Friday, December 01, 2023

Trump Is The One With Bad & Declining Mental Health

Much has been made about Biden's age recently, and the possibility of mental decline. But it's not Biden with the worsening mental problems - it's Donald Trump. The following is just part of an excellent op-ed by Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times

Brian Klaas, a political scientist at University College London, captured the remarkable nature of the 2024 presidential election in an Oct. 1 essay, “The Case for Amplifying Trump’s Insanity.”

Klaas argued that the presidential contest now pits a 77-year-old racist, misogynist bigot who has been found liable for rape, who incited a deadly, violent insurrection aimed at overturning a democratic election, who has committed mass fraud for personal enrichment, who is facing 91 separate counts of felony criminal charges against him and who has overtly discussed his authoritarian strategies for governing if he returns to power against “an 80-year-old with mainstream Democratic Party views who sometimes misspeaks or trips.”

How is it possible that it’s not front page news when a man who soon may return to power calls for law enforcement to kill people for minor crimes? And why do so few people question Trump’s mental acuity rather than Biden’s, when Trump proposes delusional, unhinged plans for forest management and warns his supporters that Biden is going to lead us into World War II(which would require a time machine), or wrongly claims that he defeated Barack Obama in 2016? . . .

I asked some of those who first warned about the dangers Trump poses what their views are now.

Leonard L. Glass, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, emailed me:

He acts like he’s impervious, “a very stable genius,” but we know he is rageful, grandiose, vengeful, impulsive, devoid of empathy, boastful, inciting of violence and thin-skinned. At times it seems as if he cannot control himself or his hateful speech. We need to wonder if these are the precursors of a major deterioration in his character defenses.

If Trump — in adopting language that he cannot help knowing replicates that of Hitler (especially the references to opponents as “vermin” and “poisoning the blood of our country”), we have to wonder if he has crossed into “new terrain.” That terrain, driven by grandiosity and dread of exposure (e.g., at the trials) could signal the emergence of an even less constrained, more overtly vicious and remorseless Trump who, should he regain the presidency, would, indeed act like the authoritarians he praises. Absent conscientious aides who could contain him (as they barely did last time), this could lead to the literal shedding of American blood on American soil by a man who believes he is “the only one” and the one, some believe, is a purifying agent of God and in whom they see no evil nor do they doubt. . . .

I asked Joshua D. Miller, a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, whether he thought Trump’s “vermin” comment represented a tipping point, an escalation in his willingness to attack opponents. Miller replied by email: “My bet is we’re seeing the same basic traits, but their manifestation has been ratcheted up by the stress of his legal problems and also by some sense of invulnerability in that he has yet to face any dire consequences for his previous behavior.”

Miller wrote that he has long thought that Trump’s narcissism was actually distracting us from his psychopathic traits. I view the two as largely the same but with psychopathy bringing problems with disinhibition (impulsivity, failure to delay gratification, irresponsibility, etc.) to the table, and Trump seems rather high on those traits, along with those related to narcissism (e.g., entitlement, exploitativeness), pathological lying, grandiosity, etc.).

I asked Donald R. Lynam, a professor of psychology at Purdue, the same question, and he emailed his reply: “The escalation is quite consistent with grandiose narcissism. Trump is reacting more and more angrily to what he perceives as his unfair treatment and failure to be admired, appreciated and adored in the way that he believes is his due.”

Grandiose narcissists, Lynam continued, “feel they are special and that normal rules don’t apply to them. They require attention and admiration.” He added, “This behavior is also consistent with psychopathy, which is pretty much grandiose narcissism plus poor impulse control.”

Most of the specialists I contacted see Trump’s recent behavior and public comments as part of an evolving process.

“Trump is an aging malignant narcissist,” Aaron L. Pincus, a professor of psychology at Penn State, wrote in an email. “As he ages, he appears to be losing impulse control and is slipping cognitively. So we are seeing a more unfiltered version of his pathology. Quite dangerous.”

In addition, Pincus continued, “Trump seems increasingly paranoid, which can also be a reflection of his aging brain and mental decline.”

The result? “Greater hostility and less ability to reflect on the implications and consequences of his behavior.”

Edwin B. Fisher, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, made the case in an email that Trump’s insistence on the validity of his own distorted claims has created a vicious circle, pressuring him to limit his close relations to those willing to confirm his beliefs:

His isolation is much of his own making. The enormous pressures he puts on others for confirmation and unquestioning loyalty and his harsh, often vicious responses to perceived disloyalty lead to a strong, accelerating dynamic of more and more pressure for loyalty, harsher and harsher judgment of the disloyal and greater and greater shrinking of pool of supporters.

At the same time, Fisher continued, Trump is showing signs of cognitive deterioration,

the confusion of Sioux Falls and Sioux City, several times referring to having beaten and/or now running against Obama or the odd garbling of words on a number of occasions for it seems like about a year now. Add to these the tremendous pressure and threat he is under, and you have, if you will, a trifecta of danger — lifelong habit, threat and possible cognitive decline. They each exacerbate the other two. . . .

Craig Malkin, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, raised a separate concern in an email responding to my inquiry:

If the evidence emerging proves true — that Trump knew he lost and continued to push the big lie anyway — his character problems go well beyond simple narcissism and reach troubling levels of psychopathy. And psychopaths are far more concerned with their own power than preserving truth, democracy or even lives. . . .

Klaas of University College London concluded that a crucial factor in Trump’s political survival is the failure of the media in this country to recognize that the single most important story in the presidential election, a story that should dominate all others, is the enormous threat Trump poses:

The man who, as president, incited a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to overturn an election is again openly fomenting political violence while explicitly endorsing authoritarian strategies should he return to power. That is the story of the 2024 election. Everything else is just window dressing.

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