- - Wednesday, May 17, 2017


How could legislators get rid of a president who appalls them but who has not committed high crimes and misdemeanors, the conventional legal grounds for impeachment?

By claiming he is mentally ill.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, like many Democrats, cannot stomach Donald Trump and has decided to try to nullify the American electorate’s choice for president only months after Mr. Trump’s term had begun.

Originally refusing to attend the president’s inauguration, the Harvard-educated lawyer from Montgomery County, Md., has now stated his outrage at the newly elected president’s “relentless trafficking in bigotry, misogyny and fear.”

Mr. Raskin has authored a bill with 20 Democratic co-sponsors, the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act, that would, consistent with Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, create a commission that would determine whether President Trump is psychiatrically fit to continue as president.

In a style similar to Mr. Trump‘s, Mr. Raskin breathlessly tweeted “Mental chaos & erratic behavior are bringing serious attention to the #25th Amendment” and “Incapacity must be seriously addressed. Check out my bill, the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act, HR 1987.”

Contrary to the Democratic Party’s ostensible worship of “science,” non-scientific opinions such as Mr. Raskin’s are replete among liberals in speculation that Mr. Trump is “mentally ill.” These include subjective opining in writings in Psychology Today, Vanity Fair and elsewhere.

This is nothing new. Psychiatrists publishing in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease claimed a decade ago that about half of U.S. presidents have had mental illness. Several years ago, a National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored study claimed that substantially more than 50 percent of the public will suffer a mental disorder in their lifetime.

These claims have nothing to do with scientific medicine. Political science regularly masquerades as objective science. Popular presidents are generally considered mentally healthy. Very unpopular ones are generally considered “mentally ill.” The criteria for mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association are sufficiently broad that anyone can be so diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist as having a psychiatric disorder, especially from a distance.

“Mental illness” is a general category of social derogation that cannot be verified via objective disease classification but can be employed to disqualify a president pseudomedically. Nine years after more than 1,000 psychiatrists in 1964 said in a survey conducted by Fact Magazine that Sen. Barry Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president — citing a range of psychiatric diagnoses from neurosis to psychosis — in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association in its Principles of Medical Ethics, stated that it is unethical for psychiatrists to issue opinions on people or public figures whom they have not personally examined or to state such opinions publicly if they have not secured the agreement of those they have seen professionally. This is informally known as “the Goldwater Rule.”

Legislators and their psychiatric accomplices who would use their personal and political preferences to try to reverse democratic decisions may be Democrats, but they, in fact, reject democratic decision-making. They are politically and scientifically beneath contempt.

President Trump’s style (understandably) antagonizes Democrats who (not understandably) want to punish him and remove him from office for that style. As the Democrats have said regarding the present president’s style, this attack on an elected officeholder in order to remove him from office reminds one of totalitarian governments.

• Richard E. Vatz is a professor at Towson University and Jeffrey A. Schaler, a psychologist, was a professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs. They are co-editors of “Thomas S. Szasz: The Man and His Ideas” (Transaction Publishers, 2017).

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