August 28, 2016


Plouffe Annoys Chuck Todd When He Calls Trump a 'Psychopath' (Alyssa Canobbio, August 28, 2016, Free Beacon)

In a previous conversation with Todd, Plouffe had expressed concern with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton winning Virginia and Colorado. Noting the states seem safely in Clinton's column, Todd asked him how he didn't seem to assess those states correctly.

"I think the assessment was that Donald Trump would try and do some things to appeal to the middle of the electorate, to appeal to the suburban college educated women. He's not. Basically we have a psychopath running for president," Plouffe said. "He meets the clinical definition, OK?"

Todd immediately took issue with Plouffe diagnosing Trump on television and stopped him and asked if he had a degree in psychology.

"Is that fair? We're jumping to conclusions here," Todd said.

What "Psychopath" Means (Scott O. Lilienfeld, Hal Arkowitz, December 1, 2007, Scientific American)

First described systematically by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941, psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

Donald Trump: Sociopath? (JAMES HAMBLIN  JUL 20, 2016, The Atlantic)

Labeling people from afar is an inherently flawed endeavor, of course, especially with regard to mental health. Many psychologists and psychiatrists say that their work could never be done remotely, and should never be attempted outside of the standard, one-on-one approach to diagnosis. Many regard anything less as patently unethical. But certain extenuating circumstances seem to make this exercise worthwhile.

Psychiatrists often bestow labels knowing less about the facts of people's lives and actions than we collectively know today about Donald Trump's. We're also legitimized in this endeavor by the fact that sociopathy and psychopathy--which are similar, and sometimes used interchangeably--are not formal psychiatric diagnoses. The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" do tend to be thrown around casually by people in need of an insult that carries an air of empiricism. "My boss is a sociopath" is to say that this is not just an opinion or judgment, but a fact. But different people define the terms differently, with understandings converging around the feature of lacking "a conscience."  

The closest thing to psychopathy or sociopathy in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)--the book that defines every mental illness and outlines how mental-health professionals should make the diagnosis--is either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Other analysts have focused on the applicability of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which the Mayo Clinic defines by "an inflated sense of [one's] own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism." One psychologist, Ben Michaelis, called Trump "textbook Narcissistic Personality Disorder." Psychologist George Simon called Trump "so classic that I'm archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there's no better example of his characteristics."

To more wholly assess the claim of sociopathy, then, it may be more illustrative at this point to consider the Antisocial Personality Disorder side of the picture, which focuses on deceit, manipulation, disregard for the rights of others, and failure to take responsibility for one's actions.

According to the DSM, Antisocial Personality Disorder should be diagnosed in a person who meets two criteria about the way they function in the world, and criteria about their personal traits. In the realm of the latter, the person must also demonstrate two other traits: antagonism and disinhibition.

Antagonism can be characterized by hostility, manipulativeness, deceitfulness, or callousness. It's worth considering these one by one.

Posted by at August 28, 2016 12:05 PM