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Yale psychiatrist explains the root of Trump’s ‘pathological racism’

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On Monday morning, President Donald Trump once again escalated his conflict with “the Squad,” the group of freshman Congresswomen of color he told to go back to their own countries. Although moderate Republicans had hoped last week that the President would tone down his remarks, on Monday he once again doubled down on Twitter.

“The “Squad” is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart. They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border…And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!” he tweeted.

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The feud between the junior lawmakers and Trump continues to hog the limelight, even as Democratic presidential candidates try to break through.

Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatrist Dr. Bandy X. Lee about why the president can’t stop himself from attacking the young women. Lee is a forensic psychiatrist and an expert on violence at Yale School of Medicine. She helped launch a public health approach to global violence prevention as a consultant to the World Health Organization and other United Nations bodies since 2002. She is author of the textbook, “Violence: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Causes, Consequences, and Cures,” president of the World Mental Health Coalition, and editor of the New York Times bestseller, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.”

She and her coauthors recently prepared a mental health analysis of the Mueller report with recommendations. Tomorrow, they will present their analysis in a national online town hall as well as unveil five questions they would like to ask Special Counsel Robert Mueller based on their findings (for more information, visit: dangerouscase.org).

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Raw Story: It has been a week submerged in Donald Trump’s racist remarks. You yourself got wrapped up in the controversy.

Dr. Bandy X. Lee: I believe people thought I was giving excuse to Donald Trump’s racism, when I was trying to add another layer. As a psychiatrist, I will see different things. What is medically salient is not always evident to the average person, while ideology or political position may not be as interesting to me as a medical professional. When appropriate, the medical layer should give depth to our understanding and, in fact, seriousness to this situation. We as a nation consistently underestimate the dangers. No matter how we may say we already know the president is dangerous, we will lack the appreciation of just how dangerous.

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Raw Story: So you believe Mr. Trump is racist?

Dr. Bandy X. Lee: Surely he is racist, but that is not all. When he says, “I am the least racist person you have ever met,” he tells me that he is surely the most racist person I have ever met. In psychiatry, we are trained not simply to believe a person’s words at face value but to evaluate the person’s reliability, whether there are consistent patterns of defense, and whether it is the person or the disease that is speaking, before we believe.

Mr. Trump’s patterns indicate that when he says others are “hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” he actually means, “I am a hate-filled extremist constantly trying to tear this country down.” When he says, “Presidential harassment!” he is describing harassment that the president metes out. And his statement, “Their comments are helping fuel the rise of a dangerous, militant hard left,” is an admission that his comments are doing this of the militant hard right. The reason why the attribution is uncannily correct is because the mind is not random: the unconscious mind knows exactly what one is doing, even as the conscious mind denies it.

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Since psychiatry is science- and evidence-based—not subjective the way people assume—we also look at evidence and not words. That his father was arrested at a KKK march makes it likely that his family influence was racist. His trying hard to have “the Central Park five” executed, regardless of guilt, shows that he grew up to be racist. The fact that the FBI investigated him and his father for racist renting practices is another piece of information. His inspiration of waves of race-based hate crimes and white nationalist terrorism is still another.

Hence, we know that his birtherism was not about Barack Obama’s birthplace but about race, just as his tweets that the four congresswomen “go back to where you came from” was not about their actual country but about their race. But beyond this, racism can serve as a receptacle for pathological hate, envy, and vengefulness. Some who hold racist views may still be capable of empathy, or act out of loyalty—and they can be educated or redirected. Mr. Trump lacks this capacity and will likely be recalcitrant. And if other channels are open, he will probably direct his anger and envy there, too—against critics, women, children, disabled persons, or any other representation of his feelings of inferiority and unbelonging.

Raw Story: And he has demonstrated all these things.

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Dr. Bandy X. Lee: Pathological racism is different than ordinary racism, and equating the two is a source of our gross underestimation. That people would have a hard time admitting that he is racist, for example, is what we would expect from pathological racism. That many would pick up and espouse his views, rather than denounce them according to custom, is also a phenomenon we see. It is a characteristic of pathology to engulf those surrounding the afflicted person and to turn racism into reason, and reason into racism—or insanity into sanity, and vice versa. This is what I see when a special counsel has trouble indicting the most indictable president there ever was. Pathological extremity is menacing, as well as beguiling.

So it is not an either-or situation. Racism is bad, but the combination of racism and mental pathology is worse. Criminality is bad, but criminality and mental incapacity together make one more dangerous. Mental impairment can be exonerating, but sometimes it is otherwise: we see how Mr. Trump’s impairments in some areas make him masterful in others. These issues need to be considered separately and simultaneously.

Raw Story: Tell us about your upcoming town hall.

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Dr. Bandy X. Lee: We will present at the town hall the president’s alarming lack of capacity, based our analysis of the wellspring of hard, relevant, and intimate data in Robert Mueller’s report. We will first show a 10-minute highlights video from the interdisciplinary conference we held in March, where 13 top experts from different fields explain how the president is unfit from each of their perspectives. Then we will present the underlying reason: a lack of basic mental capacity, which translates into incapacity for almost anything else. Since attorneys in criminal procedures routinely assess whether someone is competent to answer questions, to stand trial, etc., we will have questions for Mr. Mueller himself.

Our online town hall will happen at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Details will be available at dangerouscase.org. All five coauthors of our report will be present to answer questions. Earlier in the day, we will hold a conference call for Congress members and staff only. The purpose is to be informative and to answer questions, and so we will allow maximal anonymity. Our format changed because we lost our ideal hour and room with the postponement, but more importantly because we wish to do everything possible to encourage bipartisan attendance. Eighteen months of waiting for a Republican lawmaker yielded no results, while returning to a Democrat with bipartisan reach got publicized as an activity of “the Dems.” We wish to make clear that are independent professionals with an explicit interest in engaging both parties, which is why we are holding this event ourselves.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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