The diagnosis is in, at least according to the estimable gallery of mental health professionals, and members of The Duty to Warn Coalition, who are seen in Dan Partland’s documentary: President Donald Trump suffers from a condition known as malignant narcissism, the components of which are narcissism, paranoia, anti-social personality disorder and sadism.
To which the rest of us can only say, “Well, duh!”
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump, being released even as we’re still suffering the effects of watching the Republican National Convention, delivers a devastating indictment of the mental state of our current chief executive. To anyone who follows the news religiously (and who doesn’t, during these anxiety-ridden days?), not much presented here will prove revelatory. The film is even a little out of date, since one of its primary talking heads, Lincoln Project co-founder (and husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway) George Conway, has now abandoned his mission of criticizing Trump. But thankfully not before delivering such acidic comments as “Donald Trump is like a practical joke that got out of hand.”
The shrinks participating in the documentary are technically violating what’s known as “The Goldwater Rule,” which states that it is “unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.” The ethical standard springs from a 1964 magazine poll in which 1,189 psychiatrists said that then-candidate Barry Goldwater was unfit to be president. Fortunately for the sake of the country, there’s also something known as “The Tarasoff Rule,” inspired by a California Supreme Court ruling that decreed that mental health professionals have a “duty to warn” if their patients might put someone else’s life in danger.
And while Trump isn’t their patient, the talking heads in #Unfit certainly make a convincing case for the danger that he poses to the nation. The film wouldn’t really have to do more than trot out some of his greatest hits, which it does with clips of such episodes as Trump’s remark that he wouldn’t lose any voters even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, Sean Spicer’s forced lying about the inauguration crowd size, and his machinations with Sharpies. Thankfully, the documentary doesn’t include too many of these, since it would lead to a running time dwarfing Gone With the Wind.
“Trump is a sociopath, a sadist, a con artist, a racist, a misogynist and a sexist,” declares one of the therapists in the film. He adds, “And I think that is a problem,” which might well be the understatement of the year.
#Unfit loses some of its impact by occasionally concentrating on the trivial. There’s a lengthy segment, for instance, devoted to chronicling Trump’s habit of cheating at golf. Yes, it’s indicative of his overall behavior that includes lying nearly every time he opens his mouth. But it pales in comparison to his ability to, say, launch a nuclear war, a topic that is discussed in frightening terms, or his many similarities to such historical figures as Mussolini and Hitler.
Ironically, it’s not the mental health professionals on display who make the strongest impact, but rather Anthony Scaramucci, who seems to have settled on a second career as a media figure critical of the man for whom he once, albeit briefly, worked. Say what you will about the Mooch (and please, discuss among yourselves), he’s got a way with words, as illustrated by this sly assessment of his former boss. “He is not a racist,” Scaramucci affirms. “He treats everybody like shit. He’s an asshole. That’s different from being a racist.”
It says something about our troubled times that the description almost seems comforting. Scaramucci also makes this astute point about the stakes for our democracy: “You can’t disrupt a 243-year experiment for one dude’s personality.”
Naturally, the film can be accused of preaching to the choir (personally, I’ve lost my voice from so much singing). Despite its powerfully cogent and well-informed arguments, #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump is sadly unlikely to change the minds of the roughly 35-40% of the population who look at the president’s behavior and apparently see nothing to be concerned about. But that’s a subject for another documentary.
Production companies: Bronson Park Films, docshop Productions
Distributor: Dark Star Pictures
Director: Dan Partland
Producers: Art Horan, Dan Partland
Executive producer: Jason Dreyer
Editor: Scott Evans
Composer: Tree Adams