As I write this, I’m spitting mad and sleep-deprived. I’m not surprised by the events of this week, but they horrify me just the same. And I’m sickened at the glacial pace of response by those in power in Washington.
Donald Trump has just spend two months spoon-feeding rage and paranoia into his brainwashed base. He actively encouraged the coup attempt we witnessed on Wednesday, his ghoulish personal attorney whipping the mob into a frenzy beforehand, urging a “trial by combat.”
So why isn’t Giuliani imprisoned and bracing himself for federal prosecution for sedition? And why is Trump still in the Oval Office?
Let’s review, shall we? For almost four years, I’ve been writing that Trump is mentally unwell and thus unfit for the Presidency. I have laid out a persuasive case that he meets the diagnostic criteria for Antisocial Personality Disorder and perfectly fits the psychological construct of Malignant Narcissism (in other words, is a psychopath).
Rather than rehash those old arguments, let me take a different tack and guide you through the gold standard for determining psychopathy, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised. This is the tool that forensic psychologists utilize when performing mental health evaluations on violent offenders, to give but one example of its application.
Before moving forward, I will add the caveats that I am not a forensic psychologist, nor have I examined Donald Trump in person, so these are not definitive pronouncements. However, as I walk you through the checklist, you’ll see that it ain’t exactly rocket science. Plus, our spotlight-hogging, Tweeter-in-Chief has furnished us with so many data points, we can be confident in our pronouncements.
The Hare Checklist has 20 items. Let’s walk through them one by one:
- Glibness/Superficial Charm: Well, he duped 62.9 million Americans to vote for him in 2016, and 74.2 million in 2020. Is that good enough for you?
- Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth: At the 2016 Republican National Convention, he bragged that “I alone can fix this.” 365,000 deaths into the pandemic, I’d say his estimation of his capabilities is grossly overinflated.
- Need for Stimulation: The 2 AM poop-tweeter and nonstop Fox News watcher? Yeah, he fits the bill.
- Pathological Lying: The Washington Post Fact Checker database has catalogued over 29,000 lies during his Presidency.
- Conning/Manipulation: From Trump University to the bogus charities, it’s his way of life.
- Lack of Remorse or Guilt: I have not seen a single apology or admission of error from this man. He’s constitutionally incapable of it.
- Shallow Affect: Everything Trump does is purely transactional, from trading up for trophy wives, to using his children, to demanding unfaltering loyalty from his stooges. True affection and kindness are alien to his nature.
- Callous/Lack of Empathy: Holding superspreader rallies during a pandemic to stoke his brittle ego? Demanding that White House staffers go maskless? ‘Nuff said.
- Parasitic Lifestyle: From failing to pay his NYC contractors to using the White House primarily to profit his businesses, parasitism is his modus operandi.
- Poor Behavioral Controls: The stories of verbal abuse and shouting fits during his Presidency are legion, not to mention the multiple allegations of sexual assault and rape from earlier decades.
- Promiscuous Sexual Behavior: Banging a porn star while Melania was pregnant with Barron? Hanging with Jeffrey Epstein? The rumored Russian pee-pee tape? Yeah, he’s got it.
- Early Behavioral Problems: Family members report his cruelty to a neighborhood toddler and schoolyard sadism.
- Lack of Realistic, Long-Term Goals: From Trump Steaks to the Mexican border wall, the Trump brand is one of gossamer goals unattained.
- Impulsivity: His press conferences will go down in infamy for the goofy notions he yanked out of his tuchus, like drinking bleach or using light to cure COVID.
- Irresponsibility: See all of the above.
- Failure to Accept Responsibility for Own Actions: “I don’t take responsibility at all,” his May 2020 comment about his botched COVID response, could easily be his life motto.
- Many Short-Term Marital Relationships: This one probably doesn’t apply, since he’s spent 15 years apiece with Ivana and Melania.
- Juvenile Delinquency: See “Early Behavioral Problems” above. It’s safe to presume that Papa Fred’s money rescued him from the consequences of his youthful misconduct.
- Revocation of Conditional Release: Doesn’t apply yet.
- Criminal Versatility: His deeds have run the gamut from money scams to fomenting insurrection to sexual violence, so yes, this glass slipper fits.
When scoring results from this checklist, the minimum score to be deemed a psychopath is a 30. (British psychologists use a lower cutoff of 25.) By my estimation, President Trump achieves a score of 34.
So why go through this exercise? This is no psychiatrist parlor trick; I’m exercising my professional mandate to warn society of a dangerous individual. Being assessed a psychopath has real-world consequences. To quote one example from a leading expert in the study of psychopathy, Kent Kiehl, in his lucidly accessible book The Psychopath Whisperer: The Science of Those Without Conscience: “An inmate who scored high on the Psychopathy Checklist was four to eight times more likely than an inmate who scored low to reoffend in the next five years – and more likely to reoffend violently.”
As Kiehl reports in his book, youth at risk for psychopathy can be helped and guided down better paths with treatment. However, a septuagenarian psychopath is pretty ossified in his neural pathways and behavior, and is thus hardly likely to learn new tricks.
Psychologist John Gartner, the courageous force behind the excellent documentary Unfit, has been sounding the alarm that Trump’s danger to America and the world was only going to worsen after he lost his re-election campaign. A humiliated psychopath is a deadly beast. This week’s events prove him right. The President who lost his access to Facebook should not still have access to the nuclear football. The 25th Amendment needs to be invoked now, to eliminate that clear and present danger, and Trump needs to be impeached yet again. Our Psychopath-in-Chief must never again be allowed within shouting distance of the Presidency.
(Image credit: by Joanbanjo – own work, CC BY-SA)