The president should be tested for dementia

Since Donald Trump first announced his candidacy, concerns have been raised about his mental health. While it’s impossible — and, mental health professionals say, unethical — to diagnose someone from afar, our 70-year-old president has shown numerous signs of dementia as well as narcissistic personality disorder. Given that he’s got the codes to the nukes, isn’t it fair to ask him, and for that matter every president, to give up certain privacy rights where mental health is concerned?

Democrats and a few Republicans say yes. In a House floor speech Wednesday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) launched a working group to review the 25th Amendment’s procedure for removing a president from office, using Trump’s very obvious and easily disproven lies — like those concerning the popular vote numbers and the weather at his inauguration — as evidence that he’s mentally unfit to serve.

Via The Hill:

“Like many people, I’ve noticed renewed interest in the 25th Amendment, as we’ve seen erratic behavior out of the White House and inability of Donald Trump to even tell whether it rained on him during his inaugural speech and repeating false statements that are demonstrably wrong,” Blumenauer said in a House floor speech.

If a president refuses to step down from office, a full two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must vote to force him out. Blumenauer doubts that would happen in today’s highly polarized political environment (not to mention, one where the president’s party controls both houses of Congress), so he suggested a panel of former presidents should be the ones to vote:

“I submit that the best fail-safe to a president who is emotionally unstable would be to impanel our previous presidents and vice presidents to make that determination,” he said. “We need to have a mechanism that can be reliable, command public confidence and be above politics.”

He did not say how Congress would get a sitting president to willingly submit to a psychiatric evaluation.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) shares Blumenauer’s concerns. In an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, he said “a few” of his Republican colleagues even agree. (“Not the majority, but a few.”) When asked in what way they are concerned, he replied:

“You know, we all have this suspicion that, you know, he lies a lot. He says things that aren’t true. That’s the same as lying, I guess. He… You know, ‘three [million] to five million people voted illegally’… there was a new one about people going from Massachusetts to New Hampshire… That is not the norm for a president of the United States, or actually, for a human being.”

Can’t argue with that.

In an effort to get more information about Trump’s mental state, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) plans to introduce legislation that would require a psychiatrist to be present in the White House. A 1928 law requires a “regular” doctor be present in the White House, Lieu explained, but mental healthcare was stigmatized at the time, so there was no provision for that. “In the 21st century, we know that mental health is just as important as physical health,” he said, “so it seemed to make sense that the White House should also have a psychiatrist or a psychologist available.” Seems rational enough.

Lieu noted that the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act contained provisions to bring mental health screenings for people entering the armed forces up to par with physical health screenings. Given that he has the power to do a million times more damage than any individual soldier, shouldn’t the commander-in-chief be subject to at least that level of scrutiny?

While it’s unlikely many Republicans will go along with this, Lieu paints it as a “bipartisan issue” that at least some Republicans are already on board with. “Republican Chairman Jason Chaffetz told The Washington Post earlier this year that he thought the president should have an independent mental health exam,” he said.

The specific case of Trump adds urgency to these requests. In addition to his delusions of grandeur, lack of empathy and carefree lying, President Trump is the oldest American president ever to take office and has a family history of dementia. His father Fred developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s, and experts now say dementia can start earlier than previously thought. The report submitted by Trump’s personal Dr. Feel Good naturally claimed he was healthy as a horse, but did not include any type of mental health evaluation. Does that make you feel safe?

While one would think a mental and physical health evaluation would be par for the course for a presidential candidate, they’re not currently required to release anything, and not every candidate does. Current president notwithstanding, they’ve got a much better record of releasing their tax returns. And the reports that are released come not from independent evaluations, but doctors the candidates have known (and paid) for years who stand to benefit from their association with them.

Of course, the general principle behind this is that every American citizen has a right to privacy, a right that covers their medical records. It’s also possible Trump could simply be erratic and dangerous in ways not covered by the DSM, or that voters would support Trump over a Democrat regardless. But considering the president has the power to kill anyone in the world (or many someones) with the push of a button, the rights of those people to stay alive trumps the president’s right to privacy.

[Photo: Getty]