Psychiatrist Bloviating About Trump's Sanity Raises Questions About Who's Nuts

Apparently questioning Trump’s sanity and mental competence is all the thing this weekend.

The irony of it coming from the same people who bought the Gorilla TV and the “I never heard of John Boehner” nonsense is not insubstantial. Equally non-trivial is the degree of warning. I kid you not, this is a real quote said by a real person being treated seriously by the left:


“As more time passes, we come closer to the greatest risk of danger, one that could even mean the extinction of the human species. This is not hyperbole. This is the reality.”

At Ground Zero of this latest hurricane of cerebral flatulence is a Yale university professor of psychiatry named Brandy X. Lee, (I don’t know if she’s related to Malcolm or not.) who is the source of the above quote, a warning she gave in an interview with Newsweek.

She created a smallish industry based on her trenchant analysis of a guy she’s never met. This is not new. And it is no more medically or ethically acceptable today than it was in 1964 or 1972 or anytime between 2001 and 2008.

Both psychiatrists and psychologists operate under ethical rules that prevent them from offering professional diagnostic opinions about the mental health of public figures they have not personally examined. The American Psychiatric Association’s version of this is known as the Goldwater Rule — named for another polarizing Republican presidential candidate.

The rule has its roots in the September/October 1964 issue of a magazine called Factwhich was entirely devoted to parsing the results of a survey the editors had sent to more than 12,000 psychiatrists. The survey only had one question: “Do you believe Barry Goldwater is psychologically fit to serve as president of the United States?”

Most of the psychiatrists — 9,939 of them, to be exact — didn’t respond. Of those who did, 571 said they didn’t know enough about Goldwater to answer, and another 657 declared him fit as a fiddle. But 1,189 psychiatrists said “no,” and many of them added colorful commentary that the magazine reprinted under a headline (“FACT: 1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to Be President!”) that conveniently left out the fact that they didn’t represent a majority opinion. The Republican presidential candidate was called “paranoid” and “a dangerous lunatic.” One respondent suggested that Goldwater had “a stronger identification to his mother than to his father” — fighting words in 1964 America, apparently.

In the aftermath, Goldwater sued Fact (and won), Fact went defunct, and the American Psychiatric Association tried to make sure that none of this would ever happen again. The result was Section 7.3 of the APA’s Principles of Medical Ethics:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

Or, as Ezra Griffith, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Yale and a member of the APA’s Ethics Committee, put it: “If you’re going to talk to the press and spread stuff on your opinions, it’s important to at least say very clearly, ‘I have not examined this individual and therefore much of what I’m saying is sort of mystical black magic.’ ”


She made a bit of a splash last month by holding a seminar on Capitol Hill for Congressmen and Senators interested in Trump’s mental stability. This is how Politico described it:

Lawmakers concerned about President Donald Trump’s mental state summoned Yale University psychiatry professor Dr. Bandy X. Lee to Capitol Hill last month for two days of briefings about his recent behavior.

In private meetings with more than a dozen members of Congress held on Dec. 5 and 6, Lee briefed lawmakers — all Democrats except for one Republican senator, whom Lee declined to identify. Her professional warning to Capitol Hill: “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”

Wait… A Republican attended? That must be serious.

Actually, when she was pinned down, the story changed quite a bit:

Hmmm…what do you call someone who lies about their accomplishments in order to get attention?

She actually tried to get both Jeff Flake and Bob Corker to attend and they wouldn’t.

Naturally, a mental giant like this is going to end up interviewed by (motto–I am not making this up–“The smartest thinkers, the toughest questions).


So in an emergency, neither consent nor confidentiality requirements hold. Safety comes first. What we do in the case of danger is we contain the person, we remove them from access to weapons, and we do an urgent evaluation.

This is what we have been calling for with the president based on basic medical standards of care.

Surprisingly, many lawyer groups have actually volunteered, on their own, to file for a court paper to ensure that the security staff will cooperate with us. But we have declined, since this will really look like a coup, and while we are trying to prevent violence, we don’t wish to incite it through, say, an insurrection.

They received us enthusiastically! Their level of concern was surprisingly high. From the dozen we have met with, it seemed they were already convinced of the dangerousness of the president and the need for an evaluation.

Another thing that has been happening on the side is that a clinic at Yale Law School recommended that we be ready to respond emergently, within an hour or two of being called. So we have been doing both: A DC-based psychiatrist has been collecting names of colleagues would be willing to respond in an emergency, and members of the National Academy of Medicine have been recruited for helping us to select candidates for an independent expert panel.

This month, I will be meeting with additional lawmakers to discuss what else we need to do. I have also been put in touch with the original drafters of the 25th Amendment at Fordham Law School, and so we’ll see if they will give input.

Now, the president is undergoing a physical exam on January 12. The usual physical exam does not usually entail a thorough exam of mental fitness for duty, but we are hoping that some form of capacity exam will be included.

While we were on Capitol Hill, Democratic Congress members were telling us that Democrats would have no trouble acting on their concerns, but the question was, would Republicans? In other words, the concern was pervasive, but the question was whether they would find it politically feasible to express their concern.

Well, if the concern is World War III and political ends trump those concerns, then the chances of our not being politicized are very slim. What we need to do is to remove the danger as quickly as possible. We are used to this in psychiatry, and the law allows us to curtail liberties in this way because patients later return to thank us.

But this is very hard to explain to anyone outside the field who [is] not used to dealing with disorder of this kind. The bind is that the longer we wait, the harder it will be, and the destructiveness will only increase.


This is gibberish. There is simply no constitutional way for any of that to work. It is simply a masturbatory exercise for the #Resistance and assorted never-Trumpers and an attention-getting endeavor for Dr. Lee. And there is no way of making something that is a coup not look like a coup.


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