Should presidents be required to pass a mental health exam? | The Tylt

Should presidents be required to pass a mental health exam?
A group of psychiatrists is calling for an emergency evaluation of President Trump's mental health. Recalling Ronald Reagan's deterioration in office, some are asking whether Trump can handle the world's hardest job. After reported incidents of angry outbursts and an incoherent New York Times interview—many argue the president's mental health is "the elephant in the room." But others say armchair diagnoses of our political leaders are irresponsible at best, slanderous at worst. What do you think?
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Should we require presidents to have their mental health examined? A number of psychiatrists think so. Bandy Lee, the Yale psychiatrist who briefed Congress on President Trump's mental health, now claims Trump's recent behavior—from angry outbursts to an incoherent New York Times interview—proves an "emergency evaluation of the president's mental capacity" is needed.

A capacity exam is an independent evaluation of the ability of someone to carry out a certain function, such as to stand trial or to make medical decisions for oneself, or in a more everyday setting, to carry out a job... The president’s mental capacity to serve has come up because we can’t be sure of his ability to think rationally and make sound, reality-based decisions.

Johns Hopkins psychologist John Gartner gathered more than 62,000 signatures from mental health professionals attesting that Trump "manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States."

“Worse than just being a liar or a narcissist, in addition he is paranoid, delusional and grandiose thinking and he proved that to the country the first day he was President. If Donald Trump really believes he had the largest crowd size in history, that’s delusional,” he added.

Even former president Jimmy Carter wanted to create a panel of physicians who would routinely evaluate the Commander-In-Chief's psychological health. If you have access to the nuclear codes, it seems reasonable that you would need to pass a regular psychological exam. 

"Many people have called to my attention the continuing danger to our nation from the possibility of a U.S. president becoming disabled, particularly by a neurologic illness," Carter wrote in a December 1994 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
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But others argue offering public comment on the president's psychological health without ever having examined him is a serious violation of ethics, and any medical professional who would do so cannot be trusted. The Goldwater Rule prohibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health publicly.

As David M. Perry argues in the Pacific Standard:

For 18 months, I've joined many other disability justice activists in decrying such speculation as based in ableist ideas that associate Trump's cruelty, incompetence, and deception with some kind of easily diagnosable pathology. These armchair diagnoses have provoked tense and angry discussions, driving wedges between diverse segments of the progressive community. I’ve taken a hard line against this speculation. 
This past fall, 27 mental-health professionals collaborated on The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, violating the so-called "Goldwater Rule."

Not to mention, some of our greatest leaders struggled with mental health issues. Abraham Lincoln famously suffered from depression—would he have been disqualified by a mental health exam?

Duke study concluded several past presidents had signs of bipolar disorder—Lyndon Johnson and Theodore Roosevelt among them—and nearly 8 percent of past presidents exhibited evidence of alcohol abuse or dependence.

The study concluded that 24 percent of presidents met the diagnostic criteria for depression, including James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Franklin Pierce, Abraham Lincoln, and Calvin Coolidge... his team also found evidence of anxiety disorders, ranging from social phobia to generalized anxiety disorder.

Psychology Today cites one author who argues some mental illnesses could actually equip leaders to perform well in times of crisis, as they may be more able to cope with upheaval and uncertainty. Would psychological testing deprive us of a worthy president?

Leaders with some mental illnesses can actually perform well in times of crisis as they may be more prepared to deal with upheaval and uncertainty.

Others say these accusations are just more partisan smears from the left, designed to damage the president, whose mental and physical health is obviously fine. As Dr. Keith Ablow argued on Fox News:

When a man acquires billions of dollars through complex real estate transactions, invests in many countries, goes on to phenomenal success in television and turns his name into a worldwide brand, it is very unlikely that he is mentally unstable.

Weaponizing mental health for political gain could set a very dangerous precedent. 

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Should presidents be required to pass a mental health exam?
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#DontTestThePrez