Is Trump a psychopath? Does the Goldwater Rule need to be revised?

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By Leo Klinkers |

In 1964, U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater ran for president. He was defeated by Lyndon B. Johnson. Goldwater’s views prompted Fact magazine to consult with a number of psychiatrists about his mental suitability as president. Fact published that study with the following headline:

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) condemned this public declaration by including Article 7 in its Principles of Medical Ethics, saying ‘it is unethical for members to express a professional opinion about the mental state of public persons they have not personally examined and from whom they have not received permission to report publicly on their mental health.’ Goldwater won the Fact lawsuit and received $75,000 in damages.

The Goldwater Rule was challenged again in 2016/2017. A number of psychiatrists and psychologists stated that Donald Trump suffered from mental disorders, including megalomania, lack of empathy and malignant narcissism. This group, under the name Duty to Warn, justified the action with reference to their professional responsibility to alert the American people to Trump’s dangerous mental diseases.

Once again, the APA brought up the Goldwater Rule. But resistance arose. The American Psychoanalytic Association (APsA) argued that the APA’s code of ethics applied only to APA members and not to APsA members. This view has been followed by others. At this time, August 2020, it is not clear how many professionals are for or against such public statements.

The question is: what weighs more heavily? The ethics of the Goldwater Rule or the ethics that an entire people should not suffer from the mental incompetence of a US president?

In the run-up to the presidential elections on November 3, 2020, there may be more clarity. Trump has challenged Biden to first take a drug test before a (possible) debate between the two. Biden could accept the challenge under the condition that both candidates are examined by a team of three psychiatrists, three psychoanalysts and three psychologists. Their joint report should then be made public before November 3.

If Trump is found to be suffering from serious mental disorders, including the symptoms of a psychopath, Article 4 of Amendment 25 of the Federal Constitution could safeguard the November 3 elections. That article states that the Vice President, supported by a majority of ministers from the presidential cabinet, may make a declaration to the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives that the President is incapable of performing his duties. The Vice President then assumes immediately the duties and powers of the President.

If the President informs the leaders of the Senate and the House that he denies being unable to govern the country, he will regain his duties and powers, unless the Vice President, again supported by the majority of ministers, informs those leaders, within four days, that the President is really unable to do his job. The Congress (House plus Senate) then decides within twenty-one days by a two-thirds majority in both bodies. If this majority agrees with the Vice President, he continues the duties and powers. It is then up to the Republicans whether to nominate Vice President Pence as presidential candidate in place of the current candidate, Donald Trump.


Dr. Leo Klinkers



President of the Federal Alliance of European Federalists (F.A.E.F.)
President of the Federalism for Peace Foundation


Photo by Kyle Ryan on Unsplash

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