Testing for the Mental Disabilities of U.S. Presidential Candidates

21 Sep


 I would have hoped that any sensible American citizen would by now have been sufficiently scared by Donald Trump’s morbid flights of fancy, high school playground style bullying, outlandish threats and bluffs, unrealistic and unsavory promises to crush enemies and enrich workers, to put aside all their concerns about alternative candidates and refuse any temptation to cast a masochistic vote for Trump.


Yet such confidence seems sadly unjustified in this election and points up the vulnerability of the institutional arrangements governing qualifications to be an American president. Far more important than the constitutional requirement of an American birthplace, or even than physical health, is the mental condition of a candidate. Clearly, we cannot trust voters to pass this judgment, even if they were so inclined, as the Trump saga confirms. With Trump’s over the top narcissism and wild bipolar swings of sentiment, it seems painfully obvious that he is mentally unfit for the presidency, and this is frightening considering the embedded capacities of any occupant of the Oval Office to initiate war and use nuclear weapons, as well as inflict less spectacular harms as might result from unraveling the world economy, scrapping the Paris Climate Change Agreement and Nuclear Agreement with Iran, and irresponsibly ending old alliances and entering into new ones.


It must be acknowledged that Hilary Clinton is also multiply deficient as a presidential candidate, but not nearly in ways so scary and in forms far less likely to involve blind dives from the high board of flights of fancy into waterless pools. I dearly wish she was closer to Sanders in outlook, commitment, and character, but she can at least be counted on to do some decent and constructive things to enhance the quality of governance and life at home. She will surely push hard to implement the climate change agreement and probably will abide the Iran agreement despite Israel’s continuing efforts to undermine all that was achieved. Above all, she is not Trump!


It is not that Clinton deserves our vote, especially taking into account her hawkish regime-changing approach to foreign policy in the Middle East, but maybe, just maybe, she learned a thing or two from her support of the Iraq and Libyan disasters, and even if she hasn’t, she still earns my vote by the lamentable logic of ‘the lesser of evils.’ At the same time, I would not criticize those who weighed the pros and cons differently than I do, voting for a third party nominee that seemed the best available candidate regardless of their prospects of winning in November. There is much to be said in favor of voting for someone who is a good enough candidate that a vote of support would be something other than one more iteration of the lesser of evils. It is one of the few ways that an ordinary citizen has to register a vote of no confidence in a system that can do no better than provide citizens over and over again with nothing more congenial than a choice among evils. Unlike football, winning isn’t everything in politics, although most of our politicians approach their challenge with a zero-sum mentality. It is damaging to democracies when the cynical among us call the tune with their belief that casting a principled, yet losing, vote is a wasted vote, or worse, almost a crime against reason! Remember the liberal fury directed at Ralph Nader and his 90,000 or so supporters in Florida that allowed George W. Bush, with a major assist from the U.S. Supreme Court, to win the 2000 election.


In the end, Americans, whether or not they realize it, have a responsibility to the world that citizens of other countries possess to a far lesser degree. If Trump were to become the next American president it would imperil the world, and likely cause grave dislocations in many international settings that could cause massive suffering along with possibly disastrous unintended consequences. Even our most ‘rational’ recent presidents have caused havoc in foreign societies. Our militarized government rests on three principal pillars of influence: the Pentagon, Wall Street, and Israel. These constraining forces can push even the most decent and intelligent of presidents in militarist directions as Barack Obama found out.


The United States as a liberal democratic global state, projecting its power throughout the whole of the planet, should ideally extend its electoral franchise globally. As things stand, and will indefinitely remain so, the United States and its people insist on the absolute prerogatives of territorial sovereignty while denying comparable autonomy to many other nominally sovereign states. Given this uncontested reality, there is as much likelihood of Americans agreeing to extend the vote in its national elections to foreign societies throughout the world as there is of the ISIS leadership waking up one morning to announce adherence hereafter to the pacifist precepts of Gandhiism.


What is a distant second best option, yet far better than nothing, is for as many Americans as possible to be at least aware of their custodial role for the peoples of the world. With such awareness would come the duty to vote responsibly with respect to the wellbeing of others, including taking into consideration impacts on a sustainable human future. Again, predicting that a substantial number of American voters might be willing to behave like world citizens is a bet no oddsmaker in Vegas would be foolish enough to take.


