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Rants & Reason

A ‘very stable genius’?

1/31/2018

Or unhinged and unfit for office?

This is the last Donald Trump item this column or CITVYIEW will publish.

If you believe that, then you likely agree with Trump’s characterization of himself as a “very stable genius.” (Caveat: You are reading this at least a month after Trump’s VSG self-assessment. So it’s likely there will be more to the story, but the question of a person’s fitness to hold public office is always timely and, if nothing else, here’s some perspective on that.)

First, a couple variations on the VSG theme:

• King Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) supposedly declared, “L’Etat , c’est moi.” (I am the state.)

• President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) told the American people, “I am not a crook.” That was in 1973, a year before he resigned to avoid impeachment.

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• Maybe Trump fashions himself in shining armor with a lyric from the musical Camelot: “But where in the world, is there in the world? A man so extraordinaire — C’est moi, c’est moi…the Godliest man I know…”

You don’t have to put questionable and un-nerving words in Trump’s mouth. He does quite well by himself. As mentioned in this space last month, he told folks in Sioux Center, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose voters.” (Maybe Trump could so decree because his base doesn’t support him so much as it does his ideology that gives credence to white supremacist groups.)

The Sioux Center comment was in January 2016; so perhaps it was appropriate that Trump celebrated its second anniversary by boasting he is a “very stable genius.”

Talk about adding fuel to the fire.

We already had some psychiatrists figuratively measuring Trump for a straitjacket, and he tosses them and the press the VSG line — still more behavior that suggests to some he suffers from Narcisstic Personality Disorder (NPD) or other mental ills. Vox, an online news/commentary operation, posted an article by Eliza Barclay about several worried psychiatrists who say there’s a need for “an emergency evaluation of the president’s mental capacity, by force if necessary.”

The article says Bandy Lee, an assistant professor in forensic psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, Judith Herman at Harvard, and Robert Jay Lifton at Columbia worry Trump is “further unraveling.” Lee had edited “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” essays by 27 mental health professionals, published in October.

The Mayo Clinic’s list of signs and symptoms of NPD includes:

• Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance

• Exaggerating achievements and talents

• Expecting unquestioning compliance with one’s expectations

• Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious

• Having trouble handling anything perceived as criticism, and [maybe reacting] with rage or contempt and trying to belittle the other person to make oneself appear superior.

An editorial in the New York Times, however, pointed out that most of us are well aware of the Trump behaviors listed above, and a psychiatric exam might be of little worth:

“Plenty of people with mental disorders or disabilities function at high levels of society. Conversely, if Mr. Trump were found to have no diagnosable illness, he would be no more fit for the office he holds than he is today.”
This is not the normal give-and-take of politics, folks. Yet, a few in the press try to make all of this rational. If Trump donned Napoleonic garb and declared himself to be Bonaparte, I swear, some in the press and talking heads on TV would ponder that thought and wonder if Oprah was really, say, Joan of Arc! “Boy,” they’d fantasize, “what a match that would be in 2020!”

One final lyric and thought:

The lyric is from “Send in the Clowns:” “…where are the clowns? Send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.”
And the thought is from an interview of Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the song: “I always want to know, when I’m writing a song, what the end is going to be, so ‘Send in the Clowns’ didn’t settle in until I got the notion, ‘Don’t bother, they’re here,’ which means that ‘We are the fools.’ ” ♦

Herb Strentz is a retired administrator and professor in the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication and writes the monthly Rants and Reason column for CITYVIEW.

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