The Dangerous Case Of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, by Bandy Lee, M.D., M.Div. (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017, New York, NY, 360 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
October 24, 2017 (San Diego) - Bandy X. Lee, M.D., M.Div., Assistant Clinical Professor in Law and Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, has written a timely and provocative book about our President; The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.
After seeing the author recently being interviewed for this book on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”, I reached out to the publisher, and they sent me the book for review.
Constrained by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which inhibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined, those who would know the most shied away from discussing Trump’s mental health status. Others struggle to find the line between not diagnosing and another ethical duty to warn. In other words, he could be mad, bad, or both – and both is a toxic combination.
In this book, edited by Dr. Lee, more than two dozen psychiatrists, psychologists, and other professionals argue that their civic and ethical “duty to warn” and “duty to protect” America supercede professional neutrality.
This book by Dr. Bandy X. Lee, and 27 other Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts, specifically state: “There are those who still hold out hope this president can be prevailed upon to reason and curb his erratic behavior. Our professional experience would suggest otherwise. We collectively warn that anyone as mentally unstable as this man simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.”
Once within the murky depths of the human brain, it’s harder to come by one discrete answer, but the conclusion is the same. The experts trace Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses and find a complex, if dangerous, man. Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword write about his “unbridled and extreme present hedonism.” Gail Sheehy writes about his lack of trust. Craig Malkin writes on narcissistic personality disorder. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Michael Tansey, on delusional disorder. John Gartner, on Bipolar Spectrum Disorder. And James Gilligan, on the potential for violence. This is scary stuff!
It’s not all in his head. From trauma experienced by individuals under the Trump administration to the cult-like phenomenon that put him in office, THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP shows how unprecedented mental health consequences have afflicted our nation and beyond.
Lee, has earned degrees at Yale, interned at Bellevue, was Chief Resident at Mass General, and was a Research Fellow at Harvard Medical School. She was also a Fellow of the National Institute of Mental Health. Lee has worked in several maximum-security prisons, cofounded Yale’s Violence and Health Study Group, and leads a violence prevention collaborators group for the World Health Organization. She’s written more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, edited eleven academic books, and is author of the textbook Violence. Previously nonpartisan and politically inactive, she has recently held a conference at Yale School of Medicine on the ethical rules about discussing the dangerousness of a presidency due to mental instability.
Interestingly, just recently one of Trump's campaign advisors, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. See plea agreement here.
The author and her contributors state: “There are those who still hold out hope that this president can be prevailed upon to listen and curb his erratic behavior. Our professional experience would suggest otherwise. We collectively warn that anyone as mentally unstable as this man simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.”
Recent events and comments, such as threatening to destroy North Korea, picking fights with Senator John McCain and the National Football League, suggests that nothing is going to change.
San Antonio Spurs (NBA) coach Gregg Popovich has called President Donald Trump a “soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others” in response to Trump’s comment recently that President Barack Obama and other commanders in chief “didn’t make calls to families of fallen soldiers”.
In an ongoing war of words, Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker harshly criticized President Trump anew, calling him an "utterly untruthful president" and saying he would not support his reelection. Trump countered by stating on Twitter; "Corker couldn't get elected dog catcher!"
President Trump also took a shot at black NFL players by pontificating that these players who refuse to stand for the national anthem should find another country, and specifically stated that the owners should “fire the SOB’s” if they did not stand for the national anthem. This is the same Trump that once took out a full page ad calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, after the “Central Park Five”, a group of black teenagers were implicated in the rape and death of a white female. These young men were later exonerated, after the actual culprit came forward and admitted to the deed.
Trump has also referred to United States District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel derisively as a “Mexican”, even though he was born and raised in Indiana. Judge Curiel was the judge in the “Trump University” case in San Diego.
Two of the mental health contributors in this book by Lee, Nanette Gartrell, M.D., and Dee Mosbacher, M.D., PH.D., have perhaps made the most significant and relevant chapter in this book; HE’S GOT THE WORLD IN HIS HANDS AND HIS FINGER ON THE TRIGGER, “The Twenty-Fifth Amendment Solution”.
