Donald Trump is getting his first medical exam since taking office Friday as questions swirl about the health and fitness of the oldest president elected to office. UVA presidential historian Barbara Perry explains why the country should care. (Jan. 11) AP
Each week, USA TODAY’s OnPolitics blog takes a look at how media from the left and the right reacted to a political news story, giving liberals and conservatives a peek into the other’s media bubble.
This week, pundits from the left and right debated President Trump’s mental health in the wake of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House and the author’s claim that “100%” of people around Trump question his fitness for office. In addition, a Yale University psychiatry professor told a group of lawmakers that Trump “was going to unravel.”
Last week: Michael Wolff’s book a ‘gift’ to Trump, liberals say
The left: Trump’s mental health can no longer be ignored
Should the 25th Amendment be invoked to remove Trump because he is unfit for office? Salon‘s Chauncey DeVega asked.
“Political disagreements aside, the public evidence in support of such an action is overwhelming,” DeVega said, answering his own question. “Trump’s speech and other behavior indicate a man who is detached from reality and living in a universe of his own delusions.”
DeVega calls Trump “a serial liar who has convinced himself that his untruths can bend empirical reality to his will.” But DeVega’s main reasons in support of removing the president from office are centered more on Trump’s policies and statements — which DeVega calls undemocratic and fascistic — than actual evidence of mental incapacity.
More: Battles over Trump’s mental health and ‘fitness’ for office sidetrack his policy agenda
The right: Armchair psychology is dangerous
After the 1964 election, failed Republican candidate Barry Goldwater won a lawsuit against a magazine that published a survey of psychiatrists who said he was mentally unfit for office. This led to the “Goldwater rule,” which says psychiatrists should not conduct long-distance diagnoses.
“This is a good rule that guards against a lot of bad,” said Washington Examiner commentary writer Becket Adams.
Armchair diagnoses are sloppy, unprofessional and “have the potential to do real harm to the mentally disturbed,” Adams wrote.
Moreover, we believe that medical expertise shouldn’t be used as a weapon against political opponents. That’s a dangerous road we don’t want to take. Trump’s not-normal presidency is no excuse for the normalization of this sort of behavior.
More: Stop trying to diagnose our ‘very stable genius’ president. He might be right.
The left: Trump is not cognitively up to the job
There is a lot of juicy gossip in Wolff’s book, but primarily it is a “portrait of a man coming undone by the very forces he has unleashed,” said Vox founder Ezra Klein.
The picture painted of Trump in Wolff’s book is the same picture painted of Trump by Trump’s own tweets, speeches, comments, and actions, as well as the constant on- and off-the-record statements of his staff. It is similar to what I, and many other reporters who have covered this White House, have heard from top staff. Trump is not cognitively up to the job of the presidency.
“So what happens when a man who isn’t fit to be president and a campaign that never expected to staff and manage a presidency unexpectedly wins the White House?” Klein asks. “Chaos.”
More: Trump, mocking questions on his mental state, tweets he is a ‘stable genius’
The right: Trump’s policies aren’t crazier than other presidents’
Trump’s opponents could stop him in the election, they couldn’t stop his agenda in Congress and so far the hopes they’ve pinned on Mueller’s investigation haven’t borne fruit, wrote CNBC columnist Jake Novak.
“So enter phase four in the anti-Trump movement’s efforts to remove, delegitimize, or at least weaken the duly elected president of the United States: They’re making the case that he’s crazy,” Novak said.
Novak conceded that Trump’s “public behavior is totally out of sync with what we’ve seen from every president before him.” But he said, “the hard fact is that President Trump’s policies, executive orders, and the bills he’s supported are no less sane than any of his predecessors’ actual body of work.”
More: Battles over Trump’s mental health and ‘fitness’ for office sidetrack his policy agenda
Left bubble: Is Trump unfit? It’s a political question
There are several Republican figures who come across in Fire and Fury as thinking they can control and manipulate Trump precisely because he is not a “stable genius,” and they themselves suffer from “delusions” and “self-deceptions,” wrote Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.
As for Trump himself, “there is no question that he is unpredictable and undisciplined; he has bragged about that,” she wrote. “But insanity is distinct from either idiocy or indifference. If the people around Trump are covering for him in that respect, they should put what they know before the public; if they don’t, they might reflect on whether they have become captive to the idea that they themselves are essential, stable geniuses — and on how much of the nation’s safety they are wagering on that notion.”
