Once upon a time there was a big and important US Republican party politician who was seen as being dangerously right-wing, who made incendiary comments about minority groups and who was disavowed by all moderate members of his own party. A number of prominent psychiatrists lined up to explain why he “psychologically unfit to be president”. He was “emotionally unstable” and a “dangerous lunatic” they said.
These comments about Barry Goldwater’s mental state, which were carried in a 1964 article in Fact magazine damaged his US presidential campaign that year – Goldwater lost in a landslide to the incumbent Lyndon B Johnson.
Goldwater later sued Fact magazine for libel and won his case. Since then, a “Goldwater Rule” has been in place – it prohibits psychiatrists from giving opinions about the mental state of public figures they have not personally evaluated.
This week though the American Psychoanalytic Association told its 3,500 members that they should no longer be bound by the decades-old Goldwater rule. Past president of the association, Prudence Gourguechon, said that the rule change was necessary because Donald Trump’s behaviour “is so different from anything we’ve seen before”.
Unleashing a bunch of Freudians on Trump’s psyche may look good on a PR release but is about as useful as the pseudoscience of psychoanalysis is itself.
And they’re a bit late to the bun fight – plenty of psychiatrists have already gone rogue by openly flouting the Goldwater rule.
At a conference in Yale University in April, prominent psychiatrists stated publicly that Trump had a “dangerous mental illness”, was “paranoid and delusional” and that mental health experts had an “ethical responsibility” to warn the US people about the “dangers” Trump poses to the country.