Prominent Harvard University psychiatrist explains the 'primitive' psychological mechanism Trump uses when attacking Adam Schiff and others

Prominent Harvard University psychiatrist explains the 'primitive' psychological mechanism Trump uses when attacking Adam Schiff and others
Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), CNN Screengrab

Whether they’re Democrats or Never Trump conservatives, President Donald Trump often has an insulting name for his political opponents. One of Trump’s favorite targets during the House impeachment hearings has been House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, who he has described as a “dog,” a “deranged human being” and a “very sick man.” And according to Dr. Lance Dodes, a well-known Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, Trump’s Schiff-related insults are a prime example of what people in the mental health field call “projection.”

Dodes has been expressing his views on Trump’s mental health for two years, and he has had a lot to say about Trump this week. As Dodes sees it, Trump could be talking about himself whenever he insults Schiff and others.

During this week’s NATO summit in the U.K., Trump went off on Schiff during a Tuesday press conference — telling reporters, “I learn nothing from Adam Schiff. I think he’s a maniac. I think Adam Schiff is a deranged human being. I think he grew up with a complex for lots of reasons that are obvious. I think he’s a very sick man, and he lies.”

Countless Trump critics, of course, have pointed out that he has a long history of lying — the thing he accused Schiff of on Tuesday. And Dodes, this week, told MSNBC, “(Trump) tells other people that they are what he is. It’s a common enough mechanism in early childhood, but as an adult using it all the time, it is what we would call primitive.”

Some conservatives are quite capable of having an intelligent debate with political rivals. Many liberals and progressives have asserted that although the late William F. Buckley was wrong on a long list of issues, his intellect was undeniable. Liberal Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has stressed that when liberals and progressives have intelligent conservatives to debate with — as opposed to buffoonish carnival barkers — it makes them better debaters. But according to Dodes, Trump is incapable of having an intelligent debate with political rivals.

"If Donald Trump were capable of giving a reasonable discussion of something he didn’t agree with, he would make some sort of logical case,” Dodes explained. “But he is unable to do that. He runs a kind of a simple program in that way, so he tells you that other people are what he is being accused of and what he actually is.”

Dodes went on to say of Trump, “Everything is about him.... He doesn't have actual knowledge; so, he just says what feels right to him and especially what is for him, what he thinks is in his personal interest.”

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