In reality, the question of whether Trump has the right mind to be President must be seen for what it is: a political question. Voters are the ones asked, ultimately, to make the risk assessment. Those who oppose him, in highlighting his really dangerous volatility, might ask when his supporters will see that he is stupid and unfit — and that they, in contrast, are clever and competent — and just stop this crazy Presidency? The answer, for all practical purposes, is when someone comes up with a candidate who can beat Trump.
More: Trump’s ‘stable genius’ reality check: America, this isn’t a drill
The right: Trump proved he isn’t cuckoo
By making people wonder if Trump is mentally unstable, Wolff did the president a favor, said Wall Street Journal columnist Daniel Henninger.
If you are Trump, “and like any normal person don’t want the world to think you’re cuckoo, what do you do? You prove they are wrong,” Henninger reasoned. And Trump did exactly that with his speech to the American Farm Bureau on Monday and his public negotiation on immigration Tuesday, Henninger said.
The Trump immigration negotiation session with Congress is the sort of public presidential face the world should see more of. In fact, that meeting’s productive content is a template for broadening the president’s Twitter account, an underutilized asset.
The morning after the immigration summit, a grudging consensus formed that Mr. Trump had confounded critics of his basic competence. A parallel consensus snorted that this positive moment won’t last.
More: Trump aides: No need for a psychiatric exam, president is ‘sharp as a tack’
The Trump presidency: A new era in Washington
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Trump and Pence depart Capitol Hill on Nov. 16, 2017, after the president spoke with House Republicans on tax legislation. Susan Walsh, AP
Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President Trump, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull link hands during the opening ceremony of the 31st ASEAN Summit in Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila on Nov. 13, 2017. Noel Celis, AFP/Getty Images
Trump meets opera performers at the Forbidden City on Nov. 8, 2017, in Beijing, during a five-country trip through Asia. Andrew Harnik, AP
First lady Melania Trump looks on as the president speaks with reporters before departing the White House for a trip to Asia on Nov. 3, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive for the Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 24, 2017. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Trump answers questions with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House on Oct. 16, 2017. Alex Brandon, AP
President Trump walks to the podium to make a statement about the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 2, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump waves after arriving on Air Force One on Sept. 27, 2017, in Indianapolis to deliver a speech on tax reform. Darron Cummings, AP
Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017. Seth Wenig, AP
11-year-old Frank “FX” Giaccio gets a pat on the back from Trump while mowing the lawn in the Rose Garden of the White House on Sept. 15, 2017. Giaccio wrote a letter to Trump expressing admiration for Trump’s business background and offered to mow the White House lawn. Win McNamee, Getty Images
The Trumps observe a moment of silence on Sept. 11, 2017, at the White House for the 16th anniversary of 9/11. Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Trump gestures to onlookers as he walks with first lady Melania Trump to board Marine One on the South Lawn on Sept. 8, 2017, en route to Camp David. Evan Vucci, AP
President Trump boards Air Force One at Ellington Field on Sept. 2, 2017, before departing for Louisiana to continue their tour of areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Nicholas Kamm, AFP/Getty Images
President Trump holds the state flag of Texas outside of the Annaville Fire House after attending a briefing on Hurricane Harvey in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Aug. 29, 2017. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images
The Trumps prepare to depart from the White House on Aug. 29, 2017, to head to Texas to observe Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. Alex Wong, Getty Images
Trump speaks at a rally in Phoenix on Aug. 22, 2017. Roy Dabner, European Pressphoto Agency
The Trumps view the solar eclipse from the Truman Balcony of the White House on Aug. 21, 2017. Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency
Trump walks out of the elevator to speak to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower on Aug. 15, 2017, in New York. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump pauses while speaking about the violence in Charlottesville, Va., in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Aug. 14, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Huntington, W.Va., on Aug. 3, 2017. Susan Walsh, AP
Trump arrives at Andrews Air Force Base after naming John Kelly as his new chief of staff on July 28, 2017. Alex Brandon, AP
Trump, accompanied by Vice President Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, speaks about health care on July 24, 2017, in the Blue Room of the White House. Alex Brandon, AP
Trump, flanked by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Tim Scott, R-S.C., speaks at a luncheon with GOP senators on July 19, 2017, in the State Dinning Room of the White House. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump holds a proclamation for Made in America Day and Made In America Week that he signed during a product showcase in the East Room of the White House on July 17, 2017. Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron and Trump speak as they leave Les Invalides in Paris on July 13, 2017. Ian Langsdon, AFP/Getty Images
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Trump walks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to make statements in the Rose Garden on June 30, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
President Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embrace while delivering joint statements in the Rose Garden of the White House on June 26, 2017. Mark Wilson, Getty Images
Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on June 14, 2017, to talk about the shooting in Alexandria, Va., where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others were shot during a congressional baseball practice. Andrew Harnik, AP
Trump smiles as he walks with his daughter Ivanka across the South Lawn of the White House on June 13, 2017, before boarding Marine One helicopter for the trip to nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump waves to the crowd after delivering a speech on June 7, 2017, in Cincinnati. Bill Pugliano, Getty Images
Trump announces his decision for the United States to pull out of the Paris climate agreement in the Rose Garden at the White House on June 1, 2017. Win McNamee, Getty Images
Trump joins G7 leaders for a photo at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina on May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy. Sean Kilpatrick, AP
Pope Francis greets Trump at the Vatican on May 24, 2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout/European Pressphoto Agency
The president and first lady step off Air Force One upon arrival at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport on May 23, 2017. Filippo Monteforte, AFP/Getty Images
Trump touches the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on May 22, 2017. Ronen Zvulun, Pool/European Pressphoto Agency
Trump speaks during the Arabic Islamic American Summit at the King Abdulaziz Conference Center in Riyadh on May 21, 2017. Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
Trump meets with Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
President Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional Republicans celebrate in the Rose Garden of the White House following the House vote to repeal Obamacare on May 4, 2017. Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
Trump pauses as he speaks at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg, Pa., on April, 29, 2017. Carolyn Kaster, AP
President Trump speaks during the National Rifle Association-ILA Leadership Forum on April 28, 2017, in Atlanta. Mike Stewart, AP
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke listens while Trump speaks before signing an executive order to review the Antiquities Act at the Department of the Interior on April 26, 2017. Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Trump prepares to award a Purple Heart to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Alvaro Barrientos, with first lady Melania Trump, right, and Tammy Barrientos, second from right, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on April 22, 2017, in Bethesda, Md. Alex Brandon, AP
Trump waves as he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walk from the White House to the U.S. Treasury Department on April 21, 2017. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, President Trump, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Patriots President Jonathan Kraft stand with Patriots players as Trump holds a team helmet at a ceremony honoring the Patriots as Super Bowl champions on the South Lawn at the White House on April 19, 2017. Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports
Trump joins attendees at the Easter Egg Roll to write notes to servicemembers on the South Lawn of the White House on April 17, 2017. Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 10, 2017, at the swearing-in ceremony for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump pumps his fist as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Fla., on April 7, 2017. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images
President Trump walks to the podium to speak about the missile strike on Syria on April 6, 2017, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Alex Brandon, AP
President Trump and Jordan’s King Abdullah II hold a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House on April 5, 2017. Andrew Harnik, AP
President Trump, flanked by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Vice President Pence, speaks about the health care overhaul bill on March 24, 2017, in the Oval Office. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump gets in the driver’s seat of an 18-wheeler while meeting with truck drivers and trucking CEOs on the South Portico prior to their meeting to discuss health care at the White House on March 23, 2017. Jim Lo Scalzo, European Pressphoto Agency
President Trump speaks during a meeting with Congressional Black Caucus members in the Cabinet Room at the White House on March 22, 2017. Chip Somodevilla, Pool/European Pressphoto Agency
Trump holds a NASA flight jacket presented to him by NASA Astronaut Office Chief Chris Cassidy after signing the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 in the Oval Office on March 21, 2017. Bill Ingalls, NASA/Getty Images
Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price arrive on Capitol Hill on March 21, 2017, to meet with GOP lawmakers on the Republican health care overhaul. J. Scott Applewhite, AP
Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk down the Cross Hall to enter the East Room for a joint press conference at the White House on March 17, 2017. Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency
Trump talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill on March 16, 2017, during a “Friends of Ireland” luncheon. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump speaks to auto workers at the American Center for Mobility on March 15, 2017, in Ypsilanti, Mich. Bill Pugliano, Getty Images
Trump holds up a note and drawing depicting him that was created by the child of Greg Knox of Ohio during a meeting on health care in the Roosevelt Room on March 13, 2017. MIchael Reynolds, Pool, Getty Images
Trump gestures as he surprises visitors during the official reopening of public tours at the White House on March 7, 2017. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images