Obviously, mere awareness is not nearly enough to secure the wellbeing of either the country or the world. The realities of technology and complex interdependence are such that the current world order has no capacity to absorb and localize serious mistakes of judgment made by the United States Government. The most minimal elements of political sanity at this stage of history mandates the adoption of a constitutional requirement that candidates for the presidency be certified as to their mental health, and not only by a psychiatrist of their choice. A professional politically neutral mechanism should be established to select a panel of qualified psychiatrists that would then be entrusted with certifying the mental health of aspiring candidates for the presidency and vice presidency.


At present, there is some relevance accorded to physical health with much attention accorded to the disclosure of medical records and indications of physical ailments that might interfere with the discharge of the formidable burdens associated with being president. When Hilary Clinton was found to be suffering from a mild case of pneumonia earlier this month a media frenzy ensued that examined the issue of her health from every conceivable angle. Such a preoccupation highlights by comparison the neglect of the far more serious, and possibly more difficult to detect, presence of serious mental disabilities of a kind that could produce the worst sorts of governmental decisions and policies. The mental disorders of an aspiring presidential candidate are far more threatening to the security of the country and the world than are physical ailments, which although also potentially dangerous to the person, are far less likely to cause catastrophic damage or twist decisions in sinister directions.


Admittedly, certifying mental health is an awkward process that needs to be handled with great sensitivity, and even then could misfire, or be wrongly interpreted by the public. At the same time, this forthcoming election amply demonstrates that business as usual, with eyes and ears closed to issues of mental disability is no longer an acceptable approach to the selection of American leaders in the 21st century. Too much is at stake.


Despite this, there persists a strong taboo surrounding mental health. Raising questions about the mental condition of a candidate for public office is still widely perceived as hitting below the belt. And what is worse, some mental disorders perversely give rise to enthusiastic support among the citizenry. In this regard what makes Trump seem a high risk candidate because of his mental health is what may yet get him elected! This is a thought to ponder. The memory of Hitler and Mussolini reminds us that pathological mental imbalances can be a source of public charisma and political popularity. The Trump candidacy is certainly not the first time that a demagogue’s manifest mental disorders are a principal explanation of his passionate populist support, but it could be the last time!



19 Responses to “Testing for the Mental Disabilities of U.S. Presidential Candidates”

  1. truthaholics September 21, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “In the end, Americans, whether or not they realize it, have a responsibility to the world that citizens of other countries possess to a far lesser degree. If Trump were to become the next American president it would imperil the world, and likely cause grave dislocations in many international settings that could cause massive suffering along with possibly disastrous unintended consequences. Even our most ‘rational’ recent presidents have caused havoc in foreign societies. Our militarized government rests on three principal pillars of influence: the Pentagon, Wall Street, and Israel. These constraining forces can push even the most decent and intelligent of presidents in militarist directions as Barack Obama found out.”

  2. Paul Larudee September 21, 2016 at 9:05 am #

    I fear that the mental disabilities of our candidates are a direct consequence of the social disabilities of our society, although there is an inevitable feedback loop, as well. I’m not sure where to start, or how. Historically, change is usually the result of severe crises.

    • Schlüter September 22, 2016 at 6:24 am #

      Very true. And the media are part and parcel of that process. They are just the frame for Advertising and designed to take rationality away from People, in order to produce consumers who don´t ask anymore whether they can afford or whether they nbeed what they should want to have. That´s the destruction of rationality!

  3. Schlüter September 21, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,
    as much as I agree with you on many occasions, I´m disagreeing on seeing Clinton to be less dangerous than Trump might be (though he shows less war mongerism towards Russia than Clinton). After a long – and frightening – analysis of things going on, I fear we´re facing a very scary “October surprise”!
    „Elections: What´s going on in the US?“ https://wipokuli.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/elections-whats-going-on-in-the-us/
    Best regards
    Andreas Schlüter
    Berlin, Germany

    • Paul Larudee September 21, 2016 at 10:12 am #

      I have to agree. Trump might be more dangerous to the US social and economic order and to human rights in the US, but that pales by comparison to Clinton’s pursuit of international war in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Ukraine, and her brinkmanship with Russia and probably China.