These doctors state: “In 1994, President Jimmy Carter lamented the fact that we have no way of ensuring that the person entrusted with the nuclear arsenal is mentally and physically capable of fulfilling that responsibility (Carter 1994). Throughout U.S. history, presidents have suffered from serious psychiatric or medical conditions, most of which were unknown to the public.”
Gartrell and Mosbacher further state in this well documented book by Lee: “Since being sworn in, Mr. Trump’s impulsive, belligerent, careless, and irresponsible behavior has become even more apparent:”
- He has angry outbursts when facts conflict with his fantasies (Wagner 2017). The day after inauguration, he lashed out at the media for contradiction his claim that there were “a million, a million and a half people” on the Mall listening to his speech (Zaria 2017).
- His opposition to the press borders on paranoia (Page 2017). He screams at the television when his ties to Russia are mentioned (Pasha-Robinson) 2017). He calls the media “the enemy of the people” (Siddiqui 2017).
- He deflects the blame for failed operations, such as the air strike he authorized in Yemen that killed thirty civilians and a U.S. Navy Seal (Schmitt and Sanger 2017; Ware 2017).
- He makes false and unsubstantiated claims that are easily disputed, asserting, for instance, that the Yemen action yielded significant intelligence (McFadden et al. 2017), and accusing President Obama of spying on Trump Tower (Stefansky 2017).
- He discredits other branches of the government. After issuing an executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, Mr. Trump sought to delegitimize the decisions of federal courts that imposed a halt to the ban, and used demeaning language to dishonor the judiciary (e.g., referring to James Robart as a “so-called judge”) (Forster and Dearden).
- He praises authoritarian leaders of other countries. Mr. Trump admires despots Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Rodrigo Duterte (New York Times Editorial Board 2017; Pengelly 2017), and invited Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House (Nakamura 2017; DeYoung 2017).
- He deflects attention from Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. After firing the director of the FBI during its criminal investigation into collaboration between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign, Mr. Trump met with Putin’s senior diplomat and revealed highly classified intelligence (Miller and Jaffe 2017).
- He is indifferent to the limits of presidential powers and fails to understand the duties of the office. He could not answer the simple question “What are the top three functions of the United States government?” (SampathKumar 2017).
- He provokes North Korea with casual references to impending military actions. Mr. Trump claimed that an “armada” was steaming toward North Korea as a ‘show of force,” resulting in a defensive response from Kim Jong-un, whose state news agency called Mr. Trump’s bluff “a reckless act of aggression to aggravate tensions in the region” (SampathKumar 2017).
Doctors Gartrell and Mosbacher, contributors to Dr. Lee’s book, sums up their assessment of President Trump’s fitness for president by stating: “All in all, Mr. Trump’s hostile, impulsive, provocative, suspicious, and erratic conduct poses a grave threat to our national security. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses presidential disability and succession (Cornell University Law School, 2017). Section 4 of this amendment has never been invoked to evaluate whether a standing president is fit to serve. We (Drs. Gartrell and Mosbacher) call on Congress to act now within these provisions to create an independent, impartial panel of investigators to evaluate Mr. Trump’s fitness to fulfill the duties of the presidency.”
These doctors also stated: “Congress must act immediately. The nuclear arsenal rests in the hands of a president who shows symptoms of serious mental instability. This is an urgent matter of national security. We call on our elected officials to heed the warnings of thousands of mental health professionals who have requested an independent, impartial neuropsychiatric evaluation of Mr. Trump. The world as we know it could cease to exist with a 3:00 a.m. nuclear tweet.”
Congressman Al Green (D-Texas) has actually called for legislation recently to have President Trump impeached, for some of the reasons mentioned by Lee in her book. He recently filed Articles of Impeachment against President Trump.
Dr. Lee reached out to linguist and philosopher-historian Dr. Noam Chomsky, for the writing of the Epilogue of this book.
This book by Lee and the other mental health professionals is timely, and is designed to get our attention, which I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine, as well as having been a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.