History is filled with tragic accounts of people being accused of mental incompetence or worse when their beliefs are counter to mainstream opinions. Some accusers genuinely believe that the victim is mentally unfit, as in those instances where the victim is an apostate against the prevalent religion. There is another kind of accuser: his accusations are disingenuous.
In the severely polluted atmosphere of current American politics, the accusation of mental unfitness leveled against President Trump is disingenuous. I doubt that anyone, including his accusers, really believes that Trump is mentally challenged. But the accusations serve a double purpose: they relieve the accuser’s anguish about an enormous political defeat for the Democratic Party and pave the way to probable impeachment.
Before I continue, it’s important to emphasize that I’m not a political partisan. Nor is this article in defense of President Trump or an endorsement of any political party, political organization, or politician.
Only three presidents have been impeached (Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton). Andrew Johnson was narrowly acquitted after a Senate trial, Richard Nixon chose to resign because a trial would undoubtedly result in a conviction, and Bill Clinton was acquitted by the Senate ‘jury’ despite his equivocal responses to questions which at least suggested ‘perjury’ and ‘obstruction of justice.’
All three presidential impeachments were traumatic for most Americans. All three included painfully extensive and convoluted legal entanglements. All three included titanic battles between the Legislative and Executive branches of our democracy or ─ more precisely ─ our republic.
The creators of the Constitution made it difficult to remove a sitting president: and for good reason. Wisely, their criteria for impeachment are not complex. “Treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors” are not ambiguous words. Despite that, all kinds of specious arguments are being bandied about to promote President Trump’s impeachment, including treason, bribery, and high crimes.
My age gives me the advantage of remembering when Barry Goldwater, a famous conservative in a highly liberal society, was said to be mentally unstable. A magazine (titled Fact) headlined, “1,189 Psychiatrists Say Goldwater is Psychologically Unfit to be President.” In reality, any psychologically fit individual who reads Goldwater’s quotes today may or may not agree with him, but would know there was nothing unfit about Goldwater’s mind. (Of course Goldwater sued for libel, and won.)
Moreover, the American Psychiatric Association declared, “It’s 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.” That became known as the “Goldwater Rule.” The rule was in place until 33 psychiatrists and psychologists cited Trump’s inauguration speech as proof (!) of Trump’s “grave emotional instability” and that Trump was “incapable of safely serving as president.” In addition, several ‘significant’ psychiatrists resigned from the APA to protest the “Goldwater Rule” itself as a restriction on their freedom of speech! With tongue in cheek, I submit that perhaps it was they who suffered from “grave emotional instability.”
I watched a segment of the proceedings when the United States House of Representatives deliberated on President Clinton’s impeachment. The one instance that stands out in my memory is when one of the House’s representatives rose above the ‘politics as usual’ claptrap and asked his fellow congressmen to consider the fundamental issue: Did Clinton’s obvious perjury (to the Grand Jury) and obstruction of justice (to cover his sexual activities) legally merit his removal from office? His reasonable question was ignored by the House, and President Clinton was tried by the Senate. It was an ugly trial that may have been avoided had the members of the House taken that senator’s advice.
Sweeping aside the perennial battles amongst the three branches of government, I submit that reduced to its essentials, the entire Clinton impeachment event was not really about perjury or obstruction of justice as it was purported to be. It was about politics, just as the Goldwater incident was not about his mental health but about politics.
For about a year at once a month Clinton had sex with a government intern. At least on one occasion she fellated him in the Oval Office while he was on the phone and she under his desk, a common sexual fantasy wherein one partner engages in an activity other than direct sex: e.g., while casually flipping through a pornographic magazine or watching a sports event or engaging in a phone conversation as Clinton did ─ a perfectly realized fantasy when we consider who they were at the time ─ he, the President of the United States and she, a young Whitehouse intern.
Clinton’s impeachment had the authenticity of a scandal or movie magazine. Its saga is extensively documented: it includes leaks, investigations endlessly proliferating into other tenuously related investigations, media feeding frenzy, and heightened political division between partisans in government and amongst average Americans. Does that sound familiar?
Clinton was acquitted by the Senate because, like him or not, everyone knows that consensual sex is the most private of all human activities. And perhaps more significantly, because a sort of subliminal ‘checks and balances’ phenomenon developed amongst the public, Senate, and the President.
