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    A recent letter to the editor of the NEW YORK TIMES, signed by 35 psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers addressed the behavior of the U.S. President. They stated that; ”The grave emotional instability of Mr.Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as President.” As far as I know, none of these professionals have examined him, and it would be unethical and unprofessional to give a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder. However, they could point out common narcissistic character traits such as intolerance of criticism and feelings of grandiosity.

    As far as I am concerned, a person probably needs to be at least a little bonkers to want the job of President in the first place. If not a bit sick in the head, at least a world leader, when confronted with some of the world’s problems, might probably want a stiff drink.  That’s one thing that President Trump does not do. He makes all of his judgments perfectly sober—which gives one pause.

    According to a study by Jonathan Davidson and his colleagues of the Duke Medical Center, the first 37 U.S. Presidents (1776-1974) were afflicted by a form of mental illness, and 27% met these criteria while in office. Of course, a person can be psychiatrically ill, and be perfectly capable, just like another person can be mentally healthy but totally unfit. You don’t have to be crazy to be incompetent.

    Some Roman Emperors were famous for their off-the-wall behavior. Caligula (37-41 AD) thought he was a god and that the god of the sea was out to get him. Maybe that’s why he appointed a horse to be a senator. Nero (54-68 AD) a nephew of Caligula had a bad “personality disorder” and persecuted the minority called Christians. He also declared himself a god. And Commodus (180-192 AD) believed himself to be the reincarnation of Hercules. He liked the reincarnation so much that he named lots of streets after himself. Then there were the European monarchs.

    King Eric XIV of Sweden (1560-1568) had a bad temper, went into rages and alternating moods and walked the corridors looking for someone to blame for whatever. King George III (1760-1820) had panic attacks, delusions and hallucinations, and he lost the colonies we so happily call home. Then there was “Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1864-1886) who was known for building extravagant palaces  where he could retreat and hide from the demands of the outside world. But back to our own Presidents.

    Mark Will-Weber wrote about two centuries of drinking patterns in the White House and uncovered several drunks. Franklin Pierce fell off the wagon after trying to quit and died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 65. Ulysses S. Grant fell off his horse while intoxicated at a military parade in New Orleans, and Richard Nixon was once unable to take a call from the British Prime Minister concerning the Suez crisis because he was “loaded.”

    Several Presidents including Lincoln, Madison and Coolidge suffered from depression. That’s not surprising, it really is a depressing job. Supposedly, Woodrow Wilson had “anxiety disorder,” and Thomas Jefferson a “social phobia.” I know that he didn’t really want to socialize with John Adams all that much. The scientists at Duke pointed out that Teddy Roosevelt may have had a bi-polar disorder, and that Taft had sleep apnea which can affect cognitive functions. And, it’s no secret that some scholars now believe that Ronald Reagan showed signs of early Alzheimers while in office.
    Okay, so history has shown us that some world leaders have been able to function quite well despite their mental disorders, while others have brought ruin to their kingdoms and people. Perhaps, the bottom line should be that despite a degree of narcissism (which seems to come with the job) and hypersensitivity to criticism, it is vital that the President of the United States can distinguish between fantasy and reality, because if his fantasy becomes our reality, we may all be led up the creek without a paddle.

    In order to know if someone is mentally ill, clinical data is necessary. We don’t have that! In the meantime, citizens need to measure Trump on his judgment, his words, and his actions. That will let us know if he is fit to serve.

    Esther Blumenfeld (“There is a difference between a simpleton and a madman”) Goethe

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