The case for Donald Trump's mental fitness

In the wake of three days of erratic behavior and amid the controversy caused by a book suggesting he is forgetful an...

Posted: Jan 5, 2018 9:50 AM
Updated: Jan 5, 2018 9:50 AM

In the wake of three days of erratic behavior and amid the controversy caused by a book suggesting he is forgetful and dismissed by many who work for him, questions of President Donald Trump's mental competence are everywhere.

At Thursday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the idea that Trump was mentally unfit for the job "disgraceful and laughable." She added: "If he was unfit, he probably wouldn't be sitting there, wouldn't have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen."

While it's far from a determinative explanation from Sanders, she does have a point. And the point is this: Trump is who he has always been.

Think about the sorts of behaviors that Trump's critics point to as examples of his lack of mental competence or deteriorating mental state:

  • He is impetuous
  • He is quick to anger
  • He appears unengaged in details
  • He keeps erratic hours
  • He says things that are provably false
  • He has an exaggerated -- and grandiose -- vision of his own life
  • He punishes enemies

There are others, of course. But these, I think, broadly cover the competence critique made against Trump.

Now, go back over that list. And ask yourself whether any of those behaviors are new since Trump has been elected president.

While you're doing that, let me remind you that Trump did the following things as either a candidate or private citizen:

Impersonated a young publicist within the Trump Organization to leak flattering details about his own personal life to the New York tabloids. Spent several years pursuing the totally debunked idea that President Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States Made a series of lewd comments about women caught on tape by "Access Hollywood" (and then argued the tape might be a fake) Insisted that 3-5 million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election Suggested Ted Cruz's father might have been involved in the assassination of John Kennedy

Those are the ones I came up with off the top of my head. There are scores of others examples just like them.

There is a clear pattern of behavior there that long predates Trump's time in the White House or even his decision to run for president. Trump is today who he has been the entirety of his adult life.

That is a person that many Americans find to be loathsome. Or incompetent. Or mentally unwell.

He is also the person who 62,984,825 people, or 46.09% of US voters in 2016, supported -- and those people happened to live in just the right states for Trump to win the electoral college even while losing the popular vote by a historic margin.

Given his prominence in the culture and the incredibly high profile of the 2016 presidential race, it's very tough for me to believe that the people who voted for Trump did so without knowing who he really was. The Trump on the campaign trail -- full of bravado, fiercely unapologetic, dramatic, obsessed with victimization -- was the Trump of the wheeling-and-dealing 1980s. It was the Trump of the reality TV show years. And it is the Trump of the White House.

The obvious pushback to this argument is that simply because Trump's behavior isn't inconsistent with who he has been his entire life doesn't mean that he is mentally well enough to hold the office of the presidency.

Fair enough. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist, so diagnosing what, if anything, has long been wrong with Trump mentally (and if that impedes his ability to do the job) is well beyond my skill set.

But what seems clear -- at least to me -- is that the case for some sort of mental deterioration from Trump since he has been in office simply isn't there.

Is it possible Trump has sunk more into his ways and habits (and insecurities) as he continues to age? Sure -- since lots and lots of people do exactly that as they get older.

However, he appears to be acting as President how he has always acted. And that is who got elected President -- like it or, more likely, hate it.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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CountyConfirmedDeaths
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Jackson469387
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Jones296184
Washington260399
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Lincoln142959
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Attala80526
Clarke76353
Clay70522
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Calhoun62713
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Smith59816
Yalobusha55614
Montgomery55423
Claiborne53916
Tunica53617
Lawrence53414
Perry51223
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Jefferson Davis41711
Webster37813
Benton3608
Wilkinson33820
Kemper32715
Sharkey28715
Jefferson27710
Franklin2483
Choctaw2086
Issaquena1074
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
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Morgan422335
Houston419334
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Walker283793
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Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
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Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
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