“Goldwater is mentally unbalanced—he needs a psychiatrist,” assessed Walter Reuther of 1964’s Republican presidential nominee.
Reuther, a labor leader whose only connection to psychiatry came posthumously through Michigan naming a mental hospital in his honor, clashed with Barry Goldwater in 1958 during Senate racketeering hearings. The diagnosis issued six years after that contentious event said something more about Dr. Reuther than it did about the diagnosed.
Now, more than a half-century later, actual rather than armchair psychiatrists put the titular head of the Republican Party on the couch and find him better suited for a rubber room.
“My analysis is: Donald Trump likely isn’t psychologically normal, in the sense of having hyperthymic temperament, which paradoxically could benefit him in some ways as a leader, though not the kind many of us would want,” offered Nassir Ghaemi, a Tufts University professor of psychiatry. “Hyperthymia also would explain many of his personal foibles.”
“We have an ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness,” John Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist and author of the “Duty to Warn” petition calling for Trump’s removal from office on mental-health grounds, proclaimed at a conference at Yale University. He further opined, “Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and [exhibits] grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President.”
Is it hyperthymia or narcissistic personality disorder?
Aside from demonstrating the imprudence of distant diagnoses, the varied conclusions (others offer bipolar disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, psychopathy, and much else) reveal a startling common denominator: a track record of the analyst donating to Democratic Party causes and candidates.
Gartner made 12 separate donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign last year. Ghaemi donated four times to Bernie Sanders this past cycle, $500 to the Democratic National Committee in a previous cycle, and amounts to various liberal groups over the years. As detailed in a Breitbart News exclusive on Monday, the two psychiatrists—Lance Dodes and John Zinner—leading the charge to allow those in their profession to diagnose mental illness in politicians by remote without running afoul of ethics rules gave generously to a who’s-who of the left-wing of the Democratic Party.
At least Reuther knew the Arizona senator. They met. Mr. UAW looked Mr. AuH20 in the eye and took measure of the man. Psychiatrists with a professional obligation to neither diagnose strangers by remote nor publicize alleged mental conditions bearing social stigmas nevertheless offer medical hot takes on a stranger familiar to them only as pixels on a screen or in 140 characters or less.
Today, Donald Trump catalyzes the reevaluation of the American Psychiatric Association’s rule prohibiting diagnoses from afar. Back then Barry Goldwater prompted the rule.
More controversial than Walter Reuther’s overheated political rhetoric, psychiatrists in 1964 deemed Goldwater disqualified for the office he sought on mental health grounds. They labeled him a psychopath, a latent homosexual, and other weaponized medical terms that harmed his reputation. They hubristically did this in a since-defunct magazine called Fact. Under the lower-case, colon “fact:” masthead came the headline: “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater Is Psychologically Unfit to be President!”
A libel lawsuit won by the losing presidential candidate and the black eye on the profession from the unnecessary politicization of it caused psychiatrists to institute the Goldwater Rule in 1973, which reads: “On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
The lifting of professional restraints on such parlor-game psychiatry may harm the president. It likely harms psychiatry more.
Whatever narcissistic traits (shared, it seems, by many in the political class) the president exhibits, they pale next to those radiated by people imagining themselves gifted with an omniscience empowering them to, in magician fashion, read the minds of complete strangers. Will the real narcissist please stand up?
Psychiatric jargon offers a term describing this phenomenon: projection. People who think people who rely on shrinks should get their heads examined also employ a phrase saying as much: the pot calling the kettle black.