It’s pretty simple. Professionals must be trusted, and when it becomes clear that members of a profession are allowing themselves to be influenced by emotion and partisan political bias, they cannot be. One of the most troubling results of the mass abandonment of fairness, prudence, proportion, fairness and common sense in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election has been the public meltdown of reserve and restraint by so many professionals, which will have long-term effects on their ability to serve the public in the future.
Journalists, as we have seen and continue to see, have completely abandoned their profession’s duties of competence, objectivity and independence to join the efforts on the Left to undermine President Trump and his administration. Educators and school administrators, whose roles in society should have no political component whatsoever, have done the same. Historians, whose profession requires careful and dispassionate analysis of past events with perspective and objectivity, chose this moment to try to influence history as it was being made, and to push it into directions they prefer as partisans, not professionals. Law professors and lawyers have debased themselves arguing for crackpot theories to justify undoing the election. Judges have embraced the opposite of a judicial process to halt a Presidential order their political allies find offensive: rather than evaluating the limited travel halt based on what it is, they have delayed it based on a presumed motive calculated from past comments made on the campaign trail.
Legal ethicists, as I discussed here, abandoned legal ethics to make bogus, politically motivated charges against a Trump aide who is not practicing law, and whose conduct in question wouldn’t have breached professional standards if she had been. Last week, scientists demonstrated on the National Mall to argue for policies they say their research demands, though a preference for specific policy applications biases research and makes it untrustworthy. Great: climate scientists want draconian climate change policies? Good to know; now we also know that we can’t be sure their research results aren’t tainted by their bias….though coming up with a predictive climate change model that actually works would be nice. Even the linguists have succumbed to the epidemic.
Now a significant number of psychiatrists have joined their colleagues in other professions by behaving like partisan hacks.
A group consisting of dozens of psychiatrists claimed at a conference at Yale University last week that President Donald Trump has a “dangerous mental illness” and is not fit to be President of the United States. None of them have personally examined the President, but say they have an “ethical responsibility to warn the public about Donald Trump’s dangerous mental illness.” Dr. John Gartner, a practicing psychotherapist and former advisor to psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, said during the conference that the president is “paranoid and delusional.” He continued,
“Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition, he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that’s delusional.”
That statement alone drips with the unprofessional hackery that makes this development so damaging to Gartner’s profession. Boasting about the estimated size of a crowd “proves” The President is dangerous, does it? Dr. Gartner, is also a founder of Duty to Warn, an organization of mental health professionals who feel Trump is unfit to be President. That group is adopting the seriously wacko argument that the Cabinet should declare the President incapacitated so he can be removed under the 25th Amendment. This is, like so many of the delusions and plots arising from the Left these days, a Soviet-style totalitarian theory: non-conforming ideas mean one is insane. Trump wants to stop telling illegals that that they are welcome to cross our borders, remove unnecessary restrictions on energy and job creation, dismantle a crumbling and failed health care law, stop kow-towing to teachers unions to the detriment of our children, develop energy reserves, and enforce “red lines” when they are drawn? The man must be nuts!
During the conference, Psychiatrist and New York University professor James Gilligan said based on his experience working with “murderers and rapists” he can “recognize dangerousness from a mile away.” This came as the group openly defied the the American Psychiatric Association, which cautions its members to abide by a principle commonly known as “the Goldwater Rule,” prohibiting psychiatrists from offering opinions on someone they have not personally evaluated. The wisdom of the Goldwater Rule should be obvious, especially in the context of judging public figures in a political context. Are these psychiatrists really so naive that they assume that what a public figure like Trump shows the world is necessarily an accurate portrait of his real personality and character?
I discussed the Goldwater Rule last August. It flushed out a psychiatrist named Hal Brown, who had written a post for the Daily Kos arguing that Trump was an exception to the Goldwater Rule (Trump uniquely justifies the suspension of professional ethics: That’s the New York Times Rule), and for a while even posed here as an objective commentator. But of course Dr. Brown, like the group at Yale, was not objective. The rebellious shrinks are selectively alarmed regarding leadership proclivities. Put it this way: somehow the same personality variations that they tend to find terrifying in Donald Trump, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush never seem to trouble them when they appear in Presidents whose policies they approve of.
From that post, written before the election:
Most professional organizations are dominated by Democrats, which means the members are likely to be biased. Thus there is a greater likelihood that the force of medical expertise will be used as a partisan weapon…Why, for example, wasn’t there any need to remind members of the American Psychiatric Association about the Goldwater Rule when Barack Obama was first running for President? He is certainly not a poster child for Narcissistic Personality Disorder like Trump, but he displays a lot of the traits. …Many U.S. Presidents, good, bad and great, have scored high on the narcissism scale. A psychiatric professional pronouncing Trump or any candidate as a narcissist is likely to be simplified by the news media and the public into a simple “he’s crazy,” with crazy equaling “dangerous.”
It ain’t necessarily so. In a 2013 article in Psychological Science (it costs 35 bucks to download it) psychiatric researchers examined 42 Presidents through George W. Bush…This study concluded that “grandiose narcissism,” characterized by flamboyance, immodesty and dominance, was associated with greater Presidential success. The two highest scores on grandiose narcissism were Lyndon B. Johnson and Theodore Roosevelt., with FDR close behind. The lowest scores were relative White House flops James Madison and Millard Fillmore.
Did the Yale bloviators know all this? I doubt it. Their meeting sounds like a typical “resistance” rally. I concluded that suspending the Goldwater Rule for Trump was a bad idea all around…
1. Amateur diagnoses, like mine, are likely to be taken as opinions only, without the enhancement of special expertise and authority. They help inform the public, but are not so powerful that they mislead.
2. Experience teaches us the professionals can’t be trusted to issue such diagnoses fairly and objectively, and tend to create the mistaken impression that only conservatives and Republicans have mental and emotional problems. Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer sure seem like sociopaths to me, but I haven’t encountered any psychiatric professionals who have been eager to say so.
3. When such a diagnosis becomes another label reducing a complex individual into a stereotype, it impedes rather than assists rational evaluation by the public.
4. Narcissism, as with other mental disorders, isn’t necessarily disabling. It was remarkable how often experts in Ken Burns’ recent documentary “The Roosevelts” described Teddy as “crazy,” while saying that he “managed it” well, in part because he knew he was crazy: mental illness, including depression, ran in his family. I’ll take Crazy Teddy as my President any day. I’ll take Teddy now, dead and all. How I wish we had that option…
The statement made last August by the head of the APA reaffirming the wisdom of the Goldwater Principle could have been issued yesterday in response to the Yale fiasco for his profession, especially when he wrote,
“This large, very public ethical misstep by a significant number of psychiatrists violated the spirit of the ethical code that we live by as physicians, and could very well have eroded public confidence in psychiatry… I can understand the desire to get inside the mind of a Presidential candidate. I can also understand how a patient might feel if they saw their doctor offering an uninformed medical opinion on someone they have never examined. A patient who sees that might lose confidence in their doctor, and would likely feel stigmatized by language painting a candidate with a mental disorder (real or perceived) as “unfit” or “unworthy” to assume the Presidency.
Simply put, breaking the Goldwater Rule is irresponsible, potentially stigmatizing, and definitely unethical.”