How Trump's mental health became the third rail of American journalism
He's a psychopath
I don't often publish PRESS RUN three days in a row, but I felt that the tumultuous events in recent days require more attention.
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Trump woke Tuesday morning and decided to advertise his unstable mind again.
Pointing to a niche cable TV conspiracy claim made by a former Sputnik reporter, Trump suggested the 75-year-old peace activists who was pushed to the ground in Buffalo last week by two police officers was possibly affiliated with an alleged terror ring. Trump claimed on Twitter that when the old man lay motionless on the ground with blood pouring out of the back of his head, the event was part of a false flag set-up by left-wing agitators to sabotage the police.
It was Trump pushing sheer insanity, likely putting the recovering activist in real danger by targeting him as a terrorist supporter. It's presidential behavior that almost defies description. Yet here we are trying to find the words for Trump's heartless, inhumane actions. This, weeks after Trump accused a cable TV host of murder, charged Barack Obama with being a criminal mastermind, and threatened to unleash gunfire on Minneapolis protesters.
Given all of that, why does the press continue to shy away from covering Trump's mental health as an ongoing, legitimate news story? Why aren't mental health experts regularly quoted in an effort to inform Americans about the president's likely deteriorating condition and psychological impairments, highlighted by his non-stop lying, wanton cruelty, embrace of conspiracies? This is the commander-in-chief who recently spent a paranoid rage spree tweeting or re-tweeting 200 messages in a single day. Why has Trump's emotional instability become the third rail of American journalism, a topic so dangerous that it cannot be touched as a news story. (It does get discussed by opinion writers.)
Today, there appear to be two simple truths in play: Trump fits the textbook definition of a psychopath, and newsrooms are too afraid to touch that story.
It needs to be addressed though, because Trump's deep instability has huge implications for this country and the health of its citizens. Look at the erratic and incoherent way he dealt with an historic pandemic. As a USA Today editorial noted, Trump refused all common sense advice and wasted weeks, "undermining his administration's scientists, heralding a risky antimalarial drug as a potential coronavirus game changer, ruminating about injecting patients with disinfectants, promoting magical thinking about the virus disappearing, and refusing to lead by example by wearing a mask in public."
The president "is incapable of protecting lives but is making a global pandemic worse — not just through incompetence and ignorance, but through a dangerous detachment from reality," the World Mental Health Coalition recently noted in a petition. The group added that if Trump "were president of any major institutions, it is likely the Board of Directors would have required him to undergo a comprehensive mental health assessment."
Mainstream Trump news coverage today constantly details his bizarre, troubling and erratic behavior. But it always stops short and refuses to take the next logical step and ask, Why? Not only why would a grown man act this way? But more importantly, why would the most powerful leader in the free world act this way?
Take a look at how the Times reported Trump's descent into madness when he recently accused MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough of murder:
President Trump smeared a prominent television host on Tuesday from the lectern in the Rose Garden with an unfounded allegation of murder, taking the politics of rage and conspiracy theory to a new level even as much of the political world barely took notice."
The newspaper stressed it was an attack "that once would have been unthinkable for a sitting president," So Trump had done something "unthinkable" as president, and breached behavior that sank to "a new level.” Of course, Trump does something "unthinkable" nearly every day he's been in office. Shouldn't the obvious next question for the Times, and the needed area of news coverage, address why Trump acts the way he does?
Aren't journalists curious? Don't they want to understand if there's something mentally or emotionally wrong with the President of the United States, and delve into what that means for the country? Instead, the Beltway press has accepted the idea for three-plus years that Trump acts this way because he's slightly eccentric. Ignoring the hard truth allows the press to express astonishment (‘Can you believe he did that?’), instead of addressing the more uncomfortable truths.
Worse, the press holds out hope that Trump will soon behave like a normal adult. Hours before he tweeted his demented claim about the hospitalized, senior citizen protester in Buffalo, CNN published a piece about how Trump might soon "tone down" his rhetoric.
The lack of necessary truth-telling today comes from the same place that drives large news organization to refuse to call Trump a liar, even though he's on pace to tell nearly 20,000 lies while in office. Calling him a “liar” means having to fend off conservative critics. The same is true with regard to Trump's unstable behavior — it's the fear of "liberal media bias" claims from the GOP. It’s also likely the press doesn't want to open the Pandora's box by suggesting the President of the United States is unstable, because that would require the media to aggressively cover that story everyday for the rest of the Trump presidency — it would be one of the most important political stories of the last half-century.
There’s no question that it’s easier to look away than it is to address possible personalty disorders of a sitting president. But it’s the defining issue of the Trump era and it ought to covered as a huge news story.
To understand more about Trump being a psychopath and what it means to the nation, everyone should read the recent piece from Tony Schwartz. He served as Trump's ghostwriter on Trump's book, Art of the Deal, a job Schwartz now regrets taking because the book helped make Trump a star. Schwartz spent hundreds of hours with Trump and offers some of the best insights into the president's deeply troubled mind and psyche.
In his piece, "The Psycho in Chief," Schwartz explains why he recently came to the conclusion that Trump has a personality disorder, and addresses what that means for our nation. Note that discussing the piece on Twitter, Schwartz last week reported that he approached several major publications about running his excellent, well-written piece, but they all declined. That only confirms my point today about the press being scared of this topic:
How do we deal with a person whose core impulse in every part of his life is to deny, deceive, deflect, disparage, and double-down every time he is challenged? And what precisely is the danger such a person poses if he also happens to be the leader of the free world, during a crisis in which thousands of people are dying every day, with no letup in sight?
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
HAIM, "The Steps"
The California Haim sisters return with a new album this month, Women in Music, Pt. III. "The Steps" captures everything that's endearing and inspiring about the rock band — crunchy guitars, memorable hooks, and trippy melodies, all wrapped in a badass vibe.
Every time I think that I've been takin' the steps
You end up mad at me for makin' a mess
I can't understand, why you don't understand me