Opinion » Bill Cope


The Norman Bates in our American motel


What if Trump is insane?

It's a possibility, isn't it?—that he's as crazy as a person can get and not be under a court-ordered, 72-hour observation?

I have heard him called everything else—liar, huckster, demagogue, flip-flopper, womanizer, fascist, misogynist, racist, crude, boorish, hypocrite, fraud, vulgarian, con artist, clown, egotist, dangerous—and there's little doubt he is all of those things. And more. But what if the most direct, most simple explanation for Donald Trump is that he is just... plain... nuts?

I wouldn't pretend to have a clinical diagnosis for what distempers might be sizzling in that brain of his. Paranoid schizophrenia sounds about right. Manic-depressive, maybe. Bipolar, perhaps. Or are those the two that are the same thing? I can't keep track.

No matter, as you listen to him speak, if you can't hear obvious delusions of grandeur—even a raging Messiah complex—you're not listening hard enough. Nor would I be the first to suggest he reeks of narcissism like Chris Christie reeks of garlic. You can almost see it radiating off him.

Keep in mind, just because everyone uses the word "narcissism" in reference to Trump doesn't make it a flippant thing. What is now called "narcissistic personality disorder" is what used to be called "megalomania," and throughout history a lot of people have died some damn crappy deaths owing to various leaders' megalomania. A whole lot of people and a whole lot of crappy.

We should also consider maybe there's not a name for what Trump has. It's my sense the whole range of disorders that fall under the mental illness tree is superficially understood. So I can see there might be a distinct possibility that no mental health professionals are willing to talk openly about how nuts Trump is, if only because they haven't seen a nut quite like him before.

Normally, when we hear someone raving about how great and powerful he is; about how so many others are jealous of him and have been trying to destroy him; about how he has personally witnessed things nobody else has seen or knows things nobody else knows; we expect it to be coming from a guy who sleeps in a cardboard box. Who would imagine we'd ever hear the same sort of demented bluster from a billionaire presidential candidate who is likely to win his party's nomination.

I suppose Trump's antisocial and repugnant behavior could be attributed to that new affliction, "affluenza." I say "new" because few people had ever heard of it before lawyers used it to defend a rich snot who killed four people in a drunken driving incident.

Broadly defined, affluenza is "an inability to understand the consequences of one's actions because of financial privilege."

That sounds like Trump, doesn't it?—a man who feels entitled to whatever he wants, because he's so accustomed to having never been denied anything before. Might it explain how he can lie so glibly without any thought given to how those lies will impact the people he's lying to, or the people he's lying about?

Muslims, for instance, or illegal immigrants. Could a man stand before thousands of supporters and lie repeatedly about having seen video of New Jersey Muslims rejoicing at the destruction on 9/11 if he was the least bit worried about how his words might be acted on by those followers? Could he so unashamedly claim he knows nothing about David Duke or white supremacist groups, even when he has to know it will only encourage Klan filth? Could any man lie about black-on-white crime rates so blatantly, or tell a crowd already primed for violence how he would like to see a protester punched in the face, and still pretend he cares if those savage sentiments were turned to action on the streets?

We know an honorable man wouldn't do it; but, as this dishonorable man comes closer and closer to the nomination, I certainly don't think it's unreasonable to ask if a sane man would do it.

It must be something specific, something we haven't considered before. If affluenza was a real thing, everyone born to wealth would be an asocial monster. Even the guy in the cardboard box wouldn't do it, not merely because he was paranoid or delusional, schizophrenic or bipolar. To behave as badly as Trump, there would have to be another element. An even deeper, more disturbing, disorder.

Ah! Here it is. I may have found it. From a syndrome profile from Psychology Today: "Psychopaths ... are unable to form emotional attachments or feel real empathy with others, although they often have disarming or even charming personalities. Psychopaths are very manipulative and can easily gain people's trust. They learn to mimic emotions, despite their inability to actually feel them. ... Psychopaths are often well educated and hold steady jobs. Some are so good at manipulation and mimicry that they have families and other long-term relationships without those around them ever suspecting their true nature. ... Psychopathy is the most dangerous of all personality disorders because of the way psychopaths dissociate emotionally from their actions, regardless of how terrible those actions may be."

Sound like anyone you've seen give a victory speech lately?