On Friday, as the full weight of the Mueller report sunk in, proving far more damning than Attorney General William Barr’s memo, Trump dismissed the findings as “total bullish*t.”
That statement seems at odds with Trump’s earlier claim that the Mueller report exonerates him of all wrongdoing.
Raw Story spoke with Howard H. Covitz, Ph.D., a psychologist-psychoanalyst, about the president’s likely state of mind.
Covitz was for many years Director and Training Faculty of the Psychoanalytic Studies Institute and the Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapies in Philadelphia, and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. His “Oedipal Paradigms in Collision” was nominated for the Gradiva Psychoanalytic Book of the Year.
He’s also taught university-level mathematics and psychology in the past. His connectedness to his wife, grown children, and grandchildren motivates his activism.
He contributed his wide-ranging insights to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Professionals Assess a President,” edited by Bandy X. Lee, which was re-released last month alongside a major Washington conference on presidential fitness (dangerouscase.org).
Raw Story: How did you come, as a psychoanalyst, to enter public discussion about a public figure? Isn’t there a rule against professionals speaking in psychiatric terms about public figures?
Howard H. Covitz: I am a staunch advocate of that rule in all situations when there is no risk of catastrophic danger to others. I have chosen to speak out because a man was elected President (and given unimaginable powers to do good and evil) who shows the signs of those people who are prone to doing others harm.
For him, if I take his words seriously, life is a zero-sum game, and he must win all the time. The Psalmist said not about Trump but about the God that so many of his followers devoutly worship: “To God belongs the Earth and all that it contains” (Psalm 24). That’s not the way God-complex Trump sees it…. Furthermore, I must say, that any armed person who is not President and who is doing and saying what Donald Trump says often and openly would be whisked off by the gendarmes to a psychiatric facility for testing.
Raw Story: The Mueller report appears to at least legally clear Trump of collusion with Russia, although obstruction is still an open question. How do you explain Trump’s extreme negative reaction?
Howard H. Covitz: Since Donald Trump was a presidential candidate, we in the mental health community noted in him, one, an inability to see others as people in their own right (subjects with their own needs and intentions) but rather to see them as instruments for his use. Two, a splitting of the world into with-me and against-me camps, and three, an apparent lack of impulse control. He also appears to have no respect for extant organizations, laws or accepted wisdom. He’s shown an absence of nuanced thought (in addition to any question of cognitive decline). He’s demonstrated having only one truth, namely what he wishes to be true. The fact that he has nearly unlimited powers that are not being checked by the Senate or anyone else leaves the values of the Republic and the welfare of the world arguably in grave danger.
Raw Story: How do you think this information will land on the President’s supporters, given Trump’s unique relationship with his base?
Howard H. Covitz: We know the power of the mob and its allegiances to tribal beliefs. But beyond this, we know that the Fourth Estate, to a significant extent, has been wittingly or unwittingly complicit in treating many of Trump’s positions AS IF they were reasonable … they have been complicit, that is, in normalizing the pathological as during the rise of authoritarian regimes.
Having said that, it is difficult to believe that there will not be defections from the Trump cult, if room is made for these people who saw in Trump hope for a better day. I expect there to be efforts (either from the Right or from Russian bots) to paint the progressive camp as seeing half or more in the MAGA camp as “deplorables.”
Speaking not as a psychoanalyst but as a citizen, father and grandfather, it is absolutely necessary for us to avoid any further alienation of the right, including the Religious Right.
Raw Story: Do you envision the President doubling down on his agenda, including severely restricting immigration? Plus, today the President called the report “total bullshit” even though he also claimed it exonerated him. Why can’t the President stop while he’s ahead?
Howard H. Covitz: If, indeed, the elected President’s publicly displayed behaviors are indicative of severe pathology (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), the likelihood of his responding to the pressure of being exposed in any constructive manner is essentially zero.
We have made inroads into treating some such people with success, but this is a lengthy process and is not accomplished under the type of duress that the President is being exposed to with the damning pictures in Mueller’s report. We see from even the redacted report that, without the likes of John Kelly and teams of legal consultants, the six characteristics mentioned above would have moved him to even more dangerous and illegal positions.
He is being portrayed in the report as one who can be controlled – the Emperor, in the report, does indeed have small hands, so to speak. How someone like he will be able to integrate the public shaming that this brings forth for him is not predictable but should be a source for grave concern.
That having been said and, again, assuming again that his pathological behaviors are not all a show, we may presume either an increase in these disturbing behaviors (pulling out of NATO, declaring national emergencies for whatever he chooses to do, ramping up tensions with Iran, using the full-force of the executive branch to leash friends and whip foes, … ), or a psychic collapse.
We saw a notable change in his behavior when he left the White House on Thursday for Mar-a-Lago and refused to take any questions. The next days and weeks should clarify which of these paths he chooses and how much and what kind of violence he chooses to promote. It is impossible to precisely predict the future actions of someone who apparently lives under the belief that après moi le deluge.
These are, in my estimation, the most dangerous times thus far in Trump’s presidency … Dangerous for the republic with dangers for the world and dangerous for my grandchildren.