Sunday, January 7, 2018

Trump, Defending His Mental Fitness, Says He’s a ‘Very Stable Genius

ny times

WASHINGTON — President Trump, whose sometimes erratic behavior in office has generated an unprecedented debate about his mental health, declared on Saturday that he was perfectly sane and accused his critics of raising questions to score political points.

In a series of Twitter posts that were extraordinary even by the standards of his norm-shattering presidency, Mr. Trump insisted that his opponents and the news media were attacking his capacity because they had failed to prove his campaign conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence,” he wrote on Twitter even as a special counsel continues to investigate the Russia matter.

“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” he added. He said he was a “VERY successful businessman” and television star who won the presidency on his first try. “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!”

Elaborating during a meeting with reporters at Camp David later in the day, Mr. Trump again ticked off what he called a high-achieving academic and career record. He raised the matter “only because I went to the best colleges, or college,” he said. Referring to a new book citing concerns about his fitness, he said, “I consider it a work of fiction and I consider it a disgrace.”

The president’s engagement on the issue is likely to fuel the long-simmering argument about his state of mind that has roiled the political and psychiatric worlds and thrust the country into uncharted territory. Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation to force the president to submit to psychological evaluation. Mental health professionals have signed a petition calling for his removal from office. Others call armchair diagnoses a dangerous precedent or even a cover for partisan attacks.

In the past week alone, a new book resurfaced previously reported concerns among the president’s own advisers about his fitness for office, the question of his mental state came up at two White House briefings and the secretary of state was asked if Mr. Trump was mentally fit. After the president boasted that his “nuclear button” was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s in North Korea, Richard W. Painter, a former adviser to President George W. Bush, described the claim as proof that Mr. Trump is “psychologically unfit” and should have his powers transferred to Vice President Mike Pence under the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

Mr. Trump’s self-absorption, impulsiveness, lack of empathy, obsessive focus on slights, tenuous grasp of facts and penchant for sometimes far-fetched conspiracy theories have generated endless op-ed columns, magazine articles, books, professional panel discussions and cable television speculation.

“The level of concern by the public is now enormous,” said Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at Yale School of Medicine and editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” a book released last fall. “They’re telling us to speak more loudly and clearly and not to stop until something is done because they are terrified.”

As Politico reported, Dr. Lee was invited to Capitol Hill last month to meet with about a dozen members of Congress to discuss the matter. But all but one of the lawmakers she briefed are Democrats. While some Republicans have raised concerns, they do so mostly in private. Others scoff at the question, dismissing it as outrageous character assassination.

Few questions irritate White House aides more than inquiries about the president’s mental well-being, and they argue that Mr. Trump’s opponents are trying to use those questions to achieve what they could not at the ballot box.

“This shouldn’t be dignified with a response,” said Kellyanne Conway, the White House counselor.

“The partisans on Capitol Hill consulting with psychologists should reorient their spare time: support the president’s positive agenda of middle class tax cuts, rebuilding infrastructure and the military, investing in our work force,” Ms. Conway said later in an email. “The never-ending attempt to nullify an election is tiresome; if they were truly ‘worried about the country,’ they’d get to work to help it.”

Thomas J. Barrack, a friend of Mr. Trump’s, was quoted in Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” as telling a friend that the president was “not only crazy but stupid.” In interviews, Mr. Barrack denied that and insisted that many people miss Mr. Trump’s actual brilliance.

“Potus has learned over time that Socratic testing and a lack of predictability is a worthy weapon in both negotiations and in keeping his team well honed, unentitled and on alert,” he said, using the initials for president of the United States. “He has no truck with political correctness, self-promotion or personal hubris of his team. This may cause him to appear at times to be overly realistic, blunt or to be politically insensitive even to his own subordinates. However, that is not the case.”

Still, in private, advisers to the president have at times expressed concerns. In private conversations over the last year, people who were new to Mr. Trump in the White House, which was most of the West Wing staff, have tried to process the president’s speaking style, his temper, his disinterest in formal briefings, his obsession with physical appearances and his concern about the theatrics and excitement of his job.

