Is Donald Trump really a very stable genius?
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Donald Trump wants the world to know that he is a stable man. Not only that, he wants people to understand that he is a genius. Instead of proving it through his actions and his behaviour as president, Trump turned to Twitter to broadcast this information.
The president insisted that he is "like, really smart", boasting of his success as a businessman and reality TV personality. He added: "I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!"
He was responding to the publication of Michael Wolff’s "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House", a new book that portrays Trump as childish, immature and questions his leadership abilities in his first year in office.
CNN's Chris Cillizza argues that his latest social media outbreak shows that Trump is not "some political savant executing a three-dimensional chess strategy". He should be avoiding a debate over his mental competence, and instead lead the conversation about the rising stock market, the economy, and the bonuses for employees arising from the GOP tax plan.
He writes: "Debating whether he is a) smart b) mentally competent or c) in a state of mental deterioration is a stone-cold loser for him.
"Strategic politicians fight only on ground that is favourable for them. Or they steer conversations or debate to ground that is favourable to them. They don't engage in fights they can't win. And the "I am really a very smart genius" fight is not one that has a "win" for Trump."
Writing in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin examines what she calls his "mental and emotional limitations" and debunks rationalisations from Trump's devoted cultists. When he sounds presidential, it is likely that he is reading from a teleprompter with little comprehension - with his off-script remarks limited to "great", "huge", etc. His supposed chess strategy with Kim Jong-Un is simply Trump "impulsively lashing out", and his contradictions are not an example of master manipulation. When he is caught out by the press, his attacks on the so-called fake news media are not a clever marketing ploy, they are "driven by an insatiable need for praise and reaffirmation".
The BBC notes that his manner in office and the way he communicates with others, have "led to armchair diagnoses of a host of ailments, from Alzheimer's to narcissistic personality disorder". There is no real evidence, however, that these armchair diagnoses are accurate, because nobody speaking publicly has examined the president. Trump, who is the oldest president ever elected, is to undergo his first medical examination - a physical - since taking office next week.
Diagnosing the president from afar is not the best approach, the Atlantic argues, but the federal government needs a system to evaluate him up close. James Hamblin asks whether there is something neurologically wrong with Trump. While he warns about reaching conclusions without inspecting his health in person, Hamblin believes there should be a role to do just that.
He argues that Trump's recent actions, as well as the observed minor abnormalities in his movements during speeches, "call attention to the alarming absence of a system to evaluate elected officials’ fitness for office". Hamblin adds that there should be someone in place to "reassure concerned citizens that the “leader of the free world” is not cognitively impaired, and on a path of continuous decline".
"The best defence is a good offence" is the tactic employed by Donald Trump when attacks come his way. However, his lashing out draws more attention to the original claim, whether it is true or not. While the president's stability or intelligence cannot be easily measured from afar, his future actions in retaliation will be scrutinised - and this approach may pour more fuel on the fire.