With the fire and fury over Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” comes the question – this one courtesy of The Washington Post – of President Donald J. Trump’s mental stability. Is he insane? Does he have dementia?
I’m not one for armchair psychology or speculation. Nor do I believe in using language imprecisely. Insane people don’t live in the real world. Just because many of us don’t like Trump’s take on reality doesn’t mean he dwells in the realm of unreality. I don’t think for a minute that he imagines himself to be Queen Victoria, for example.
As for dementia, well, that’s a disease I have first-hand experience with as a caregiver. Which makes me expert, because the so-called experts – and this is truly frightening – know little about it. Dementia is the umbrella term for a bunch of often age-related memory and personality diseases, of which Alzheimer’s is one. Alzheimer’s can’t actually be diagnosed without an autopsy. (See the problem?) There’s no cure and no treatment, only a few measures that may slow the inevitable twilight. It’s a living hell.
But the qualities ascribed to Trump, such as repetition, are not exclusive to dementia. They could also be signs of anxiety and insecurity – and the pressure of the Russian investigation. His narcissism doesn’t make him immune to weakness. Rather, narcissism is a kind of weakness. Only a strong, healthy ego can confront anxiety, insecurity and doubt – and shape them with meaning. Trump does not have that kind of ego.
Although it is fascinating that the White House allowed the press unprecedented access to an immigration meeting Tuesday between the president and Congressional leaders. An attempt, perhaps, to counter Wolff’s portrait of Trump as the childish anti-intellectual patronized and manipulated by his staff?
The meeting displayed the Trump of “The Apprentice” franchise and Ric Burns’ “New York: A Documentary Film” – trying to be measured, pragmatic, conciliatory.
Instead of asking if Trump is mentally unstable – which just betrays the desperation of critics to remove Trump from office and their own weakness – it would be wiser to consider why we haven’t seen more of “Apprentice” Trump in the White House.
The answer may be as much political as it is psychological. Twitter Trump, always on the edge of the maelstrom, may be giving a performance for the benefit of his base – the only audience left to feed the narcissist within him.