A Quickie: Duty to Warn vs. the Goldwater Rule, Can We Diagnose the Ol’ Pussy Grabber?

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Diagnosing the Ol’ Pussy Grabber

I’ve made quite a bit of hay or is that hey? out of diagnosing the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. Since I am no longer a licensed mental health professional, I am not bound by the Goldwater rule. In brief, during the 1964 presidential campaign, apparently, some people thought Goldwater an unhinged psychopath, and the now-defunct muckraking magazine, Fact, published an article entitled, The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater. According to the NYT article, Ralph Ginsburg, the editor, was a provocateur of sorts out to get Goldwater. He surveyed the approximately 12,000 members of the American Psychiatric Association about Goldwater’s mental health. Only a little over 2,000 responded to the mailed survey, but Ginsburg wrote up his findings anyway.  Half of the respondents opined that Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president describing him variously as a dangerous lunatic (very scientific!), paranoid, and megalomaniacal, grossly psychotic, and diagnosing him as a narcissistic personality disorder (sound familiar?) and schizophrenic. For what’s its worth a little over a quarter judged him to be mentally fit and a little under a quarter weaseled out of it by saying they didn’t know enough about him… how professional of them!

GoldwaterGoldwater lost the election, but won his libel suit against Ginsburg and Fact receiving from $1.00 in compensatory damages and $75,000.00 in punitive damages. This was decided by the Supreme Court, by the way. Also, Goldwater had sued for $2 million. So there’s that.

In response the APA created a rule widely known as the Goldwater rule stating that psychiatrists and psychologists cannot diagnose people they have not personally examined. You know, some people just have to spoil all the fun! But there is some wiggle room! Don’t y’all love a bit of wiggle room? While licensed psychiatrists and psychologists cannot diagnose the Ol’ Pussy Grabber as a narcissistic personality disorder, let’s say, they can say he appears to be a narcissist.

Against this backdrop, we have two sets of psychiatric opinions: one is against violating the Goldwater rule given by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, psychiatrist extraordinaire, and Chair of the Colombia University Department of Psychiatry in The Hill, and the other for given by Yale Medical School professor of psychiatry, Brandy Lee, and other participants at an open town-hall-style meeting addressing the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s mental health status. Strangely, they both agree on one point: there needs to be a protocol concerning evaluating a president’s mental health and removing her from office vis-a-vis the 25th amendment.

How Much Should the Public Know

Lieberman essentially says that it is unethical to offer a diagnosis of a person that you have not been able to examine personally, but, given the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s behavior, it is easy to understand why people have questions. To get around this sticky wicket, he suggests that we discuss two other questions: how much does the public have a right to know about the president’s mental health and what are the circumstances that the president can be removed from office due to the inability to discharge her duties. Given the awesome power of the office, it stands to reason, he concludes, that the greater good outweighs any right to privacy the office holder might lay claim to.

He concludes by stating that it is high time that we made a standard medical review including mental health be a thing that any would-be president must submit to. It ain’t earth shattering, I admit, given our current circumstances, but it does avoid the ethical quagmire of offering diagnoses based on public records.

It ain’t likely to become a requirement anytime soon, unless, of course, the Dems get a veto proof Congressional majority in 2018. We can only hope.

Duty to Warn

Lee’s point-of-view is grounded in the Duty to Warn criteria used in about 40 states: if a person is a threat to others, then the treating physician has the state’s official okey-dokey to warn the that other or alert the authorities. Again, given the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s alarming behavior, it is understandable that various mental health professionals are alarmed and concerned.

There have been several iterations of this public warning.

  • Dr. Judith Herman the Harvard and Cambridge trained psychiatrist was so alarmed by the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, she wrote a letter to President Obama wondering if there were any way of preventing him from becoming president based on his mental instability. The letter has gone viral and was read at the Women’s March.
  • Dr. John Gartner, psychologists, and formerly of the John Hopkins School of Medicine has also been very vocal in his concerns for the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s mental health, reasoning that he doesn’t have to have the Ol’ Pussy Grabber lie to him personally to realize that he lies frequently and habitually. After all, his numerous lies have been well documented in the public record.
  • For his part, Dr. James Gilligan of the NYU medical school famously opined, When you add all of these elements… this is the class of people of whom Hitler is a member. He was referring to the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s well known need for extravagant flattery, need for extreme revenge, occasional sadism, lack of remorse, and tendency to exploit and violate the rights of others. He has concluded that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is a danger to others even without an official diagnosis.
  • Dr. Robert Jay Lifton former professor of psychiatry at Yale University offers the concept of malignant normality or arrangements put forward as being normal when in fact they are dangerous and destructive. Apparently, Lifton is an expert on the co-optation of doctors in the Holocaust, and basis his interpretation of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber on that. Now, no one is saying the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is a Nazi, he just shares some prominent traits with them in the opinion of these gentlemen. He goes on to observe that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber is behaving very authoritarianly, if you’ll accept the term, and is trying to break down our public institutions so they cannot be used to prevent him from enacting his policies.