Trump walks with grandchildren Arabella Kushner and Joseph Kushner, holding a model of Marine One, across the South Lawn of the White House on March 3, 2017, before boarding Marine One helicopter for the short flight to nearby Andrews Air Force Base. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump tours the Combat Direction Center on the pre-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in Newport News, Va., on March 2, 2017. Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
President Trump speaks before a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. Jack Gruber, USA TODAY
Trump holds up an executive order to bolster historically black colleges and universities after signing it in the Oval Office on Feb. 28, 2017. Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images
Trump reaches out to shake hands with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 20, 2017, where Trump announced that McMaster will be the new national security adviser. Susan Walsh, AP
The Trumps attend a campaign-style rally on Feb. 18, 2017, in Melbourne, Fla. Chris O’Meara, AP
President Trump walks with his grandchildren Arabella Kushner and Joseph Kushner to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Feb. 17, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 15, 2017. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attend a meeting with parents and teachers on Feb. 14, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump looks on as Steven Mnuchin is sworn in as Treasury secretary on Feb. 13, 2017. Alex Wong, Getty Images
Trump meets with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office on Feb. 13, 2017. Evan Vucci, AP
Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe listen to the translator after they both made statements about North Korea at Mar-a-Lago on Feb. 11, 2017. Susan Walsh, AP
President Trump speaks to Democratic and Republican senators about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch in the Roosevelt Room on Feb. 9, 2017. Pool, Getty Images
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich speaks during a meeting with Trump on Feb. 8, 2017, where Intel announced an investment of $7 billion to build a factory in Chandler, Ariz., to create advanced semi-conductor chips. Chris Kleponis, Pool/European Pressphoto Agency
Trump holds up a gift given to him by county sheriffs following a meeting as they pose for photos in the Oval Office on Feb. 7, 2017. Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
President Trump has lunch with troops during a visit to the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base on Feb. 6, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
The Trumps watch the Super Bowl at a party at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Feb. 5, 2017. Susan Walsh, AP
The Trumps arrive for the 60th Annual Red Cross Gala at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on on Feb. 4, 2017. Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Vice President Pence look on as Trump speaks briefly to reporters after greeting Harley Davidson executives on the South Lawn of the White House on Feb. 2, 2017. Drew Angerer, Getty Images
Trump shakes hands with Neil Gorsuch, his Supreme Court nominee, in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 31, 2017. Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency
President Trump speaks on the phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office on Jan. 28, 2017. Michael Reynolds, European Pressphoto Agency
Trump shakes hands with Defense Secretary James Mattis during an event at the Pentagon on Jan. 27, 2017. Vice President Pence is at right. Susan Walsh, AP
Trump greets British Prime Minister Theresa May as she arrives at the White House on Jan. 27, 2017. Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell watch as President Trump arrives to speak to House and Senate GOP lawmakers at the annual policy retreat in Philadelphia on Jan. 26, 2017. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Jan. 26, 2017, as he departed to attend a Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia. Nicholas Kamm, AFP/Getty Images
Trump, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence, gives a thumbs-up on Jan. 25, 2017, at the White House. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
Trump reads from one of the executive orders he signed during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security with Vice President Mike Pence, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and other officials in Washington on Jan. 25, 2017. Chip Somodevilla, Pool/European Pressphoto Agency
Trump displays one of five executive actions he signed in the Oval Office on Jan. 24, 2017. Shawn Thew, European Pressphoto Agency
Trump speaks during a reception for House and Senate leaders in the the State Dining Room of the White House on Jan. 23, 2017. Susan Walsh, AP
Trump signs executive actions in the Oval Office on Jan. 23, 2017. Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
Trump meets with business leaders on Jan. 23, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room. Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
President Trump holds a letter left for him by former president Barack Obama as Vice President Pence looks on before the swearing-in of the White House senior staff on Jan. 22, 2017. Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images
Trump speaks at the CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., on Jan. 21, 2017. Andrew Harnik, AP
The Trumps and Pences attend the Freedom Ball on Jan. 20, 2017. Kevin Dietsch, Pool/European Pressphoto Agency
Trump is joined by the congressional leadership and his family as he formally signs his cabinet nominations into law in the Presidents Room of the Senate on Jan. 20, 2017. J. Scott Applewhite, Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Trump and Obama arrive for Trump’s inauguration luncheon at the Capitol. J. Scott Applewhite, Pool
The Trumps and Obamas stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2017. Rob Carr, Getty Images
Trump delivers his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2017, on the west front of the U.S. Capitol Porter Binks, USA TODAY
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