I have been out of commission for several months now on medical/surgical leave from my work as a psychiatrist and about everything else, weathering reparative surgeries, elective very aggressive interim chemotherapy to more than ever insure continued remission. But finally I am bringing all this to a close, regaining energy, able to use my arms and forearms each week (that prevented almost all typing, computer work, even holding books etc.) and can start devoting myself to my publishing and commentary efforts, though mostly using dictation software to digitize my thoughts on the viewable gizmos of our age.
I have thought a great deal about the growing chorus in the citizen media concerning the temptation (a pointed characterization on my part of this phenomenon) to diagnose our new President, Donald Trump. The President has perhaps unwittingly on his part, for the most part, demonstrated public behavior that has drastically broken nearly every unwritten” rule” or traditional expectation of political behavior and leadership script of our American Presidents literally since the earliest independence days of this country. In brief, I will summarize some of the customary channels of behavior that we have come to expect of our Presidents. Granted my grasp of this is not nearly equal to that of a true historian of the American Presidency. But I have read a number of presidential biographies and viewed many tv documentaries since my childhood of American Presidents. These two sources of information have given me at least more than a modicum of background data on the almost “institutional’ behaviors of Presidents. So I think that I do have at least a moderately well-grounded foundation for offering several “behavioral mores” that devolve upon American Presidents.
As usual, I need to start by revealing my personal disclosure of perhaps bias, my origin of interest in, and the backdrop for this somewhat offbeat, whimsical comparison and view of these two men as Presidents. And as a sop to my own ego, I must reveal/declare that I think this is an analogy that I, personally, though perhaps still mistakenly, very likely NO ONE has thought of.
The personal source of part of how this goofy metaphorical comparison came to me is indeed, “personal.” My father’s late sister was a teacher and a big cheese in American education in the 1960’s. Her name was Antoinette Miller of Houston Texas. My father and his family grew humbly in East Texas in a now ghost town that no longer exists named then, “El Mina,” Texas in the New Waverly-Conroe area and later moved during their childhoods to Huntsville. My father’s sister was the eldest and ambitious and went to college at “Texas Teachers’ College” as it was called then. One of her then classmates and somewhat close friend whom she came to know was Lyndon Baines Johnson. She rose to prominence in the NEA early in her career and was actually national President of the NEA at somewhat earlier age than most in that position. She was a national reformer and advocate and believer in the public schools as a national resource and treasure. She worked in the post-WWII years to strengthen the University of Texas state university branch system. She also in the same spirit of working to make higher education more affordable and available in this country helped in a minor but significant, persistent way, to push for the educational benefits in the FDR administration and completed by President Truman, in the GI Bill for returning veterans of World War II. my aunt’s friendship with President Johnson was deep, though largely not known nationally, but it was the basis for his appointing her his educational ambassador at large. She focused for several summers during his presidency years, visiting and studying the educational systems in India and Russia of all places! My aunt maintained her friendship and working relationship with President Johnson in her own behind the scenes style during his rough years in the Vietnam War era. I remember her stories of calling up “Lyndon,” and according to both my father and “auntie Antoinette,” she would give the President, her old college buddy, blunt Texas type unsolicited advice on his conduct of the Vietnam War. Knowing my incredibly strong-willed aunt, I can only imagine that poor LBJ had to grit his teeth and hear her out for the sake of their long-term, not well-known friendship dating back decades.
As the current Presidential campaign/circus proceeds with unheard of antics on a daily basis, I have become reminded over and over again of the importance of the modern phenomenon of narcissism. As a tongue in cheek pictorial example to set the tone for this series of posts in the few weeks before the national election, I have chosen the famous but perhaps forgotten by many of our younger generations of the prototypical fashion dandy of Britain in the early 1800’s, Beau Brummel. In a way, he could be the male forerunner of the phenomenon of fame seekers such as the ubiquitous Kardashians.
In spite of the now rampant, free-wheeling, arm chair psychologizing and analyzing of the Republican nominee for the Presidency Donald Trump, there persists in the blather and smoke of the nondebate political exchanges among the candidates, an issue that still is important. This is the somewhat famous “Goldwater Rule,” formulated and made part of the American Medical Association’s section of Psychiatric Ethics in 1973. It basically stated that psychiatrists were being unethical if they held forth on diagnosing, attaching specific psychiatric labels and such to Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona who was in 1964 the Republican nominee for the Presidency. A magazine published for approximately 3 years by Ralph Ginsburg, a prominent counter-culture writer in the 1960’s.
Section 7.3, which appeared if the first edition of the APA’s code of ethics in 1973 and is still in effect as of 2016, says:
On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement. [From Wikipedia