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Writer and editor Dan Rottenberg responded to my post about why my experience teaching school in Philadelphia gradually changed me from a liberal to a conservative. He wrote that I was being illogical in believing that because liberals are wrong about something, they must be wrong about everything. But I speculated (an opinion) that they must be wrong about and responsible for many other failures, not everything.

I wrote: “If … most of the left could be so wrong or dishonest about the schools, what other aspects of society could they be wrong or dishonest about? That is a question I asked myself, not a statement of fact. And in the last paragraph I concluded: “If they are so wrong about education, they must be wrong about and responsible for many other failures. The dictionary defines the word must as meaning “logically inferred,” and it defines infer, “to form (an opinion) from evidence.” What I wrote in the last paragraph is an inference (a guess) from evidence – my thirty-five years of teaching English in urban schools.

Still, Rottenberg’s criticism is interesting. It reminds me of the time in 1990 when I got into trouble because of the articles I had written about my experience in the schools. I won’t go into the details, other than it inspired almost every Philadelphia Inquirer opinion writer at the time to attack me in their columns. Donald Kimelman, who was then the deputy editor of the paper’s editorial page, said to me:  Just remember, in this dispute between you and the Inquirer columnists, you are the only one who knows what he is talking about. He meant that none of the columnists had any real experience teaching in big city schools.

So compared to those who have not taught in urban schools, I “know what I am talking about,” but when it comes to other subjects, I only know what I read in the papers, magazines and books, all of which are colored by the authors’ biases. To use Don Kimelman’s words, I don’t know what I am talking about when I infer that liberals must be wrong about and responsible for the failure of many other institutions besides urban schools. It is merely an inference.

Of course every opinion journalist holds forth on subjects that he doesn’t really know anything about. Take my afore mentioned former editor and critic Dan Rottenberg. He recently wrote a piece in which he diagnosed Donald Trump’s psychological disorder. Dan asked the question, “Why…is America’s new president acting like a sore winner?”  And he declaimed himself “uniquely situated to address that question.” Why? “As a financial journalist, I have followed Trump for more than 30 years…” So according to financial journalist Dan Rottenberg, Trump “likely suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).”

Dan first tells us the symptoms of NPD and then gives some examples of behavior that, he says, support his diagnosis. The first one is the way Vice President Mike Pence responded to criticism from the cast of the show Hamilton and being booed by the audience. Trump responded to what I consider rude behavior by the cast and audience by calling it rude and insulting. Dan then tells us how Pence responded, “That’s the sound of democracy.” Indeed, that may be the sound of democracy, but it is also rude and insulting. I am not carrying water for Trump, but I don’t believe that Trump’s calling a spade a spade is evidence of mental illness, nor do I believe that Pence’s reaction is evidence of mental health. In any case, Dan does not criticize the bizarre behavior of the actors towards Mike Pence and the obnoxious behavior of many in the audience. Just ask yourself how Dan and most other observers would have reacted if the same behavior were directed towards Barack Obama instead of the present Vice President.

Another piece of Dan’s  diagnostic evidence is that Chase Manhattan and Citibank lent Trump millions of dollars “without ever conducting an audit of [Trump’s] finances.” Although he does blame the media and the banks for “swallowing Trump’s act,” shouldn’t Dan be interested in why these large, prominent banks did what they did? Perhaps this is evidence of the bankers’ NPD.  I surely don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to big-time real estate developers and banks, but I do know that very rich people borrow money to finance large projects, simply because it pays off in tax deductions to use other people’s money. And isn’t it possible that the bankers’ experience with Trump is different from Dan’s speculation that the bankers merely swallowed Trump’s act. Perhaps these big city bankers have had other dealings with Trump, and they felt confident that Trump would pay them back with interest on time.

Which brings me to something I wrote in an earlier post entitled “Is Trump Crazy?” There are lots of articles out there claiming that Trump regularly “stiffed” contractors, and Dan mentioned to me that he had learned that while “covering” Trump. In the earlier post, I mentioned that I had a relative whose father’s engineering firm worked on most of Trump’s buildings in New York.  When I asked her what her now deceased father thought of Trump, she said that he liked Trump because he “always paid him on time” and was “very straightforward.” That came from a person whose father knew what he was talking about. That makes me wonder about Dan and all the other journalists who  “swallowed” the accusations of some contractors. Is it possible that those contractors may have tried to “stiff” Trump? I doubt that those financial journalists were much interested.

Again, I am not particularly enthusiastic about Trump. I also like and admire Dan Rottenberg. But “covering” someone as a journalist does not qualify one to diagnose mental disorders. Even a professional diagnosis from afar of a political figure like Trump (or Obama) would almost always be drenched in politics. Like me and the world outside of urban schools, Dan doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


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  • Merele James  On May 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm

    I am going to try again to leave a comment. I believe that your conservative position is more an emotional response to your years of teaching in the Philadelphia schools although you tend to intellectualize. Thirty five years of dealing with inter-city students, their parents, and inept administrators can cause anyone to be emotionally spent. In the mental health field we call that burn out. I think it is a form of PTSD.

    AS far as Trump is concerned, my experienc working in the mental health field, I certainly think that he is mentally ill. He is a classic Narcissist. His grandiosity is off the charts as well as his pathological lying. He believes the rules do not apply to him. This is a mentality of entitlement. I would say he fits all the criteria for NPD.

    • Ron James  On May 2, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      I looked up the symptoms of PTSD. I think everyone, including you sis, has had at least one or two of them. That’s the problem with the mental health community: They ascribe so many “symptoms” to a disorder that just about everybody could be diagnosed as having that mental illness. If I really wanted to be cynical, I could say that it’s a very good way to drum up more business. OMG! I have PTSD; I need a psychiatrist!

      You may very well be right about Trump’s public persona, or what Dan calls his act. That is true of probably most public figures. Was the public JFK the real Jack Kennedy? We now know that it was not. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what Trump is really like. The Trump the public sees is the important one, and I don’t like it. But then, I felt that way about Obama.

  • Irving Huber  On May 2, 2017 at 7:02 am

    There are a lot of so called experts out there who have no reluctance to proffer an opinion. As a physician, I can tell you that we try to write notes on the chart that sharply separate the subjective from the objective. The problem here, as you identified, is that most people, especially Trump, have blurred those lines. Facts are not facts. Lies are alternative facts.

    Perhaps if our president engaged in a more truthful dialogue, his critics would be more reticent about provided him with a DSM certified diagnosis.

    • Ron James  On May 2, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Thanks for the response, Irv. What bugs me is that some professional psychotherapists are so nutty about Trump that they diagnose him without personally examining him and then speak or write in public about it. I always thought that was considered unethical and unprofessional. Again, I am not defending Trump. I agree with everything you wrote about him.

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