Donald Trump is a narcissist and entirely lacking in empathy, but is he actually mentally unfit to be president of the US?
The most recent speculation follows last week’s bout of competitive boasting between “Little Rocket Man” and “Hair Fuhrer”, as well as a controversial new book that claims just that.
North Korean President Kim Jong-Un started the affray by declaring that his nuclear warheads could hit any part of the US and that the launch button was at hand “at all times”.
Trump launched a retaliatory Twitter broadside, asking that someone “please inform Kim that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”.
This kind of “mine is bigger than yours” posturing is not unusual among young men.
It’s rare, however, coming from a world leader.
Trump is famously sensitive about comments on his small hands, reading them as veiled allusions to genital size.
He has gone so far as to reassure the nation: “I guarantee you there’s no problem.” In a political contest characterised by pettiness, the issue took on a surreal life of its own.
Eventually, in the absence of any conclusive evidence, an enterprising journalist measured the hand size of Trump’s waxwork effigy in Madame Tussauds in London.
They were found to be a smaller than the mean, with 85% of American men having larger hands than Trump, as do a third of women.
From this scanty evidence a leading psychologist opined that a large, 1.88m man with small hands is likely to feel defensive because of the assumption by others that another part of him is small too, causing him “to act in a more aggressive or confrontational way …”
Following Trump’s victory, the psychological analyses took a darker turn.
In defiance of rules which prohibit psychiatrists from commenting on the mental health of public figures they have not examined, literally scores of mental health professionals have said that Trump shows signs of mental instability, as well as possible neurological damage of the kind that precedes dementia and other cognitive disorders.
Now there comes the publication of an expose of the Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff, called Fire and Fury.
Wolff says that many of those working for Trump have noticed that his “mental powers are slipping”.
Wolff quotes senior officials who allegedly have described the president as “mentally unfit”, “an idiot”, and “like a child”.
Trump has responded by tweeting that he is, in fact, “a very stable genius”.
Despite all this speculation being dissected by the commentariat, some scepticism is called for, given the antipathy towards Trump by the political establishment and most of the media.
It is true that Trump is an egotistical, unpleasant bully. The difference is Trump couldn’t be bothered to hide it, as do most people with psychopathic tendencies.
An Australian study suggests that one in five CEOs has psychopathic traits.
So perhaps the real question is not about Trump’s supposed insanity. Rather it should be about the supposed sanity of those who, knowing all that they do about his history and behaviour, nevertheless support him so unflinchingly.