trials are able to go forward, despite his bluster, despite the possible bias of the judge in Miami, to the extent they go forward, he will look worse and worse. He won't be worse and worse, but it will be less of a veneer. We will see how much of a psychopath he is.
I mean, that's the psychiatric explanation. He is fundamentally different from normal people, and we'll see more and more of that.
For the second time in this five-minute exchange, Se. Dodes described Trump as a psychopath. He wasn't asked to explain what that term means, but he did say this:
"He is fundamentally different from normal people."
Donald Trump is fundamentally different from normal people! In a less nonrational realm, that would be the start of a discussion of antisocial personality disorder, the clinical term for the severe disorder being diagnosed here, not the end of a five-minute segment at the end of an hour-long show.
We can think of many questions we'd like to see Dr. Dodes (and others) respond to. Has Trump been this way from childhood? Possibly even om birth? Could this be an organic disorder over which he, and others so afflicted, lack any basic control?
(Think colorblindness, or allergies.)
Also, is it possible that Trump believes the baldly inaccurate things he says? Earlier, Dodes said this, and Lawrence let it pass:
DODES: I think he is aware of the threat to him [in the difficult road ahead]. I don't think he is capable of being aware that he has actually done something that is a problem.
Dodes doesn't think that Trump is capable of being aware that he has actually done something that is a problem?
Does that mean that he truly believes his endless ridiculous claims? Lawrence didn't stop to ask, and the segment hurried along.
What does it mean to be afflicted by antisocial personality disorder? For starters, is "afflicted" even the right word?
We'd prefer to inhabit a realm where rational discourse was permitted, possibly even encouraged. Instead, our journalists have almost wholly split into tribes. They offer selective presentations designed to entertain and flatter their segregated audiences, and they agree that they'll never discuss what they all surely believe.
We're restricted to one-handed typing today, and so we'll stop right here. For a longer excerpt from Dr. Dodes, we'll link you to this June 1 essay at Salon.
For our money, the author of that essay is much too strongly inclined to politicize and tribalize this type of discussion. But that author, Chauncey DeVega, is right as rain on this point
DEVEGA (6/1/23): For all its strengths, however, this new reporting by The Washington Post continues with the same dangerous choice(s) that has plagued and undermined the mainstream news media's ability to accurately and effectively communicate to the public the extreme dangers to American society and democracy embodied by Donald Trump and the Republican fascists and larger MAGA movement: No mental health experts were quoted or otherwise featured in the text of the article.
DeVega believes it, and we agree:
You can't conduct a serious discussion of Donald J. Trump without contributions from mental health specialists.
At present, that isn't allowed in our major newspapers. Our national discourse, such as it is, lies in the hands of an unusual breed:
It lies in the hands of nonrational animals who went to the finest schools!
Tomorrow: IN RE Hillary's emails