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"His cold, highly aggressive behaviors evidence the essential characteristics of psychopaths whose disregard for the welfare of others comes from an absence of both empathy and remorse, the foundations of conscience that make us human." (Photo: AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

"His cold, highly aggressive behaviors evidence the essential characteristics of psychopaths whose disregard for the welfare of others comes from an absence of both empathy and remorse, the foundations of conscience that make us human." (Photo: AFP/Timothy A. Clary)

Presidential Psychopathy: Trump at the Border

As there is no cure for psychopathy, in a civilized country all that is left is removing the psychopath from office.

Kathleen Barry

A broad range of Americans deplore the cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants, especially the separation of them from their children ordered by Donald Trump. But we see him responding with macho bullying and grandiose threats riddled with his unbridled racism against people he wants to keep out of his country. His cold, highly aggressive behaviors evidence the essential characteristics of psychopaths whose disregard for the welfare of others comes from an absence of both empathy and remorse, the foundations of conscience that make us human. In place of being empathetic with the migrant families, he pushes the harm deeper and feels no remorse for the trauma his actions cause the children. Instead, he is the winner with the power to harm others to be able to punish others to make them the losers. That is what we see when Trump withdrew the US from the UN Human Rights Council this last week because the UN called upon the US to stop the inhumane treatment of migrants and their children at our borders. He showed them and us who is boss. That is what matters to him.

Psychopaths find little or nothing to gain from telling the truth, and more likely most of the time, he does not even take the problem of his facts vs lies in his statements into consideration. While Angela Merkle is managing a difficult challenge from members of her government to her open policy for migrants in Germany, boisterous, mean-spirited Donald Trump takes to Twitter with whatever comes to his mind that will stir disruption and discord around her inserting himself and hence the US in German national politics. As usual, he made up statistics about increased violence in Germany from migrants, lies to give aid to Merkle’s enemies. Psychopaths find little or nothing to gain from telling the truth, and more likely most of the time, he does not even take the problem of his facts vs lies in his statements into consideration. All of his self-made drama is about him, not about the country he governs. If harm comes to others because of his policy or behavior, what matters to him is his power to create it and even if he changes policy, it is about him and his power to stop the wrongs he created. That fits with how Trump is alienating allies of the United States while he cozies up to a brutal dictator with whom he can identify. It seems that he could care less that the US is losing allies and respect around the globe as long as his actions serve his ego and keep him at center-stage globally.  He even has to show us his signature when he signs an order.   

 How am I so sure about Trump's psychopathy when I have never met him?  Besides the fact that he daily demonstrates to us psychopathy in action, as a sociologist, in my latest book, Unmaking War (2011), I examined psychopathy in the US Presidency showing how the office has degenerated to the extent that it lends itself to engaging in those aberrant behaviors. One only need remember the justifications for torture produced for President Bush and remember the pictures of heinous treatment of human beings, Iraqis imprisoned by US forces. If you look at Trump’s behavior as that of a psychopath, he becomes predictable, even when he brags about “grabbing pussy” and uses the Office of President to protect himself from the nineteen sexual assault suits against him right now.
 
The urgent question before us is: What is the US Congress going to do about him?  As there is no cure for psychopathy, in a civilized country all that is left is removing the psychopath from office. The next urgent question: Is the US Congress up for that challenge?  Republicans, by and large, still stand by him, even those who disagree with separating children from parents. Almost as bad is the silence of Democrats, many of whom appear to have abandoned the battle but will want our votes.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Kathleen Barry

Kathleen Barry, a feminist activist and Professor Emerita, years of work globally against sexual exploitation. She recently earned the public support of President for a new UN Convention Against Sexual Exploitation.

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