  4. daveyone1 September 21, 2016 at 11:42 am #

    Reblogged this on World4Justice : NOW! Lobby Forum..

  5. ray032 September 21, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

    It is now 40 years since THE KANSAS CITY TIMES published an article on September 13, 1976 with this Vision: “He came to town for the Republican National Convention and will stay until the election in November to do God’s bidding: To tell the world, from Kansas City, this country has been found wanting and its days are numbered […] He gestured toward a gleaming church dome. “The gold dome is the symbol of Babylon,” he said.”

    These are the first two parts of the three part Writing On The Wall recorded in Daniel 5 during the Captivity of Babylon some 2600 years ago. It was not until 9/11 and 7 years later, with the Global Financial Meltdown-Economic Pearl Harbour-Tsunami in the Fall of 2008, the whole world was able to see the Writing on the Wall for the 1st Time at the same Time. The world has ignored it, still thinking it is a money-things problem, when it is a Spiritual problem.

    The world couldn’t see that in 1976, but every Day these days, there is Revelation of the details unfolding along the Spirit of that letter.

    The whole Donald Trump campaign is projecting the same Vision in other words, while he claims he is the only one who can turn it around single handily, as a miracle worker.

    The key words to me from that 2600 year old Bible story are these: They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

    In other words, in the euphemism from the Clinton Years, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’

    For those who have eyes to see in this “material” world, Donald Trump loves and praises the god of gold. There is no denying that “material” reality in his character and persona.

    As an aware Canadian who has watched American Presidential Politics since the Eisenhower years, at this point it seems to me the only choice Americans have in this election is between BAD or WORSE, unfortunately, for the world and our Common Humanity!

    When I had my unexpected and not looked for, Spiritual Awakening on February 1, 1975, it was so powerful, I thought the kingdom of Heaven would reveal itself to the whole world within 3 years. It does take the Patience of God and a Saint to graduate from a self-centred point of view to a God centred POV. The kingdom of Heaven is within you, Christ teaches.


  6. James Williamson September 22, 2016 at 12:11 am #

    Dear Professor Falk: I also have to say that as abominable as Trump is, to see Clinton as a safer bet is to give her way too much credit. It’s so easy to lapse into “lesser evil” rhetoric as a way of comforting ourselves with false hope based on imagined percentages and likelihoods than it is to simply state the truth: Americans (and the world) are in serious trouble. The only remotely possible opportunity for hope would have come from a third party and Americans simply don’t have the courage for it. Sanders was an illusion. He didn’t even have a plan regarding our military adventures. Just surface sentiment. And his contradictory rhetoric on Palestine was pathetically unconvincing except to the most fearful and naive (which, admittedly, was a huge number of people).

  7. Clif Brown September 22, 2016 at 1:53 am #

    I intend to vote for Jill Stein. I find both Hillary and Trump so repulsive that there is no way I could pull the lever for either one when there is a candidate I agree with on virtually all issues.

    Hillary is a known quantity, Trump is not. I recall early on Trump saying that the U.S. cannot take a side if it wants to achieve an agreement in Israel/Palestine. I could not believe my ears. More recently he is supporting the absurd Netanyahu claim that Palestinians are anti-Semites when they call for removal of the Israeli settlements. This sharp swing tells me that Trump is likely to repeat the position of the latest person to have his ear because he has no thought-out stand on any issue and may well be swayed by any party that seems to him to be an authority. There is no center to the man, and I don’t mean center in terms of left and right.

    A confrontation hating, checkmated president, Obama is essentially a time server who sounds great in what he says with no follow up in action, but a completely unpredictable president would lurch from one thing to another, a recipe for chaos. In addition, I worry that Trump might have a sudden psychological collapse when he is confronted with a major choice, with advocates in the administration shouting from both sides. There would be no escape from full responsibility and he has no inner strength to call on.

    Stein is an excellent choice. I have not been able to get people to say what they think is specifically wrong or frightening about her positions, hearing only that she is un-electable. So we have two very dangerous people for national security way out in front and the person who doesn’t present a threat is dismissed out of hand. We are going over the cliff of absurdity. What I know with certainty is that a voter is responsible only for the candidate who gets his/her vote. I will act accordingly.

