On Friday, White House doctors released the results of President Donald Trump’s physical. They concluded that Trump is in “very good health overall,” but could afford to lose some weight.
But missing from the assessment was any information about Trump’s mental health. Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee, who edited “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” thinks the president suffers from mental problems that present a far bigger danger than his cholesterol levels.
Raw Story spoke with Lee about the president’s psychological problems and what should be done about it.
Tana Ganeva: What do you think of the president’s health care results?
Bandy X. Lee: What is staggering are the omissions. It is almost as if the White House doctor took an “It won’t exist if we don’t look” attitude. The most pressing questions, in my mind, are: Is the president capable of protecting the interests of the United States? Is he capable of keeping the country safe without placing it in further danger? Is he capable of discharging the duties of his office?
These are not comfortable questions to ask, but there cannot be a more urgent matter; any other consideration is of far lower priority. These questions have become more medical than political because of the severity of his signs of impairment.
When it becomes obvious that the president is incapable of making political decisions because he lacks the capacity to make rational decisions altogether, he should be tested medically.
Tana Ganeva: But the President’s apparent irrationality is being ignored?
Bandy X. Lee: This issue has been completely ignored. My Yale colleague of internal medicine Dr. Anna Reisman stated that one would “not need to see” the results of the president’s exam, as they will likely be false reassurances.
Medical ethicist Dr. Arthur Caplan of NYU School of Medicine said he “won’t be listening” to the outcome. It is unfortunate that so many have come to view the release of information as being less informative than no release at all.
The theatrical nature is observable in other ways. For instance, why were there “11 Board certified specialists”? All we have called for was a functional, mental capacity evaluation; this takes only one specialist, that is, an independent, forensic mental health professional.
The second most important specialist might be a cardiologist, but whether or not Mr. Trump consults one is his private affair, since he is not posing an imminent danger to the public because of a cardiac condition. He is, however, already posing a danger to the public, as objective reports and empirical evidence confirm, because of the multiple and consistent signs of emotional instability, cognitive decline, and violence-proneness. That there is some unseen logic that outweighs the harm—or that Mr. Trump is even capable of it—would only be proven in an exam, and the onus should now be on the president.
Tana Ganeva: The president is not likely to seek mental health care.
Bandy X. Lee: We know that those who need mental health care the most are the least likely to submit to proper evaluation and treatment. Mr. Trump’s reappointment of Dr. Ronny Jackson, who declared him “mentally fit to serve” last year despite lacking the training or the independence to do so, therefore, stands out as a warning signal if not a symptom.
Those who have awaited Mr. Trump’s annual exam for clarification on the false “mental health exam” a year ago, which was neither replaced nor redone after Dr. Jackson himself was removed from his position as the president’s personal physician, will be rightly disappointed. As a reminder, Dr. Jackson, in response to the public’s concerns over the president’s mental stability, performed a sham 10-minute dementia screen on which full-blown Alzheimer patients and hospitalized schizophrenia patients are known to score up to 30 out of 30.
Fitness for duty, in any case, is determined not through a personal health exam but through an independent functional test that evaluates a person’s ability to do a job and not to put others in danger.
Tana Ganeva: You’ve officially recommended that President Trump be tested for mental fitness. What did that look like?
Bandy X. Lee: The World Mental Health Coalition’s working group on an expert panel for presidential fitness created an ad hoc committee for dangerousness because of presidential incapacity last year, and we sent a letter to all members of Congress before Mr. Trump’s nomination of a Supreme Court justice and his Helsinki conference with Vladimir Putin.
Our recommendation was for him to undergo testing before he embarked on any more critical decisions, given the serious signs of mental incapacity that he had shown. We know the outcomes of the controversial Supreme Court justice nominee at the time (who himself exhibited many signs of impairment) and the very bizarre Helsinki conference, where Mr. Trump sided with a nation that attacked us against our country’s own intelligence officials.
Yesterday, the ad hoc committee issued another letter of warning to all Congress members addressing the president’s need to demonstrate mental capacity before making additional critical decisions such as declaring a national emergency. As of today, he has done so against all advice and despite the absence of any evidence of an emergency.
Tana Ganeva: What other acts by the president made you worried?
Bandy X. Lee: He has created many emergencies. As of February 1, 2019, he has withdrawn the U.S. from a long-standing nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, reversing course from decades of arms control diplomacy and setting the stage for a new nuclear arms race. Meanwhile, other nuclear powers, such as North Korea, Pakistan, and India, are following suit. Despite this initiation, Mr. Trump stated that he believes he had “no choice” but to withdraw, and would rather “outspend and out-innovate all others” in the production of weapons of mass destruction. As expected, Russian President Putin vowed to do the same. This is precisely what numerous mental health professionals have warned against, in underscoring Mr. Trump’s “psychological attraction” to nuclear weapons and nuclear war, especially in the public-service book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
Tana Ganeva: What’s your overall message about the president’s ability to lead?
Bandy X. Lee: Mental health is inseparable from overall health. The absence of the typical degenerative diseases of old age is not only a sign of good health if we consider the larger context. In my twenty years of treating violent offenders, I have often seen arrested emotional development have the side effect of unexpectedly lower levels of the typical adult diseases stemming from the stress of being responsible for and worrying about others, the larger society, or the world.
These individuals may more often be in a wheelchair or walk with a cane by age thirty, or suffer from head trauma-induced dementia, than be plagued of the typical cardiac or cerebrovascular problems that afflict older individuals. The condition Mr. Trump does have—obesity—is a well-known adult consequence of childhood emotional trauma, precisely the kind that can lead to arrested development. Physical signs of dangerous individuals are not well studied, but we know that they often have oddities in speech (I have especially found a difficulty in pronouncing “s” in ways that are unrelated to mechanical problems) and excessive hand gestures that compensate for poor speech. These are both observed in the president but are unlikely to be picked up by a physician performing a limited physical exam.
The signs are numerous, and we recognize the pattern very well. It is time that the president undergo proper testing and be offered proper care, rather than further enable his pathology.