Bandy X. Lee is not Chicken Little, but you couldn’t blame her for feeling as if she were. For the last three years, she has been trying to tell anyone who would listen and those who wouldn’t that Donald Trump presents an imminent danger to the American people. Unlike Chicken Little, who did not have academic credentials in astronomy or climatology, Lee is eminently qualified to assess that Trump is truly the sky that is falling.
Dr. Lee is professor of psychiatry at Yale University. For more than 25 years she has specialized in the psychology of violence and is internationally recognized in her field.
In 2017, she edited the book “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” in which she and 25 other prominent mental health experts discussed why they considered Trump a hazard to the country’s collective health. She also heads a group of nearly 5,000 experts who agree with the book’s conclusions.
Unfortunately, but somewhat understandably, she has had a miserable time getting people to pay attention. This is truly tragic, because if we have a (pick your politically incorrect synonym for nut) in the White House, especially during a national crisis, the threat to the country is indeed enormous.
I would argue that’s exactly where we are right now.
Dr. Lee visited me in Washington about two years ago. She was trying to alert members of Congress to her concerns. She described all of the symptoms manifest by Trump and she ominously predicted that the pattern she observed in the President’s behavior “…always gets worse. It never gets better.”
She also told me that she was being blackballed by mainstream media, who would not air her concerns because of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule,” which says it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion on a public figure’s mental state unless they have personally treated them. Lee and her colleagues respond that they are not diagnosing Trump; rather, when they recognize patterns of dangerous behavior, they have a professional responsibility to alert those who are threatened, in this case the American public.
It doesn’t take a mental health professional to recognize that Donald Trump’s behavior is not normal. His incredible narcissism, his insecurity, his paranoia, his pathological mendacity and his obsession with President Obama are just a few of the mental health abnormalities on display every day. Remember, this isn’t just the person who last week suggested that people ingest disinfectants to combat coronavirus. It’s also the person who thought about using nuclear weapons to stop hurricanes and who said that windmills cause cancer.
Over the last few years, Lee has often been scheduled for TV appearances, always to be canceled by network executives. Mainstream newspapers will not use her work or her name. Every so often a news site or specialty publication will discuss Lee’s work, but for the vast majority of Americans, she is unknown.
She will not be unknown forever, however.
I acknowledge that it is a tough call for editors, print and broadcast, to produce stories on the mental health of the president. The pushback from Trump fans would be fierce and loud, and there would be the inevitable “balancing” of experts that would only confuse the audience.
Opinion writers are not having the same problem.
Many, if not most, prominent national columnists, including many conservatives, have publicly questioned Trump’s mental condition. Many of my Democratic colleagues, and, of course, I include myself, have not held back in questioning Trump’s mental state. (My Republican colleagues not so much — like never.) But virtually no investigative journalism has been dedicated to this most important national issue.
It’s time for this to stop.
Bandy Lee and her professional colleagues deserve to be heard and their views need to be analyzed, dissected and critiqued. But they must not be ignored. Remember, there is virtually no one outside of the West Wing saying Donald Trump is a “stable” genius, or even a “stable” ignoramus. Nobody with expertise is claiming he is stable, and the American people, facing a critical decision as to whether to keep him in office for four more years, deserve and need a discussion as to whether he is mentally fit to lead the country. •
U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, founder of LEO, has represented Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District since 2007 and is now chairman of the House Budget Committee.