  8. Gene Schulman September 22, 2016 at 6:23 am #

    Health, physical or mental, is not the point. After all, FDR was a cripple, Nixon was certainly mentally deranged, Kennedy was sick, Reagan was gaga. The presidency is meaningless, and only a front for the corporatocracy that installs them in power. They are interchangeable, as they each represent the same power. Only Kennedy challenged that, and we saw what happened to him.

    Richard, if you think voting for Hillary, as the lesser of two evils, or Jill Stein because she’s painted green, will salve your conscience, by all means. But, in my opinion voting at all is an empty gesture. Though I know it will not yield results, at least my not voting is a statement of dissidence that will ease my conscience for not having voted for any of these nobodies.

  9. Simpson Lok September 22, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Hey dear,

    On this worldwide all human being have the same characteristics and rights, nobody would bring the world in massive destitution to world Countries have been before. Donald Trump is a unmindful for the future will till nowadays. I hope there would nobody should be vote about him.

    So, If I were American Citizen I should vote for Hillary Clinton. Because Hillary is equalized all human being in same habit no rich man is better than a poor man on this world we are in regardless of Race, religions e.t. c.

    Thanks Simpson Lok South Sudan – Juba

    On 9/21/16, Global Justice in the 21st Century

  10. Beau Oolayforos September 27, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    It seems to me that the Republicans began a trend, at least in the modern era, when they had great success in electing a Hollywood actor to the Presidency, someone with modest public-service credentials who could serve as an ideological puppet for his handlers. The formula was repeated with Bush II; we had a near miss with Palin, and now of course there’s The Apprentice, who’s never even been elected dog-catcher, and shouldn’t be.

    Oops – almost forgot our muscular Governor Arnold – perhaps just a test case, to see how much “The People” will swallow.

  11. Ceylan September 28, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Interesting that you did not think of such a system while in Turkey and/or writing on “him”.
    Or did he inspired you after all, I wonder 🙂

    • Richard Falk September 29, 2016 at 1:58 am #

      Dear Ceylan:

      They are totally different with respect to background, experience, and knowledge, even temperament,
      and if I had to choose, I would not hesitate to prefer greatly the current Turkish president. Also,
      I suggest Mustafa Alkyl’s recent column in Daily Hurriet on the dual obsessions of pro- and anti-
      Erdogan enthusiasts that both deflect perceptions of the real man. Warm greetings from Rhodes..

      • Ceylan September 30, 2016 at 10:45 am #

        Thank you for suggesting to read Akyol’s on Daily Hurriyet.

        However, I could not quite grasp its relevance to yours: do you mean that RTE is sane as a saint when compared to your two candidates or, should voters also go through mental disability tests?

        Enjoy lovely Rhodes 🙂

      • Richard Falk September 30, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

        I was unclear. Akyol’s column was meant to be disconnected from my blog post. The
        message I agree about is that the excessive focus on Erdogan is a distraction. Many
        of the problems facing Turkey would remain even if he were to disappear.

  12. Beau Oolayforos September 28, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    We should expect our presumptive Madame President to propose, or at least support, a Security Council resolution to submit the Syrian conflict to binding UN arbitration. General cease-fire, pull-back of foreign armies, free access to aid workers….

    Could we not sell it to our allegedly merciful Commandress-in-Chief on the pleas of the mothers and children of Aleppo, which is looking more & more like Stalingrad in ’43?

    It would be a messy, bureaucratic peace, which, according to Ben Franklin, or somebody, would be better than the best war, and certainly better than the Armageddon that’s staring at us.

    • Paul Larudee September 29, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      The Syrian “conflict” is an invasion of tens of thousands of takfiri mercenaries from at least 82 countries. Who would be the parties to the arbitration? The sovereign Syrian government and who? The “moderate rebels” who are a front for all the terrorist organizations? The nonviolent protestors who represent a few percentage points of the population, at most? NATO found that roughly 70% of the population supports the current government. NATO.

      Would the US give up its sovereignty and submit to binding arbitration with any group of terrorists, domestic or foreign? Would it submit to binding arbitration with Code Pink?

      If the US withdraws its support for the combatants and prevents its allies from doing the same, Syria will reassert its sovereignty over all of its territory and the invasion will end.

  13. Kajjora Aggrey October 24, 2016 at 10:58 am #


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