The first ten months of Donald Trump's presidency has brought no shortage of protests. But none are as unprecedented as the action planned tomorrow in towns across the country by psychiatrists and others who believe Trump is mentally and even physically unfit to be President.
On Saturday, the group Duty to Warn will host town halls in 13 cities, including New York, Washington DC, and Chicago. Each will feature multiple mental health experts, academics, and doctors, plucked from places such as Yale and the American Civil Liberties Union who will speak about the Trump-shaped elephant in the room. The speakers will also voice their support for a bill that would allow Congress to create a committee to assess a president's mental and physical health. The group's argument, also made in an accompanying book and in a documentary that will be screened at the events, is simple, if controversial: Donald Trump should be impeached by Congress under the 25th Amendment, which calls for removal if a president is "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office."
In the group's view, echoed in a letter sent to every member of Congress earlier this August by some of its members, Trump's alleged "severe emotional impediments" make him a danger to both himself and the country at large. Elsewhere, others have increasingly gotten vocal in pointing to the drastic changes in Trump's speaking style in recent years as well as his frequent memory and concentration flubs as a sign of cognitive decline. To pick one recent example, Trump nearly forgot to sign an executive order he had issued Thursday, which he had also done in March.
But the group's bold proclamations that Trump is a narcissistic, paranoid tyrant who's losing his faculties haven't gone without criticism from other mental health professionals, who say they're flouting a decades-long rule intended to protect the profession from itself. Following the 1964 election, which featured psychiatrists publicly diagnosing Republican candidate Barry Goldwater in a magazine article that subsequently led to a libel suit, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) passed a rule barring its members from diagnosing public figures without having treated them. Last March, the APA rebuffed attempts to get rid of the Goldwater Rule, adding that its members shouldn't publicly offer any psychiatric opinions about a stranger's behavior at all, even if they believe the person could be a "threat to the country or national security."
The Goldwater Rule only technically applies to APA members, though other mental health organizations have adopted it as an informal tradition. But as with Duty to Warn, some groups aren't letting it hold them back any longer.
Duty to Warn isn't just stopping at town halls either. Its founder, Baltimore-based psychologist John Gartner, has also formed a political action committee, the 25th Amendment PAC, that will fund candidates willing to pass the bill that would allow Congress to evaluate the president's mental and physical health. The proposed legislation, HR 1987 or the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act, has already garnered the support of 31 Democrats in Congress, though it's unlikely any Republicans would lend their signatures to it right now. (Gartner, by the way, is the person who started a Change.org petition for mental health professionals to declare Trump mentally ill; it has more than 60,000 signatures.)
Given reports that even some Republican stalwarts are getting worried about Trump's unpredictable behavior, though, it seems the concerns voiced by Duty to Warn aren't just a partisan issue.
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