Some House Dems planning town hall event on Trump's mental health next month

Between this and the George Will post, you can see the outlines of the 2020 campaign shaping up: “We may be weird but this guy is crazy.”

As far as I can tell from the Examiner’s report, this isn’t an “official” Democratic event. It has the support of a big-name House Democrat, John Yarmuth, but there’s no indication that it’ll be held in the Capitol and enjoy the caucus’s official sanction.

Then again, it was just two weeks ago that Nancy Pelosi went on national television and said she was praying that Trump’s staff and family would stage an “intervention” with him, wink wink, so official sanction isn’t entirely off the table here.

“The president’s condition has been visibly deteriorating to the point where there’s a lot of talk right now about his mental state beyond mental health professionals,” [Yale professor Dr. Bandy] Lee said. “It no longer takes a mental health professional to recognize the seriousness of the current presidency.”

The date for the town hall hasn’t been set but would be held “imminently soon within the next couple of weeks,” said Lee, who said the event was meant to be bipartisan. Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who has called for Trump’s impeachment, confirmed the event was in the works, but said it would be more likely to occur in July because lawmakers have a full plate in June with spending bills…

“It’s deceptive because it seems like he’s alert, it seems like he’s responding to things in a rational manner, but it is not the case from every measure that we have taken,” Lee said of Trump. “And this is very serious. In fact, worse than if he had a stroke and were unconscious because he can mislead the country in destructive or nefarious ways.”…

“Our concern is that the dangers be contained — the dangers of having a president who lacks the mental capacity, lacks the fitness to discharge his duties of office for the remainder of his term,” Lee said. “I mean, this is really a national emergency.”

This event has already kinda sorta been held, notes the Examiner. In March Lee participated in an event at the National Press Club to discuss her book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” But that wasn’t a panel exclusive to mental-health professionals: It included an economics professor, a philosophy professor, and, er, former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The new event being organized would show highlights of that one and invite questions from the public.

The American Psychiatric Association scolded Lee and others last year for opining on Trump’s mental health from a distance, without having examined the president firsthand. That sort of thing is apt to bring the profession into disrepute by substituting politics for scientific analysis, after all. Lee doesn’t seem to care. Whether because she really does believe Trump’s mental fitness is a national emergency or because she’s selling a book, she appears to believe that so long as no specific diagnosis is offered it’s okay to accuse someone of a general mental disability — although, per Yarmuth, she’s going to present “findings,” which *sounds* pretty science-y and diagnosis-ish. It reminds me of Jon Stewart’s shtick back in the day when he was criticized for some of his political commentary. “I’m just a comedian,” he’d say to deflect the critique — but when he was praised for his commentary, well, then he was a serious commentator again. Lee’s seemingly trying to have it both ways too. If you find what she’s doing ethically dubious, well, rest assured that it’s not a formal diagnosis. But if you want to draw a conclusion from her “findings” that Trump’s mentally unfit for office and should be removed, she’s not gonna stop you.

Yarmuth, by the way, has been riding this hobbyhorse for as long as Lee has. A month after Trump’s inauguration, he told a local chapter of the NAACP, “I’m not sure of his mental state, but I know that he doesn’t portray someone who is in control of his facilities.” Lee claims that the event might be canceled if no Republicans show up to it (which they won’t), which I suppose is her way of trying to keep this subject untainted by partisanship. Go figure that when you accuse the president of being mentally unstable, people might get it in their heads that there’s an agenda at work.

The irony of holding an event like this is that there’s only one authority under the law capable of acting if they’re convinced that the president’s somehow incapacitated: That’s the vice president and his own cabinet, per the 25th Amendment. Congress has the power to substitute some other body for the cabinet in that process but that won’t be happening so long as there’s a Republican Senate. Congress would ultimately rule on a claim by the cabinet that the president’s unwell, but the determination has to originate with Pence and Trump’s deputies. Which raises the question: Who’s the target audience for this town hall? If it’s not Pence and Trump’s own cabinet then it has to be a pitch to voters to turn Trump out of office next year. See why it’s pointless for Lee to pretend this isn’t ultimately about partisan politics?