In conversations with friends, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has said Mr. Trump is “crazy but he’s a genius.” Other advisers speak about the president as a volatile personality who has to be managed carefully. While Mr. Wolff’s book generated enormous attention, news accounts over the past year have reported the president’s mood swings and unpredictable behavior.....\

Some psychiatrists have said it is irresponsible to throw around medical terms without an examination.
“These amateurs shouldn’t be diagnosing at a distance, and they don’t know what they’re talking about,” said Allen Frances, a former psychiatry department chairman at Duke University School of Medicine who helped develop the profession’s diagnostic standards for mental disorders.
Dr. Frances, author of “Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump,” said the president’s bad behavior should not be blamed on mental illness. “He is definitely unstable,” Dr. Frances said. “He is definitely impulsive. He is world-class narcissistic not just for our day but for the ages. You can’t say enough about how incompetent and unqualified he is to be leader of the free world. But that does not make him mentally ill.”
cbs news

Wolff says understanding the "emperor has no clothes" will end Trump's presidency

Wolff says understanding the "emperor has no clothes" will end Trump's presidency

Last Updated Jan 6, 2018 12:52 PM EST
Michael Wolff, author of the new bombshell book "Fire and Fury: Inside Trump's White House," told the BBC in an interview broadcast Saturday that he believes understanding revelations resulting from his book about President Trump will "finally end this presidency."
"You know I think one of the interesting effects of the book so far is a very clear, 'emperor has no clothes' effect — that the story that I've told seems to present this presidency in such a way that it says he can't do this job, the emperor has no clothes, and suddenly everywhere people are going, 'Oh my God it's true, he has no clothes.' That's the background to the perception and the understanding that will finally end this presidency," Wolff told the BBC.
"Fire and Fury," released Friday, describes Mr. Trump in an unflattering light, as someone prone to fits of frustration who eats cheeseburgers and watches TV in bed at 6:30 p.m., and whose capabilities are questioned by his entire senior staff. 
"He doesn't read, he doesn't listen, he's profoundly uncurious. He's just interested in what he's interested in and isn't interested in the larger problems of the world, almost any of them," Wolff told the BBC.
"That's on the one hand, so the other side is he's experiencing now issues, fundamentally physical, mental issues..." Wolff continued. 
Wolff, who says he conducted more than 200 interviews for his book and took up a semi-permanent seat in the West Wing for months, was asked if he sees Mr. Trump as someone who is mentally incapable of being president of the United States. 
"Well, I think he's intellectually incapable of being president of the United States," Wolff told the BBC. 
Mr. Trump took to Twitter early Saturday to defend himself, calling himself " a very stable genius" and slamming Wolff, saying he made up stories to sell his book.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Effect of 6 Elderly New Yorkers on One Middle-Aged Reporter

ny times

For almost three years, my mother has been asking me the same question. Don’t I get depressed, she wants to know, talking to all those old people?
The short answer is no.
The slightly longer answer is that no work I have ever done has brought me as much joy and hope, or changed my outlook on life as profoundly. Even now, I am surprised to be writing those words.....

One day in his apartment, Fred Jones asked me my definition of happiness, then gave me his own. “Happiness to me is what’s happening now,” he said. The apartment, a cluttered wreck that was up two flights of stairs he could barely climb, was an unlikely place to look for happiness, and Mr. Jones, whose health was failing, was an unlikely spokesman. But he never dwelt on his problems. “If you’re not happy at the present time, then you’re not happy,” he said. “Some people say, if I get that new fur coat for the winter, or get myself a new automobile, I’ll be happy then. But you don’t know what’s going to happen by that time. Right now, are you happy?” Whenever I asked him the happiest time of his life, he said without hesitation, “Right now.”
The six became models for the challenges in my own life, living examples of resilience, gratitude and the wisdom that comes from living through ups and downs in history. Even amid the very real hardships of old age, all found reasons or opportunities to be happy.
In early 2016, I wrote the words “Happiness Is a Choice You Make” on a sheet of paper and taped it to the wall by my nightstand. It was Mr. Jones’s wisdom filtered through that of all the others. Right now, are you happy?
They were words to live by, at any age. Why not? In the rest of the year I wrote a book by that title, due out this month, with a subtitle giving credit where it is due: “Lessons from a year among the oldest old.” This time, I tell the story that is not in the Times series.
In some ways, the title is an answer to my mother’s question, and an homage to six people and one assignment that changed my life. The effects carried me through this year, as the daily maelstrom of current events roiled friends around me. No, I did not get depressed spending time with old people. I became more patient, less anxious, more capable of loving, less afraid of death and decline.
Which is to say, more like an old person. And grateful for it.