The Goldwater rule is the name given to Section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Principles of Medical Ethics, which states that it is unethical for psychiatrists to give professional opinions about public figures whom they have not examined in person. In short it is a guideline that no one is legally constrained to follow, and it can be flouted without remedy by anyone not a member of the APA.
Enter Dr John Gartner, author of “Rocket Man: Nuclear Madness and the Mind of Donald Trump” and Johns Hopkins professor emeritus. He believes the Goldwater Rule is irrelevant and without merit in the examination of Donald Trump. Anyway, “the personal interview is not the gold standard of psychiatric assessment,” Gartner says in a recent interview with David Pakman, “especially if you’re dealing with a liar.”
The problem is, as Gartner explains it, that prior to 1980 psychological diagnoses were largely in the hands of the Freudians. Then in 1980 the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual III (currently in its fifth edition) became the standard for diagnosis, and these diagnoses can be performed without personal interviews, can be done, in effect, from afar.
“If I can observe your behavior, or I can talk to someone who can observe your behavior, I can form a valid diagnosis,” Dr Gartner explains. Gartner says he can observe Trump with greater accuracy and far more reliability through his tweets, speeches and the testimony of others than he could from a patient he sees personally every week.
Gartner warns that one of the reasons Trump is so dangerous is he actually suffers from multiple conditions. These include malignant narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality disorder and sadism. Of Trump’s sadism, Gartner elaborates on the zero tolerance policy, “The cruelty was not a bug it was feature. There was actually an element of pleasure that he [Trump] gets from crushing weaker people underneath his boot – like a bully.”
The diagnosis is dire and the prognosis grave. “This is the essence of evil,” Gartner continues, “the closest psychiatry can come to defining the human monster … [and] they get worse over time, not better.” What can we expect from a madman like Trump? Potentially the worst. As Gartner puts it, “We do need to worry about nuclear war. Malignant narcissistic leaders almost always do start wars.”
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.