I have read from various in formal sources that there are wimperings among Congress-types about removing the Ol’ Pussy Grabber. It is clear that he is dangerous. It is also clear that he has the unwavering support of at least some substantial minority of the population (25%? 35%?). Given all of the outrageous things the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has done, what would it take to push his cabinet or Congress over the edge and have him removed? What could push the Ol’ Pussy Grabber to committing even more outrageous acts than he already has? Should we even wait that long?

5 comments

  1. Howdy Lesley!

    What a long strange trip it has been. Somehow this comment had ended up in the spam folder. I rescued it, but didn’t have time to respond. It’s been a few weeks, and I’ve reread it a few times since then. Since I’m in a doctor’s waiting room waiting, I figgered I had time to go back through my old comment list — which I need to do periodically to be sure that I haven’t missed anything. Anywho, enough of my mea culpas.

    I love the image of the teeny-bopper you watching JFK press conferences! My grand mother — in the mountains of Tennessee — had a picture of Jesus flanked by JFK and LBJ hanging on her wall. I was thrilled to get a JFK half-dollar coin as a reward at summer Bible school. JFK and RFK certainly had an impact on the nation in their short-time on the big stage. What a different world it would be had RFK won the 1968 presidency. I think of that often nowadays.

    My family, too, watched the evening news together. I loved Walter Cronkite. Isn’t that funny? I thought the world of him and watched as religiously as I watched every other kid’s show that was on at that time. Sometimes, the news was difficult to understand, but it seemed important to me.

    I agree, Goldwater probably got a bad rap there. He was an eccentric thinker, but he had his faculties. He was authoritarian, like Nixon, but he also had a social orientation and a full range of emotional expression that did not disqualify him from being president. Recently, I have been struck how widespread the authoritarian personality and authoritarian tendencies are among the conservatives of the country.

    It is clearly to me, though, that the Ol’ Pussy Grabber has a mental illness that does disqualify him. That he was elected is an alarming risk to our democracy. The GOP has sold us cheap for tax breaks for the wealthy. Unfortunately, for all of us, they’ve gotten more than they bargained for. They shoulda been reading my blog.

    Huzzah!
    Jack

    Like

  2. I wonder just how long it will take him to get actually caught in a situation that will readily allow the official diagnosis….not that there isn’t already a plethora of psychotic cookie crumbs leading to him already .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an interesting topic and a post that brought me back to my first year of high school when Goldwater was running for President. In 1964 the country was still mourning the loss of our beloved JFK and LBJ was a far cry from the charming, charismatic Kennedy. He appeared bumbling and crass to JFK’s glamour. The nation and my community loved Kennedy and LBJ couldn’t match up on any level. Intact, he was difficult to watch and Ladybird was certainly not Jackie. With each speech he made I missed the wit and charm of all the previous press conferences, and JFK’s repartee with reporters. I never missed a pressed conference during Camelttot, but stopped watching because LBJ just made me miss my beloved Jack too much.
    Growing up in a family where we openly discussed politics at the dinner table and then sat and watched the nightly news together, I was kept abreast of everything happening in the world. In 1964, my older brother was a senior in high school when Goldwater ran and busy applying to colleges. He had been accepted to Harvard and Yale but needed a really great scholarship to go. My father was in turmoil since in a matter of 3 years, he would have 3 kids in college and would not be able to afford that burden unless my brother accepted a scholarship and work study program and those particular IVY league schools didn’t offer enough of a deal. So he accepted Colgate University and then went to Columbia Law School.) Anyhow, back to Goldwater. I can still see the high school paper in 64 covering the pre election stats. My brother and another young man were on the cover. My brother, Bob held up an LBJ sign and his friend lifted up a Goldwater sign. They had a school debate and advanced students got to watch them in the auditorium. I was really proud of my older brother but I knew he was an accomplished speaker since he was President of the student council and spoke before the school on a regular basis. He gave outstanding arguments for LBJ. However, even though I voted in my school election for LBJ I never thought Goldwater was crazy. He was just an out of the box thinker. I never understood why people thought he was crazy. I just thought he was. radical for the times. I thought a lot of what he said made perfect sense. These were issues we discussed at home. My mother probably voted for Goldwater. Most likely based on the fact that his father was Jewish and not because of anything political. Her allegiance was probably based souly on ancestry. I am not sure but I assume my father voted for LBJ to keep on the Democratic track and continue on with JFK’s legacy. But then again he did not like war and could easily have voted the other way. All I remember is my father discussed both sides, my parents voted and then afterwards told each other how they voted. They came in and said they cancelled out each other votes were laughing. But I never bothered to ask who voted for whom. I wish I had. (I’ll have to email my brother who now lives in California and see if he knows the answer to that one. ) Anyhow, this longwinded comment is based on my experiences of Goldwater during those times. My family didn’t think he was crazy. They thought he was an interesting intellectual man who was opinionated. But they never yelled and screamed and thought he was nuts. I never understood why he got such a bad rap. He was different, but not stupid or uneducated like 45.

    Liked by 1 person

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