Irony: CNBC Reporter Frets About Trump's Mental State After Defending MS-13 Animals


The so-called Goldwater rule, established by the American Psychiatric Association after certain psychiatrists commented publicly on the sanity of 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, makes it unethical for mental health professionals to publicly remark on whether a public figure whom they have not themselves treated has a mental illness.

(Of course, they couldn’t usually remark on whether a public figure they have treated has a mental illness, but the message is obvious: It’s not their job to publicly discuss whether anyone has a mental illness.)

The strictures of the Goldwater rule don’t carry over to mere members of the media, but that shouldn’t usually be an issue. After all, there’s no circumstance I could think of in which a member of the Fourth Estate, not being of the mental health community, would be speculating on the cognitive state of a public official.

But, this being the Trump administration and all ethics more or less having been jettisoned upon the golden altar of viewership, I present to you John Harwood, the chief Washington correspondent for CNBC.

Harwood may not be a doctor, but he plays one on TV. He  was on MSNBC’s “AM Joy” Saturday morning being interviewed by the very stable Joy Reid, the woman who once photoshopped John McCain’s head on the body of the Virginia Tech shooter and allegedly threatened violence against former co-workers. (She has a perfectly rational explanation for those blog posts, however: amnesia. Or hacking. Or the fact that she’s “a better person today” than when she made the posts. Whatever works.)

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“I’ll be honest, as a citizen, I’m concerned about the president’s state of mind,” Harwood said.

Here’s a look at Harwood’s remarks:

“He did not look well to me in that press conference,” said Harwood, who has exactly as much medical training as Dr. Dre.

Do you think John Harwood went too far?

“He was not speaking logically or rationally, it sounded as if he was making stuff up…and there was something about his affect which was oddly kind of languid from him. I don’t know what it means but he did not look well to me.”

Reid also noted that “very little of what he was saying made a lot of sense.”

The coterie of guests were discussing Trump’s news conference after the G-7, which — from what I saw — didn’t exactly look like it was anything spectacular or noteworthy in the history of news conferences. I’ll admit I watched it while I was focused on other work, so I could have missed something, but — to my untrained eye — I didn’t see someone suffering from dementia or late-onset schizophrenia or anything like that.

I guess I don’t have the level of untrained medical acumen that John Harwood does.

This idea that Trump doesn’t make sense and is suffering from some sort of mental defect isn’t particularly new — even when it comes to other Republican presidents. Take Reagan, whose mental health was speculated on long before he became president. (The fact he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s years after he left the Oval Office provided a sick kind of justification for decades of attacks on his acuity.) It’s been a very, very common trope during the Trump administration, as this search for “Trump not making sense” on Google shows.

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Of course, this is the same John Harwood who threw a hissy fit over Trump calling members of MS-13 “animals,” too.

I think at a certain level, willfully not understanding what someone means when he calls members of a murderous gang “animals” is a sign of some defect, although I believe it to be more one of character than of cognition.

I came to that conclusion not because I have mad medical skills from the WebMD School of Medicine like Dr. Harwood seems to, but because of the fact that he’s one of the journalists outed as having close ties to the Clinton campaign through John Podesta in the WikiLeaks emails. He’s also still vigorously defending Bill Clinton against the current #MeToo backlash against him, in case you had to ask.

John Harwood doesn’t seem any more functional to me than President Trump, although it would be in poor taste for anyone to speculate about his cognitive fitness after a week that featured the high-profile suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and focused so much attention on mental health. Then again, it’s not like our friend from NBC’s peacock constellation particularly cared about this.

I will say that on a sociological level, someone who can rationalize cognitive dissonance like Harwood can is truly an interesting case study.

This is essentially someone who’s a de facto arm of the DNC talking about how horrified he was that President Trump called members of MS-13 “animals.” (What, after all, was he supposed to refer to them as? “Homicidal-Americans?”)

As long as Harwood insists on playing a doctor on television, perhaps ol’ Trapper John ought to consider himself constrained by the Goldwater rule like the same professionals he seeks to emulate. After all, if a doctor can’t ethically make a statement about the mental condition of a politician, why can a journalist of dubious allegiances?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture