As­sess­ing a pres­i­dent’s be­hav­ior

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - OPINION - SOLITA COLLAS-MONSOD

Abook ti­tled “The Dan­ger­ous Case of Don­ald Trump—27 Psy­chi­a­trists and Men­tal Health Ex­perts As­sess a Pres­i­dent” has just been pub­lished, and warn­ing bells started peal­ing in my­mind as I read its re­views and part of its con­tents.

The con­tents have very in­trigu­ing ti­tles, which we may rec­og­nize be­cause of lo­cal par­al­lelisms, to wit: “Patho­log­i­cal Nar­cis­sism and Pol­i­tics: A Lethal Mix.” “Trump is (A) Bad, (B) Bad, (C) All of the Above.” “Should Psy­chi­a­trists Re­frain from Com­ment­ing on Trump’s Psy­chol­ogy?” “In Re­la­tion­ship with an Abu­sive Pres­i­dent.” Etc., etc.

None of these ex­perts have ever per­son­ally ex­am­ined Trump, and in the United States there is the so-called Gold­wa­ter rule, im­posed by the Amer­i­can Psy­chi­atric As­so­ci­a­tion ( APA), gag­ging psy­chi­a­trists from com­ment­ing on the men­tal health of any pub­lic fig­ure. On the other hand, there is in 33 Amer­i­can states a “duty to warn” law, and this is al­legedly en­shrined in the eth­i­cal code of ev­ery men­tal health pro­fes­sion in that coun­try. Ap­par­ently, the 27 psy­chi­a­trists were of the opin­ion that their duty to warn was more im­por­tant than the APA gag, and de­cided to as­sess Trump.

“We need to avoid un­crit­i­cal ac­cep­tance of this new ver­sion of ma­lig­nant nor­mal­ity and, in­stead, bring our knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence to ex­pos­ing it for what it is,” says Robert Jay Lifton, MD, who is ac­knowl­edged as one of the top, if not the top, men­tal health ex­perts, on Trump’s be­hav­ior. Another con­trib­u­tor says, “Ev­ery time he does, we need to point it out, to pre­vent the ab­nor­mal from be­ing nor­mal­ized. We need to look for news hooks and pounce.”

John Gart­ner, PhD, one of the con­trib­u­tors, started a pe­ti­tion for men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to sign, de­mand­ing that Trump be re­moved from of­fice un­der the 25th Amend­ment; it now has more than 48,000 sig­na­tures. He founded Duty to Warn, an as­so­ci­a­tion of men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als united by the idea that it is their eth­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity to warn the pub­lic about the dan­gers posed by Don­ald Trump’s men­tal health.

The book’s con­trib­u­tors are not wackos. They are at the top of their pro­fes­sions, and sin­cerely be­lieve that Trump is a dan­ger to their coun­try.

Reader, one can­not have failed to no­tice (I called at­ten­tion to this ear­lier) the par­al­lelisms be­tween Mr. Trump and our Pres­i­dent. There are two ma­jor dif­fer­ences, and the first is that Pres­i­dent Duterte has been psy­cho­log­i­cally ex­am­ined, be­cause it was a req­ui­site for mar­riage an­nul­ment pro­ceed­ings. And as I men­tioned in a pre­vi­ous col­umn, his ex­am­iner was Dr. Na­tivi­dad Dayan, for­mer pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Coun­cil of Psy­chol­o­gists.

Dr. Dayan con­cluded that Mr. Duterte was suf­fer­ing from “An­ti­so­cial Nar­cis­sis­tic Per­son­al­ity Dis­or­der,” a con­di­tion char­ac­ter­ized by “gross in­dif­fer­ence, in­sen­si­tiv­ity and self-cen­tered­ness,” “grandiose sense of self-en­ti­tle­ment and ma­nip­u­la­tive be­hav­iors,” and “per­va­sive ten­dency to de­mean, hu­mil­i­ate others and vi­o­late their rights and feel­ings.” Does that sound fa­mil­iar?

The sec­ond ma­jor dif­fer­ence is that Trump pre­sides over ar­guably the most pow­er­ful coun­try in the world, while Mr. Duterte pre­sides over the Philip­pines, a lower-mid­dle-class coun­try. How­ever, over the 100 million plus res­i­dents of the Philip­pines Mr. Duterte does have the power of life and death—fig­u­ra­tively, and to some, lit­er­ally.

There­fore, at the very least, don’t we cit­i­zens have the right to know about our Pres­i­dent’s men­tal health? Is his be­hav­ior noth­ing more than that of a spoiled brat, an en­fant ter­ri­ble with a dirty mouth, as his han­dlers make him ap­pear to be, or is it more sin­is­ter?

I have made this sug­ges­tion be­fore, but in the light of the new book on Trump, I make it again: Our Philip­pine Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, or what­ever psy­cho­log­i­cal or psy­chi­atric as­so­ci­a­tions should get to­gether, with or with­out Dr. Dayan’s pres­ence, and as­sess the Pres­i­dent’s be­hav­ior, based on her re­port and based on what they read about him. I am­sure that in­for­mally, they have al­ready done that. But in the in­ter­ests of the coun­try, we have to know: Is the Pres­i­dent fit to pre­side over our fates, or should we be warned? Does he still have that nar­cis­sis­tic per­son­al­ity dis­or­der?

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