On September 15th, President Donald Trump tweeted that America was “locked and loaded” to aid U.S. ally Saudi Arabia after reports surfaced that their oil supply was attacked.
“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked,” Trump tweeted. “There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!”
Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019
Critics pointed out that this was yet another instance of the president deferring to the violent regime.
Raw Story spoke with Dr. Bandy X. Lee about the president’s militaristic rhetoric and his fitness for office.
Lee is a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine. She has been consulting with the World Health Organization on violence prevention since 2002, has taught at Yale Law School since 2003, and is author of the textbook, “Violence.” In 2017, she held an ethics conference that led to the public-service book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” and the World Mental Health Coalition. She also convened a panel to assess the president’s mental capacity and chairs a working group on a panel for performing presidential fitness-for-duty tests. Later this week, she will host a discussion on the public health effects of silencing experts at the Yale Schools of Law and Medicine (her Twitter handle is: @BandyXLee1).
Raw Story: You are building a reputation as “the Trump translator”! What is your interpretation of the “locked and loaded” rhetoric?
Lee: It is very ominous. People may not realize that weakness and cowardice predispose to violence, not strength, and Donald Trump is a high risk for violence. He is a danger also because he lacks a steady core and can be manipulated into all kinds of nefarious ends, including endless wars.
His suggestion of a strike is consistent with what we have been warning against all along. We predicted that his dealings with North Korea would have a worse outcome than if he weren’t involved, as has turned out to be the case, and the same is true with Iran. Psychological predispositions run deep, and Mr. Trump is war-prone, no matter the momentary embracing of summit talks or withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. When the avenues for accolade are spent, he will likely reach for war. John Bolton’s recent ouster was not a positive sign, since instability means that one could turn even more violent than the most hawkish ideologue.
Raw Story: What do you say to those who accuse you of breaking medical ethics by making these interpretations?
Lee: I started “translating” Mr. Trump’s tweets as a public service. In mental health, we look at underlying patterns and outcomes rather than what people literally say. I entered into this with the hope to decrease some of the victimization of people who are “gaslighted” and toppled in their sense of reality and morality because of his relentless reshaping of reality. I follow a standard process of assessing reliability, reality testing, and matching formulation with evidence to arrive at my assessments, and am applying the ethics of reducing harm.
Ethics in our day has been used as a weapon for silencing, just as the law can be for subjugation. But an open book is an open book, and it is unethical to pretend you do not know something when you do, especially when that knowledge could be critical to the protection of society. There is error of omission, not just commission.
Nowadays, our diagnostic practices have changed completely—from introspection to external observation—telemedicine requires remote diagnosis all the time, and there has perhaps never been a presidency so transparent, not only from national affairs deriving directly from his personality, but also near-hourly, unrestrained and unfiltered reports of what he is thinking. Television programs, rather than being the staged events they used to be, are often free-flowing, continuous access to a person’s behavior, speech, and expressions in real time in real-life situations. Seldom do we ever have such copious, detailed information on our own patients! A personal interview would accomplish far less, especially in the area we are concerned about—danger to the public—since a person can sit with you but lie throughout.
Raw Story: You have described yourself as a conservative. Can you explain that?
People are surprised when I say I am both liberal and conservative. But healthy organisms seek both preservation and innovation; restriction to either would compromise life. So I consider it not only natural but healthy to be both. Our nation is that way: being conservative in this country means to safeguard the Revolutionary ideals that fought off tyranny. Being Christian means to follow the example of a figure who was radically revolutionary for his time. I am very proud of my family heritage—I come from a family of doctors—but consider it my duty to fight for justice, just as my grandfather and my mother have.
What I do not do is use the term “conservative” to mask an opposite agenda, such as radically overturning this nation’s founding principles to suppress free thought, equality, and civil society for the benefit of the few. To call these anti-republican policies “conservatism” is reaction formation—naming oneself the opposite of what one truly is, to deny the truth and ease the anxiety that comes from it. Of course, you can use it as a clever tactic, also, but this dynamic is more powerful when it is unconscious.
Raw Story: So when you are commenting on a political party, you are not being partisan?
Lee: I never cared much for partisan politics. Governing should be based on evidence and consensus, and there are enough studies to bring about consensus in solving just about every problem. It is the denial of science and of reality that should concern us; it is actually a sign of pathology. When one party engages blatantly in deceit and outright brainwashing techniques, pointing that out is not being partisan. My study of 110 years has shown that only one party is consistently destructive, while the other is generally constructive, even if not perfect. If one party consistently worsens the state of societal health, then we should examine that party, not try to say the same of “both sides.” To say that they are the same would be scientifically inaccurate and politically influenced, instead of accurately reflecting the data.
Dr. Rudolf Virchow considered politics to be nothing else but medicine on a large scale, and I would agree. Politics is not a doctor’s direct business, but it should not be malpractice, spreading harm rather than healing. If it starts harming societal health, then doctors should have something to say about it.