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Rethinking the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the Trump Era

Rethinking the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the Trump Era

Jill Richardson

Is it ever appropriate for mental health professionals to diagnose a politician from afar? Maybe.

Focussing on Trump is fine for now, but his days are numbered to eight, four, or fewer years by whatever the f*ck happens. Let’s focus on those who voted for him–they ain’t going away any time so soon.


No. Mental Health Professionals should not being diagnosing public persons from a far and sharing those diagnoses.

Anything that needs to be said about these public persons is better done without the label of a Mental Health Professional making a diagnosis. But once we start using diagnoses to deal with them, we start down a slippery slope that is not good.

The end of this is people who aren’t in power, but challenging the power system, being diagnoses by government paid professionals and this being used to put them in asylums. It has happened around the world and it could happen in our future if we think the horrors of Trump justify this practice.

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I don’t often agree with you LWoLW, but on this one, we see 100% eye to eye! Once we start engaging in “remote diagnosis” we make it ever easier for those who dissent to be labeled “insane” and locked away. Just look what’s happened to a range of Putin’s opponents, from Navaly to Kosenko…

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Yes. All this is an attempted end run around the constitutional ways to remove a president: impeachment followed by a senate trial that needs a two thirds vote to remove or the 25th amendment that requires a two thirds vote of both houses. Those super majorities make it extremely difficult to remove a president who is supported by his or her party.

But if the Congress can pass this proposed law to remove based on unfit due to mental health and make it by a simple majority and then get like minded professionals to do a remote diagnosis, then it becomes much easier to remove a president.

The problem with this is that even if the whole thing is started off by people who sincerely believe they are doing it all because a president is legitimately mentally unfit, there is nothing to keep this from becoming a political tool. Those who might be thrilled if Trump is removed this way would be devastated if a Democrats wins in 2020 and by 2022 he or she had been removed this way.

So, No. Again, I say No.


“The Goldwater Rule” was created by a fairly conservative body, the APA, after distance diagnoses of Barry Goldwater were made during the '64 campaign. It’s not based on clinical reasoning or research. Something called “psychohistory” was a popular form of historical research in the seventies and eighties, and there was little objection to diagnosing the long dead, Lincoln, or the still living, Reagan. The fact is, psychiatrists may not find a diagnostic handle for a particular patient even with a face to face session. Certainly one session is not adequate, and sometimes a diagnosis gets made, and may be changed, with further contacts. So there’s nothing magical about a face to face psychiatric interview with, say, Trump, vs. a diagnosis based on an overwhelming amount of in your face out in public material on which to base your diagnosis.

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Without involving the ethics and practices of professional psychologists it should be obvious to anyone knowing about psychology Mr Trump is a narcissist. The ‘classic’ symptoms are there for all to see in his daily dealings of world affairs. So barring an impeachment, highly unlikely, or total mental incompetence, 25’th amendment, we’re stuck with Mr Trump. What should be occurring is a greater effort to keep the corporate tools from being appointed to dismantle the federal agencies. The list of judges and cabinet heads are from the lists from the most conservative factions in the US. The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Family Council, etc., many others are having their wet dreams fulfilled by the 3 branches of govt run by GOP majority. The tax scam is just the latest travesty. As long as Mr Trump can sign legislation he’ll remain in office. It’s up to the people to stop the dismantling of govt support systems and their lackeys in cabinet positions and hope it’s not to late for all concerned.

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Note also that everybody currently in the line of POTUS succession would be pushing through the same GOP agenda that Trump is, with the exception that most would not be provoking nuclear war.

We don’t have a Trump problem, or a GOP problem. We have a money in politics problem.


Yes, WiseOwl, we should be focusing, like an effin laser, beyond Trump — on the EMPIRE

But for now it’s fun and productive to shoot some easy and fun arrows at Trump, as I just commented on the NYT:

"Since Trump is at least temperamental, if not mental, all Robert Mueller has to do when he gets Trump seated for an interview is to expose any little incriminating fact that worries Trump, then push him on it and get under his thin-skin.

With Trump’s argumentative sense of his own power this is what it will look like:


“I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom!”

It’s very appropriate to help people understand where a national leader is coming from so that we can predict his actions and protect the nation (and world) if need be. I checked out the DSM and found that the president easily meets all the criteria for the diagnosis, antisocial personality, which used to be called psychopathy. It you type in the president’s mindset on google from Common Dreams, it will come up. This is a much more dangerous diagnosis than a form of mental illness or dementia; in fact, people with mental disorders can seek treatment and function quite well. But people who have no empathy and no conscience are the ones we should fear. Prisons and the business world are full of this type.
Katherine van Wormer
Professor of Social Work

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The top psychiatrist of the 27 in the book makes the point they are not “diagnosing” Drumpf, but rather analyzing his behavior, not the entire person, which is more involved. I see your point, but if a pres is evaluated physically by a real doctor (instead of the quack who claimed Drumpf was the healthiest human being on planet Earth) then there is no reason not to be evaluated mentally. It’s rather medically ignorant NOT to do so.

The Pandora’s box you see being opened by mental evaluation is opposite of the Pandora’s box we now opened by not having the elected mentally evaluated. We have a mentally unbalanced person in the highest office in the world: what is more dangerous than that?


Have you READ The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump? If not, you should.

Lib and WW, for god’s sake, the mental health people are not trying an end run to unseat him nor are they trying to unseat him because of a mental illness diagnosis or a label.

And they specifically say that. Read the damn book!

They’re showing his behaviors…behaviors that indicate unfitness to responsibly discharge the duties of presidential leadership, especially in a nuclear age, and they are warning of behaviors he could possibly unravel enough to do…and I KNOW you’ve seen the behaviors and heard the things that he’s said that make you shake your heads. Because of their expertise, they’re in a position to predict more exactly what he might do as pressures on him increase…and they want the public and leaders to be aware of same, specifically not just intuitively.

You don’t relax with him at the helm with his big button, do you? So how to stop him? No one’s shot him, nor is anyone going to. What’s your Plan B? Dump is dangerous and they’re showing why and how…and hoping it’s information used before he incinerates the planet.


Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you. Well stated. I hope these others “get it.”

I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing in the book Bandy Lee is the editor of, and there was a lot of thought-provoking information; people should be reading it and trying to use the info in order to decide what to do. Three more years could be more disastrous than anyone thought possible, and regular impeachment ain’t gonna happen.

As far as the DSM and personality disorders go, I never agreed that THAT / THOSE mental illness(es) should have the criterion of the illness discomfiting the identified patient. PD people, as you imply, often don’t feel affected or incapacitated by their illness, but their families and co-workers suffer a lot. Antisocial PD, Narcissistic PD, Borderline PD…omg…


There’s a big difference between publicly diagnosing an illness, which is medically unethical, and protecting the public from a dangerous person, which is a duty. The duty to warn is very real, and very necessary. You really should read the book.

I love subtle humor!

Why? If his behavior is obvious that it is terrible, how is reading the book going to change things?

You simply ignore my point:

You want to remove him through constitutional means because of his obvious dangerous behavior? Go ahead. What is the point of having mental health professionals jettison the rule of not doing diagnoses of public persons from a distance? We don’t need that. So forget the book. I don’t need to read it to know two things:

  1. It is not wise to have mental health professionals doing diagnoses from a distance of public persons.

  2. We don’t need diagnoses of public persons from a distance to remove a dangerous president based on his behaviors using constitutional means.

So why are you so up in arms that we need to jettison the Goldwater Rule? The benefit is near zero. The cost is tremendous. So, I say it again: NO.

Ok, have it your way. Have a good weekend.

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Don’t need to read it. You sound like Trump.