Trump’s Pandemic Is Our Cuban Missile Crisis
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Trump’s Pandemic Is Our Cuban Missile Crisis

And He’s Bungling It Badly. The Time to Intervene is Still Now.

Bandy X. Lee

This was our generation’s Cuban Missile Crisis.  But unlike in 1962, we do not have a president who can rise above his disagreeing brilliant advisers and make a superior, clear-headed decision.  We have the opposite: we have a president who is incapable of gathering competent advisers to begin with, but even if he were forced to, he would override all better advice to make decisions so muddied with emotional disturbances as to render them almost always the worst decisions.  The problem of mental pathology is that little is accidental—he is wired to ensure that the right things will not be done, and the wrong things will be done.  This is why I have said, “He will continue to push for the maximal number of deaths possible.”

We need not look far for proof: all the failures that point in one direction, opposite of the containment of disease, before and after he has been informed of the seriousness, and the continued sidelining of experts are consistent and psychologically meaningful.  In psychiatry, we look at results, not what someone claims, and past behavior predicts future behavior.

President John F. Kennedy (with back to camera) with some of his advisors during the October 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis.(Cecil Stoughton, White House /John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library)

Without intervention, the president’s psychological disposition was always to cause a massacre.  I once said that the Senate’s sham acquittal in February was a “death sentence” for an unspecified number of Americans.  But then “the Cuban Missile Crisis” happened, and it is turning out to be carnage.  What does the human mind do in the face of something like this?  You cannot expect persons who cause such colossal mishaps to solve them—and so they keep worsening the problem, if only to convince themselves that it is not a problem.

The reason we warned against delaying impeachment, against turning over the articles of impeachment so easily, and against having so few articles of impeachment in the first place was not because we did not believe the Congress would not be able to do its political job.  It was because the job that was needed was a medical one.  An “airtight argument” does not work when someone cannot even engage rationally in the first place.  What is necessary is limit-setting and behavioral management.  Simply the time allowed to continue in office, unrestrained, balloons into uncontrollable expectations in someone who cannot handle power—and the same holds true between now and November.

‘Psychological Milieu’

From a medical standpoint, what is most dangerous is the psychological “milieu” that results from a lack of intervention.  When the president continues to promote unproven but dangerous medications such as hydroxychloroquine, the physical effects—even cardiac arrest—are not our greatest concern.  A greater concern is the milieu he creates where his will wins over science and facts, and what he can do with this increasingly unlimited power.  His method is classic psychological abuse: “I do not care what the reality is.  I am going to push my will on you, and you are going to accept it, even if it is to your death.”  He does this to the media, Congress members, his followers, and the general public.  Soon, it will become: “I do not care what the election laws are.  I am going to push my agenda on you, and you are going to accept it, even if it is to the country’s demise.”  And the more the country has been abused, the more it will accept this without condition.

The more horrific the reality—in other words, the fact that our own president, who is supposed to protect us, caused the deaths of more Americans than all the recent wars and terrorist attacks combined, in a manner that was wholly avoidable—the more difficult it will be to accept the truth.  His followers are the first to acquiesce to his abuse, and hence will only “double down” in their support.  It is hard enough for the healthiest, most detached and analytical mind to accept such a letdown.  It is much harder when your deprivation and emotional needs bonded you to him in the first place, and that the savior who promised to defend “the forgotten man and forgotten woman,” is actually your predator.  So the worse the reality becomes, the less likely Donald Trump’s supporters are to blame him.  As hard as it seems, the time to intervene is still now—and while the trauma of intervention will cause his followers to revolt, it will still be far less than the trauma of allowing this to go on.

Contagious Mental Health Problems

Like a pandemic, the best time to intervene is always earlier.  Even after things have gotten out of hand, it is still better to intervene now than to delay any further.  This is especially true of mental health pandemics.  Mental symptoms, far from being non-transmittable, they are perhaps the most contagious of all.  They do not require physical contact but travel along emotional bonds.  In an era of social media information bubbles (isolation from diverging views) and cultic programming through Fox News and the like (inculcation of wrongful views), the conditions are set for widespread transmission.  Imagine a cramped, isolated setting with crowds of people and airways deliberately pumping in the coronavirus—how rapidly can we expect the virus to spread?  These are exactly the conditions we set up for “the mental virus” we have allowed the president to transmit to the American people.

This is precisely why we have put out our “Prescription for Survival” and have made our recommendations to the House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  As medical professionals, we do not care how it is done, but we only know that it must be done.  The dangers must be removed.  Feasibility and methods may be for others to determine, but our role as health professionals with a duty to public health is to ensure that what needs to be done is done.

Featured images: Treasury Sec. Steve Mnuchin, Trump and daughter Ivanka discuss small-business relief efforts.

 

April 11, 2020