Regrettably, more often not, you can tell when Trump is talking out of his a$$, and it’s when his lips move. The latest was his comment about mental health institutions, which I saw on cable news yesterday.
“You know, years ago we had mental hospitals, mental institutions, we had a lot of them, and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was a stigma, some people thought, frankly, the legislators thought it was too expensive. Today if you catch somebody they don’t know what to do with them,” Trump said. “He hasn’t committed the crime, but he may very well, and there’s no mental institution, there’s no place to bring them. We have that a lot.”
Trump is older than I am by fourteen years, so he really has no excuse. It wasn’t “stigma” that caused the closure of mental hospitals, and he’s only half right about cost. But what makes it worse is that he didn’t even bother vet his own comments to see if they were true.
Mental institutions had been in decline well prior to the 1970s but three higher court rulings in that decade basically gutted them. The first was Wyatt v. Stickney
, which required
institution holding someone involuntarily–be it a prison or mental hospital–had to provide at least some minimum level of mental health treatment. This partially explains
why Cook County Jail is our nation’s largest mental hospital.
The second ruling was in 1975 (the same year that we saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in theaters) when O’Connor v. Donaldson was decided, setting the standard that a non-violent, self-sustaining person could not be involuntarily confined in a mental hospital. The third ruling was in 1978, where Addington v. Texas set an even the higher standard, that a person could not be committed to a mental hospital without “clear and convincing evidence”.
The bottom line is that mental hospitals were not closed because of “stigma”, they were closed because so many of them violated peoples’ rights. The cost of keeping them open was an issue, but only secondary because the patient population was necessarily in decline and many mental health maladies could be handled out-patient.
We’ve seen all too often that Trump doesn’t fact-check the words coming out of his mouth, but it’s also lamentable because he is speaking on behalf of the United States government. What’s worse is that his words convey a lack of understanding of the Constitution and our rights embodied in that document. Kevin Williamson is right
Trump and his apologists have failed to learn the sad lesson of Hillary Rodham Clinton: When people have come to assume that every other word out of your mouth is a lie, it becomes very difficult to tell the truth effectively. If Mrs. Clinton had had a good and true explanation for her email shenanigans, no one would have believed her. If Trump has a genuine “win” to talk about, all thinking adults will treat his claims with skepticism. Even his allies and members of his staff know better than to take him at his word.
That’s a problem for the president in particular, but it also is a problem for the conservative movement, which has become infected with Trump’s dishonesty.
We’ve all seen the homeless problem grow to unprecedented levels, and a significant percentage of the homeless population is mentally off-kilter*, so maybe there should be more mental health facilities to handle the more serious cases, but providers still have to reckon with court rulings, the Constitution and our God-given rights. I don’t have an easy answer.
And maybe we do need to strengthen the law in a way that keeps firearms out of the hands of the mentally deranged, but any new legislation still has to not violate the right to bear without appropriate due process. But it doesn’t help when a president speaks from plain ignorance and cannot keep basic facts straight. We deserve better than that.
* I’ve never heard a person that say he’s a gruntled employee, or that he’s feeling on-kilter.