The story of Donald Trump cannot be told with a mere recitation of facts. Not only are they overwhelming in quantity, but his course has been so singular in American history that no framework exists on which the facts can be organized. This page may help.
Donald Trump is the sickest individual ever to inhabit the White House -- sicker even than stroke-crippled Woodrow Wilson
, to whom it is instructive to compare him.
- had an acute physical illness ...
- that led to a chronic psychiatric illness ...
- that went untreated ...
- by his incompetent military physician,
- who placed loyalty to a man above duty to the nation.
It has been argued that strong competent leadership from a psychiatrically intact Wilson might have averted the man-made global catastrophe that was World War II, in which 400,000 Americans died.
Trump, by contrast ...
- had a chronic psychiatric illness ...
- that led to an acute physical illness (covid-19) ...
- that was treated aggressively ...
- by a team of skilled physicians, led by a military physician,
- who placed loyalty to a man above duty to the nation.
It is easily argued that strong, competent leadership from a psychiatrically intact Trump could have averted the national catastrophe of
400,000+ American dead and a shattered economy -- just
look at the successful curtailment of covid-19 in well-run democracies like South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, etc.
The biggest difference between Wilson and Trump is the public's knowledge of their illnesses. Wilson's physical illness and unsuitability for the presidency would have been immediately perceptible to the public, certainly leading to calls for his resignation, had he not hidden himself in strict isolation for months. Trump's psychiatric illness, on the other hand, was aggressively public, though generally not perceived as illness, even through an impeachment trial and a bipartisan vote to remove him from office.
But Is It a Disease?
Initially, Dr. Zebra resisted giving Trump a formal psychiatric diagnosis. The reason:
Despite Trump's clearly abnormal, unfeeling, narcissistic personality traits, he did not
suffer harm as a result of these traits -- he was elected president! One cannot claim anything is a disease if the patient does not suffer by having it, no matter if compatriots, investors, or the public suffer.
Others agreed with this common-sense stance in 2017:
[Dr.] Allen Frances wrote the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder used in
the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM), and he doesn't think Trump qualifies. In
Twilight of American Sanity 2
Frances says the diagnosis requires the patient
to experience significant distress because of his condition. But throughout his
life, Trump "has been generously rewarded for his Trumpism, not impaired by it,"
Frances writes. "[If] Trump is a threat to the United States, and to the world,
[it would be] not because he is clinically mad, but because he is very bad."
3 (Also 4)
Making a Diagnosis
America's 2020 covid calamity changed the above calculus. The epidemic created conditions in which Trump's con-man genius could not cover his ineptitude as an executive (one cannot con a virus). However, instead of rising to the epidemic's challenges, as a psychiatrically intact Trump could have done merely by listening to experts in his government, Trump was locked into the only behavior permitted by the unbreakable grip of his personality: a single-minded focus on his own short-term interests
This pathologically restricted focus caused him to mismanage the epidemic and, consequently, suffer extraordinary self-harm:
- Infecting himself and his family with a potentially fatal disease,
- Losing his job in a failed re-election bid and, with that loss, earning the hated label of "Loser,"
- Conducting and/or championing illegal methods to subvert the election ...
- ... causing his party to lose control of the Senate ...
- ... culminating in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021, resulting in a general revulsion that itself precipitated:
- Loss of his Twitter account and, therefore, his public voice,
- Pariah status that eviscerates his business "brand" and finances,
- An unprecedented second impeachment that could bar him from future elected office,
- Demolition of his future reputation in history,
- Legal threats to his future in multiple jurisdictions,
- Evaporation of any goodwill that might have mitigated the above threats.
... all that in less than four months. Distress indeed.
And so, for Donald Trump, what would have been classified as merely an irksome personality trait
before covid, became diagnosable as a personality disease
: Despite ongoing avoidable distress to himself as the epidemic burned, he could not break from his psychiatric chains and adapt.
We can pity Trump for his mental handicaps, but they do not absolve him of his total responsibility for the covid-19 conflagration in the United States, nor shield him from charges of criminality and worse. Fundamentally, Trump's irredeemable focus on his own self-interests creates a tunnel vision that renders him largely blind and, therefore,
situationally unaware. As part of his illness, he does not recognize this blindness. And so, Trump fails to rise even to the level of poor Warren Harding
, who at least understood that he was not mentally up to the demands of the Presidency.
The question now is whether the United States, which has been revealed to have its own blindness in failing to constrain a medically unfit president, can institute safeguards to contain the damage that another medically unfit president might someday cause. Goodness knows, we almost did not survive this one.