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In the past four years, we have often been warned that we must not try to decipher Trump’s mental state because it would violate the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater Rule.” This is a rule that was adopted in 1973, as an ethical warning to its members that they should not attempt to define the psychiatric state of a patient that they have not personally evaluated. This rule came about because a magazine called FACT polled psychiatrists in 1964 about whether Barry Goldwater was fit to be president. He lost the election but sued the magazine and won. This article explains the genesis of the rule, written by a psychiatrist who was on the panel that adopted it (although he opposed the rule because it infringed on freedom of speech).
Not all psychiatrists agreed with the Goldwater rule, especially when Donald Trump emerged as a candidate for president. One psychiatrist, Dr. Bandy Lee at the Yale School of Medicine, spoke out against it and organized a collection of essays called The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.
The Yale Daily News published a profile of Dr. Lee here, written in May 2020.
Although she considers herself apolitical, she became increasingly alarmed by the behavior and statements of Donald Trump as a candidate. Dr. Lee is a specialist in the area of violent behavior, and she saw in his actions the dangers ahead.
Since the 2016 election, Lee has spearheaded a movement to shed light on what she believes is the dangerous mental condition of the president. She has organized a coalition of mental health experts similarly concerned with the president’s mental state, and in October 2017, she published “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” a book of essays by numerous mental health professionals assessing the president’s mental aptitude. Last December, as the presidential impeachment proceedings came to a head, Congress received a petition led by Lee and two other mental health professionals. The statement accompanying the petition claimed that the president’s mental fitness was rapidly declining. In the petition signed by 350 other health professionals, the trio wrote that the president had the “real potential to become ever more dangerous, a threat to the safety of our nation.”
After the publication of her book, Dr. Lee received numerous death threats.
We now know that Dr. Bandy Lee was prescient. From afar, she diagnosed Trump as a “threat to the safety of our nation.” We now know that he incited an insurrection and encouraged his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory. He imagined, somehow, that if they stormed the building and took hostages, Congress would meekly reverse the election results. This is delusional thinking.
Fortunately he has returned to private life, and we can only hope that officials in New York City and New York State act promptly to hold him accountable for his crimes, as we hope that the U.S. Senate will hold him accountable for his reckless and unprecedented effort to violently overthrow the certification of the Electoral College votes.
He is a traitor.
Dr. Bandy Lee saw it first. She is a hero. She is courageous. She is a truth-teller.