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Harvard psychiatrist stunned by Donald Trump’s lies and ‘comfortable shamelessness’

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump officially launched his re-election bid to crowds of supporters in Orlando, Florida. Notably, ahead of the kick-off of his campaign, he pledged to round up and deport migrants, a pledge widely seen as unrealistic but geared toward pleasing his base.

Raw Story spoke with Leonard L. Glass, M.D., M.P.H., about the Trump’s re-election and whether he is fit for the office of President. Glass is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Newton, Massachusetts. He is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a senior attending psychiatrist at McLean Hospital. Dr. Glass was President of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and was a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association until he resigned in protest of the Goldwater rule in April 2017. He contributed his scholarly background in ethics to “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” edited by Bandy X. Lee (dangerouscase.org).

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Raw Story: How do you expect Trump’s supporters to react to his official entry into the 2020 fray?

Leonard L. Glass: I expect his supporters to wholeheartedly embrace Mr. Trump as they have in the past, not perceiving or choosing to ignore his glaring character flaws.

Raw Story: Your mental health report on the Mueller Report went “viral” this weekend after Laurence Tribe tweeted about the 25th Amendment in relation to it. What do you think about Donald Trump’s running for reelection in light of your findings?

Leonard L. Glass: No one could be surprised by Mr. Trump’s decision to run for reelection: he took out papers the day of his inauguration. But our analysis of the Mueller Report from a mental health perspective, based on the sworn testimony of both allies and opponents of the president, clearly documents his mental unfitness to serve as president.

He is incapable of distinguishing truth from falsehood, is irrationally confident in his “gut reactions,” doesn’t recognize the need for research, reflection, or consultation, is impulse-ridden, manipulative, and vindictive. He constantly alternates between seeing himself as the victim, whining about his unfair treatment, to then pivoting to absurd bragging, bullying, name-calling, and threatening those who oppose him or are targeted minorities.

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Consequently it is quite disturbing to think that this self-inflated man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and isn’t open to being told will again offer himself to a credulous portion of the public as their savior.

Raw Story: How do you respond to the criticism that you have evaluated a president you have not examined?

Leonard L. Glass: This critique is grounded in the American Psychiatric Association’s Ethics Committee’s expansion of its interpretation of an ethical guideline called the Goldwater rule. Since Trump’s inauguration, it prohibits ANY comment by psychiatrists on a public figure. By attempting to preclude psychiatry as a profession from the public discussion, the American Psychiatric Association is, inescapably, devaluing the relevance and importance of the very profession it imagines it is protecting. I think a more appropriate action by the American Psychiatric Association would be to urge members to recognize the need for discretion when speaking out, rather than compelling them to choose between submitting to a gag rule or risk being found in violation of its ethical code. Such a policy would recognize the dictates of the individual psychiatrist’s conscience to engage with the public and not require that his or her moral prompting be subordinated to protect the psychiatric profession from appearing less than scientifically respectable because some members might speak out in an insufficiently considered way.

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The public could benefit from psychologically expert commentary on phenomena that are, on the face of it, confusing. Indeed, one of the explicit ethical principles guiding physicians is to make “relevant information available to … the general public.” For instance, what to make of a person who characteristically proclaims his successes and never acknowledges his mistakes, who instead blames and vilifies others?

While it may seem obvious to some that such a person is driven to inflate himself out of insecurity, some not very psychologically sophisticated segments of the public may well take his boasts at face value. Thus, it is precisely the role of trained professionals to offer expert perspectives to the public at large. While the prior understanding of the Goldwater rule sought to prevent speculation about the inner, unobservable workings of a public figure’s mind, the newly propounded interpretation blocks psychiatrists from helping to explain widely available and readily observed behaviors.

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We are not diagnosing the President, but evaluating his fitness to function in that office. If he were simply continuing his life as a real estate developer, our commentary would be unnecessary and inappropriate. But current circumstances make it crucial for trained professionals to offer their perspective: when they ascertain a public official is in a position to do great harm and is too emotionally volatile and preoccupied with defending his personal image from all perceived or imagined threats to assess and prioritize the realistic protection of the country, remaining silent is unacceptable.

Raw Story: The president pledged to round up migrants ahead of his rally. Does this surprise you?

Leonard L. Glass: Not at all. Mr. Trump has based his political identity on exploiting the plight of migrants to advance his fortunes. This is more of the same.

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Raw Story: What did you think of his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos? Is it what you would have expected, given your psychological analysis?

Leonard L. Glass: I suppose I am like most people who respect the truth: no matter how many times I see Mr. Trump lie without so much as blinking, even doing so when he can be immediately proven to have done so (e.g., “There are no such polls,” “I never said that,” when there is a tape recording, etc), I am stunned. I know it’s his m. o. and is as certain as night following day, but I still find myself saying out loud, “How can he say that? That’s demonstrably false!” I’ve been a psychiatrist for over 40 years and have seen my share of pathological liars, but I still am stunned by his comfortable shamelessness.


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