Clinton was acquitted because he was liked. Trump is not liked: so much so that prominent governmental politicians and celebrities were calling for his impeachment on his inauguration day! To put it mildly, that is bizarre. Purportedly, the 33 ‘psychiatrists and psychologists’ derived their warnings about Trump’s “grave emotional disability” and that he is “incapable of safely serving as President” from Trump’s inauguration speech. I read that speech moments ago. It’s a typical political speech. I won’t be leaving the country any time soon based on the purported opinions of those ‘psychiatrists’ and ‘psychologists.’ It was certainly not as professionals that they spoke, but as devout partisans.
I’ve seen this political pattern just before (and after) other national elections: a spike in already saturated partisan vitriol, celebrities threatening to leave the country if their choice for president is not realized, and then remaining in the United States despite their threats to leave the country.
So far, the call for impeachment is a replay of Clinton’s impeachment ─ investigations proliferating to other investigations which, in turn, lead to other investigations, special councils, committees, and so on and on, and ─ as demonstrated by Mario Cuomo ─ a great opportunity to begin their campaign for the next presidency. Other career politicians jostle for visibility in the light of which they can promote their agendas and careers. Have you noticed that when they are engaged in hearings they are soft to heavyweight witnesses who can extract revenge on them in the future but hard and sanctimonious when they question a lightweight witness for whom they have no future use?
Reflecting the rapid decline of precise language, many words no longer have the same meaning as they did when the Constitution of the United States was written. Unfortunately, that has resulted in the far too casual meaning of words like ‘perjury, obstruction of justice, and high crimes.’ Those words should send shivers down the spines of Americans: that’s what the founding fathers meant them to do, not just serve as traps to unseat a President. A blue dress stained with semen does not qualify as an instance of treason, bribery, or high crimes despite a legal trap designated as ‘perjury’ at Clinton’s Grand Jury hearing.
Once again, a president’s adversaries are relentlessly setting traps to remove him from office. This time, the accusations are far more complex than those leveled against Clinton, but they are just as devious ─ if not more so ─ than those faced by Bill Clinton.
There are larger issues beyond political intrigue: Despite their magnificent benefits for humanity, the Information Age and unprecedented technological advances are impotent against the dissemination and misinformation about every major human issue.
In Academia, virtually all professors of history and the humanities are spewing the same
decadent political philosophy I heard from their predecessors when I was a student at New York University. I’m especially concerned about our youth flirting with socialism.
In News and Social Media, I observe an amazing phenomenon. Before television, there were brief radio news broadcasts and daily newspapers, all of which strictly separated news from commentary. Now, television provides Americans with the ultimate form of transparency. Yet, many Americans are not nearly as knowledgeable as they should be about the horrors of socialism.
On the street, we have the spectacle of people misbehaving as if this were the French and Russian revolutions when peasants were forced to do violence to the aristocracy. Tragically, they indiscriminately killed benign aristocrats along with despots simply because they feared aristocratic resurgence. How wise and compassionate was Britain’s Bloodless Revolution! And how irresponsible are the thugs in the streets of America whose protest tactics emulate those of Kristallnacht!
In a sea of political confusion, our nation is being badgered by a group that is purportedly against Fascism (Antifa) but is in itself an example of extreme Fascist activism. Loyalties are on political quicksand: former admirers of Russia for its Union of Socialist ‘Republics’ now uncharacteristically denounce it for its interference in the American electoral process.
I decry America’s shift towards European political attitudes. For example, I suspect that the term, The Resistance, was conceived ─ I think not quite by chance ─ because it is reminiscent of the resistance to the Nazi occupation of most of Europe in World war ll. That might be far-fetched on my part, but since the pen is mightier than the sword, I’m wary of the subtlest subjective suggestions in an atmosphere of blatant political hyperbole. Words, not necessarily laws, will determine whether or not Trump will be impeached and possibly be removed from office.
Partisan wars of words are at their optimum. Parallels to Clinton’s impeachment are heavily cited (today’s political red meat is Deep State Throat). I’m shocked but not surprised that odds-makers are taking bets on whether Trump will or will not be impeached as though they are dealing with a sports event.
All this will fade into the dustbin of history, but I’m alarmed by the possibility that history will once again repeat itself with the common fate that political turmoil engenders: It would be profoundly tragic if Americans are lured to socialism, and deeply regret it “Like the base Indian, [who] threw a pearl away richer than all his tribe.”