President Donald Trump speaks about the violence at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as he talks to the media in the lobby of Manhattan’s Trump Tower on August 15.KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS
Hurling accusations of mental illness at opponents is nothing new in politics. But on Friday, Representative Zoe Lofgren went a step further, tabling a resolution for President Donald Trump to undergo a medical and psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is fit to hold office.
The San Jose Democrat said in Congress that the results of the test could be used by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to determine whether Trump should be removed from office under a little known proviso in the constitution, reported Mercury News.
“President Donald J. Trump has exhibited an alarming pattern of behavior and speech causing concern that a mental disorder may have rendered him unfit and unable to fulfill his Constitutional duties,” wrote Lofgren in her resolution.
The resolution cites the 25th amendment of the constitution, which states that the vice president and cabinet have the power to temporarily remove the president from office if he or she “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
It is not the first time that questions have been asked about the psychological stability of the president.
The 1973 Goldwater Rule forbids psychiatrists from publicly commenting on the mental health of presidents without having engaged in a personal individual evaluation.
But several experts have defied the convention to speak out against Trump. In November, two Harvard psychiatrists declared that the 45th president’s “grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to criticism and inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality” led them to question his fitness for office.
Though they stopped short of making a diagnosis, they implied that Trump suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with one of two variants of the disorder defined by the American Journal of Psychiatry as involving behavior that is “socially charming despite being oblivious to the needs of others and interpersonally exploitative.”
In February, dozens of mental health professionals signed a letter saying Trump’s “speech and actions demonstrate an inability to tolerate views different from his own, leading to rage reactions,” and show “a profound inability to empathize.”
A split has opened up between the two main professional bodies for mental health professionals in the U.S., with the American Psychoanalytic Association resolving in July that members are “free to comment about political figures as individuals,” while the larger American Psychiatric Association bars members from doing so, reinforcing the Goldwater rule.
Some experts have given Trump a clean bill of mental health. Allen Frances, Professor at Dukes University, who first defined the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder said that although Trump may be a narcissist, “He is bad not mad.”
Others argue that talk of the mental health of the president is partisan backbiting under another name.
Slapping diagnoses on public figures like Trump is “essentially name-calling and it’s not constructive,” Susan Molchan, a psychiatrist who spent much of her career at the National Institutes of Health told news website FiveThirtyEight last week. “It’s making an assumption and trying to attach a stigma, and it’s not fair to people who are clearly mentally ill and aren’t bad,” she said.
But for now it’s highly unlikely that Trump will face a psychiatrist, with Lofgren’s resolution recquring approval from the GOP-controlled House, and is, unlike a bill, non-binding.