The debate over Trump's mental stability is reaching a fever pitch

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty ImagesDonald Trump.
  • President Donald Trump’s mental stability has become a hot topic amid the release of an explosive new book from author Michael Wolff.
  • The White House and Trump have sought to push back on the narrative.
  • But the conversation has dominated the news cycle over the past several days.

After months of toiling in the background, the conversation over President Donald Trump’s mental stability has reached a fever pitch in recent days as a new tell-all book on the White House paints him as unfit for office.

In turn, Trump and his administration have waged war on the author and sought to dispel the notion that he is mentally unstable and unable to carry out the duties of his job.

Author Michael Wolff has continued to promote the new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” continuing to take aim at Trump’s mental capacity. While some elements of the book have come under a healthy dose of scepticism, Wolff had seemingly unprecedented access to the administration.

“You cannot listen to this man talk without at least contemplating the possibility that something is grievously amiss,” Wolff told CNN on Monday. He said that administration officials bring up the 25th Amendment, which could be used to remove a president from office, “all the time.”

The White House, in pushing back on Wolff, has called the book “complete fantasy” while Trump’s personal attorney filed a cease-and-desist letter to the author and publisher. Trump took matters into his own hands this weekend, going off on Twitter about the discussion of his mental health.

Trump says he is ‘like, really smart’

Claiming the conversation had become more prominent Democrats and the media had reached a wall on other issues, Trump said they were “taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.”

He followed up by saying that his “two greatest assets” in life are “mental stability and being, like, really smart,” adding in a subsequent tweet that he believes he “would qualify not as smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that!”

“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President,” he tweeted Sunday. “Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”

Subsequently, reporters began asking some of Trump’s congressional allies whether they believe the president is, in fact, a “genius.”

“He’s smart and capable at getting himself elected president,” Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told CNN Monday.

Bill cassidyChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBill Cassidy.

Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin also praised Trump but did not call him a genius. Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina refused to comment. Republican John Thune of South Dakota said Trump was “obviously” just responding to the book, but simply grinned when asked if Trump was a genius.

Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said “there are not many geniuses,” adding that he thought Trump was “well and alert.” Finally, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana asked rhetorically “how many of us are geniuses in everything” when asked if he agreed that Trump was a genius.

“But he’s got great kids,” Cassidy added. “Everybody in this accepts that he’s got great kids.”

Earlier this year, some prominent Republicans had publicly questioned Trump’s mental health. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee expressed “”concerns about [Trump’s] leadership, and just his stability, and the lack of desire to be competent on issues and understand.” Meanwhile, former Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a former medical doctor, said Trump “has a personality disorder.”

As The Washington Post wrote Monday, the administration is “struggling to contain the national discussion about President Trump’s mental acuity and fitness for the job, which has overshadowed the administration’s agenda for the past week.” The publication reported that Trump “privately resents” the conversation on his mental stability, viewing it as “an invented fact” and “a joke.”

‘He’s sharp as a tack’

But while The Post reported that the administration has “struggled” to counter the narrative, they have tried. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the publication in a statement that the administration is outraged and disgusted “that people who do not know this president or understand the true depth of his intellectual capabilities would be so filled with hate they would resort to something so far outside the realm of reality or decency.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, sought to counter the narrative during a Sunday interview on ABC’s “This Week,” asking if Trump was “unstable” when he made a number of major decisions.

“As much as everyone wants to talk about stability, was he unstable when he passed the tax reform?” she asked. “Was he unstable when we finally hit back at Syria and said no more chemical weapons? Was he unstable when we finally put North Korea on notice? Was he unstable when he said, ‘Wait, we need to look at Iran because this is getting to be a dangerous situation?’ Was he unstable with the jobs or the economy or the stock market?”

Trump is set to have a physical on Friday – his first as president. Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday that the 71-year-old’s checkup will not include any sort of mental health evaluation – something that only led to more questions on the subject.

“He’s sharp as a tack,” Gidley said. “He’s a workhorse, and he demands his staff be the same way.”

David Martosko, the Daily Mail US political editor who interviewed for a job in the Trump administration, questioned why he wouldn’t receive such an evaluation.

“Wouldn’t you expect something, even something cursory, during a checkup of any 71-year-old?” he tweeted.

Even if Trump were to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, the results could be withheld from the public if Trump did not consent to their release. And Trump would not be the first president to withhold information about his health from the public should something come up in such an evaluation.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously sought to hide the fact he was mostly confined to a wheelchair for the duration of his 12-year presidency. President John F. Kennedy hid his addiction to various painkillers. And President Ronald Reagan – noted by Trump over the weekend – worked to hide early signs of deterioration.

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