From the very beginning of his presidency, grave questions have been raised about Donald Trump’s mental health status and his fitness for office. According to the Washington Post, as of January, Trump has publicly uttered more than 16,000 lies, misleading statements and exaggerations since he was sworn into office. Throughout his presidency, Trump’s sole focus has been on himself, his ratings, his crowd size at rallies and his accomplishments —real or imagined. A growing number of mental health professionals have publicly labeled Trump as suffering from malignant narcissism.
While Trump’s lies in the early years of his presidency may have been harmful to our government and the nation, his lies and dishonesty today during the coronavirus pandemic have proved to be deadly for thousands of Americans. The president has repeatedly lied and misled the American people about the federal government’s response to Covid-19 – at first dismissing the pandemic as a Democratic party hoax, assuring the nation that the threat was contained, followed by lie after lie about the distribution of critically needed masks, protective equipment and life-saving ventilators. The constant stream of lies uttered clearly designed to distort reality and to make himself look good.
Dr. Bandy Lee is assistant clinical professor in law and psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine, and editor of the book titled, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” Early on, she briefed members of Congress on hers and other mental health professionals’ concern about the psychological state of the president. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Dr. Lee, who examines President Trump’s mental health as a contributing factor in his administration’s failed and lethal pandemic response.
DR. BANDY LEE: Throughout this presidency, none of the real difficulties, the damages that were done to our civic life, to democracy, to the nation’s own collective mental health – none of it was surprising to us because we predicted everything on day one and everything unfolded as we predicted because of the lack of intervention. And we finally came to the worst case scenario where we’re encountered with a true crisis. I mean, in some ways we were lucky to have avoided a crisis for over three years, but now we have one and it is a devastating one.
Actually I might emphasize it did not have to happen. Psychiatrists are also medical doctors and we know a little bit about infectious diseases and how they can spread and how to detect them and how important critical prevention is. And all of this was neglected and therefore we’re seeing ourselves beating everyone else in terms of rate of infection and rate of deaths. And it’s exactly in parallel with what was done – or unable to be done because of the president’s own compulsions compounded with ill intent. But, the emotional compulsions are very strong.
SCOTT HARRIS: Dr. Lee, at various times in President Trump’s response to this crisis, he appeared from his own words during these press conferences and in news accounts, that he was sabotaging the federal government’s response to this crisis. And there are a lot of people who maybe didn’t follow the news these past few years about your work, your concerns about this president and his mental health. I wonder if you would provide some insight to our listeners about why a president who’s got so much responsibility for the health and well-being of the country at large would almost seemingly deliberately sabotage our federal response here.
DR. BANDY LEE: Well, at first, there was the pathological malice against Barack Obama. He had set up this global pandemic response system that was really lauded by experts and considered the best in the world, perhaps even the best in history. And because Obama set it up, he had to dismantle it. And so, people who knew anything about the dangers of pandemics were pleading, they were screaming, ever since his dismantling of these agencies throughout 2018 and 2019, I believe. And, we have a president who is averse to anything science-based or factual. In fact, he would oppose those things rather than accept them. His need to adhere to an alternative reality that is usually the opposite of facts and science compelled him to reject any of those pleas. Then when the pandemic was spreading, it was in fact when he said something like, “We have it totally under control,” was the moment I realized everything is spiraling out of control precisely because of his psychological structure of having to fight reality with the opposite and his need to project this.
He’s really fighting his incapacity and emptiness, his feeling of inferiority and worthlessness and the way that individuals who are severely impaired like he is, fight this is by projecting the opposite. But by projecting the opposite, he is incapable of learning anything because in order to learn, you have to admit that you don’t know something or you have to turn things over to experts and that is something he simply cannot do. We see from the press briefings how he’s unable to allow medical experts to simply speak. He has to take the microphone and he has to shape the discourse and he has to determine the topics that will be spoken about, often veering greatly from the coronavirus itself. And these are all pathological symptoms.
SCOTT HARRIS: What is your prescription for what our Congress, the Trump administration Cabinet members, and we as citizens, what should we be doing at this moment considering the lack of competent leadership at the highest levels of our government with Donald Trump.
DR. BANDY LEE: Basically our prescription is removal. We don’t see things getting better unless the president is removed. Or, if that’s not possible, then removal of every authority over the coronavirus pandemic. This will stop the immediate worsening of the pandemic, the immediate carnage, which is really damage from the president’s mental health problems. These need to be removed from the president: first of all, press briefings should be held at the CDC by CDC personnel and all decision-making should be conferred to medical experts and Congress. And the government needs to protect medical experts’ ability to make their decisions and to give them the assurance of noninterference. No political interference. And to give them the funding that is necessary to carry out their medical mission.
For more information, visit prescriptionforsurvival.org.