In a new film unpacking the psychology of Donald Trump, author and psychologist John Gartner says the president demonstrates numerous signs of cognitive deterioration and ties that to grave concerns about Trump’s fitness for the Oval Office.
“This is almost a science fiction kind of novel that we are living in now,” Gartner said in an exclusive clip from the documentary “Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump.”
“He is cognitively deteriorating,” Gartner argued. “If you look at interviews that he gave in the 1980s and 1990s, he was very articulate. He actually had a very sophisticated vocabulary. He spoke in actually polished paragraphs.”
Gartner juxtaposed clips from that time with the way Trump speaks at present.
“His vocabulary is impoverished; he uses a lot of superlatives and filler words that we see in people who are reaching for language,” he said. “Quite often, he shows what we call tangential thinking, which is that he goes from one idea and then just sort of drifts in mid-sentence to another idea.”
Gartner, who has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and taught for nearly three decades at the Johns Hopkins Medical School’s department of psychiatry, also refers to instances in which the president has appeared to be unable to recall fairly significant events.
“Why is this important?” he asked. “We have someone who is really not functioning cognitively who has the capacity to launch the nuclear codes.”
“Unfit” explores myriad aspects of Trump’s psyche in consultation with mental health experts. The film was made in partnership with Duty To Warn, a coalition of mental health professionals and others who advocate for Trump’s removal from office on the grounds that he is psychologically unfit. Gartner was a founding member of this group.
Armchair psychologists, along with real ones, have shared speculative diagnoses of the president for several years. One of the more recent examples is Trump’s own niece Mary Trump, a clinical psychologist, who gave more personal insight into what she viewed as Trump’s narcissistic tendencies in her book.
There has long been debate over the ethics of analyzing Trump’s mental state. Opponents say it creates stigma and, among other issues, violates the Goldwater Rule, an ethical rule from the American Psychiatric Association that prevents psychiatrists from offering professional opinions about a public figure they have not examined. Others have argued that it’s in the public interest to highlight the roots of Trump’s actions in office.
Directed by Dan Partland, “Unfit” also features legal professionals, historians and prominent anti-Trump Republican figures, including conservative attorney George Conway, former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and conservative commentator Bill Kristol.
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