Review of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” by Bandy X. Lee (ed.), “Twilight of American Sanity” by Allen Frances, and “Fantasyland” by Kurt Andersen.
Sara Gironi Carnevale for The Washington Post)
Gone are the days when euphemisms about President Trump’s mental health insulated the man like so many padded walls. Erratic. Unpredictable. Unstable. Unmoored. Temperamentally unfit. This was what politicians and commentators said when they wished to question Trump’s state of mind but feared the consequences of a more colloquial assessment. Yet the deeper we plunge into this presidency, the more willing people become to call it like they see and hear it.
“I think he’s crazy,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) confided to his colleague Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) in a July exchange inadvertently caught on a microphone. (“I’m worried,” she replied.) CNN’s Don Lemon, flabbergasted after a Trump speech last month, concluded that “he’s unhinged. . . . There was no sanity there.” Even some Republicans have grown more blunt, with Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) recently suggesting that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence” to succeed as president.
Now, some psychiatrists and other mental-health professionals are shedding long-held norms to argue that Trump’s condition presents risks to the nation and the world. “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” features more than two dozen essays breaking down the president’s perceived traits, which the contributors find consistent with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy and other maladies. “Collectively with our coauthors, we warn that anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency,” Judith Lewis Herman of Harvard Medical School and Bandy X. Lee of the Yale School of Medicine write in the book’s prologue.
If so, what should we make of the nation that entrusted him with precisely such powers? In his new book, “Twilight of American Sanity,” psychiatrist Allen Frances asserts that Trump is not mentally ill — we are. “Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society,” he writes. “We can’t expect to change Trump, but we must work to undo the societal delusions that created him.” And those delusions, Kurt Andersen contends in “Fantasyland,” have been around for a long time. “People tend to regard the Trump moment — this post-truth, alternative facts moment — as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon,” he writes. “In fact, what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of attitudes and instincts that have made America exceptional for its entire history.”
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