When President Donald Trump threatened North Korea this week with “fire and fury,” should the country continue to threaten military action against the United States, some reacted with alarm at his escalation of rhetoric.
One former Senate Republican from New Hampshire reacted by questioning the president's mental well-being. Gordon Humphrey penned a letter to New Hampshire's current congressional delegation asking them to support a piece of legislation introduced this spring that would establish a commission to determine whether the president is mentally fit to serve.
Gordon Humphrey spoke with NHPR’s Peter Biello about his letter.
What was it about the President's warnings to North Korea that concerned you?
I think that making incendiary remarks such as raining down fire and fury on North Korea is akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. The president is engaging in a kind of nuclear game of chicken. I'm old enough and, having served for 12 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, well enough acquainted with the horrible nature of nuclear warfare, and the devastation, and the planet wide suffering that would ensue—and I care about my family obviously and my grandchild and American families as we all do. And you know playing nuclear chicken with an unstable crackpot like Kim Jong Un, it's playing with nuclear fire.
And so how do you make the distinction between this as a bad policy idea and this as a symptom of some kind of deeper mental issue?
For the moment, the emergency is cooling things down between Trump and Kim. But in the longer term, the real problem is the mental instability of our president. I believe that he is burdened by a sick psyche that he is in fact exhibiting signs of mental illness.
He is delusional. He believes his own lies, such as his most recent, uttered the other day, in which he said he's modernized the nation's nuclear force. That simply isn't so. No president can do that in six months because it takes action on the part of Congress to appropriate the funds and that hasn't taken place.
So there's another lie but you can't talk him out of his lies because he's delusional. That's just one symptom—I can tick off others. There's a huge mountain of empirical evidence now that this president is not well and mentally ill.
Let's talk a little bit about the nature of looking at that evidence. The American Psychiatric Association abides by the “Goldwater rule.” Psychiatrists say they don't want to weigh in on public officials that they have not spoken to in person. Do you think it's fair to evaluate the president from a distance?
That's a very good question to raise and I'm glad for the opportunity to address it. While I understand the rule of the American Psychiatric Association, as citizens we are obliged to come to conclusions about a president's policies and about his fitness.
The Constitution provides a means for the Congress to remove a president who is unfit for duty—either physically or mentally unfit. And the Constitution doesn't speak to psychiatrists or to the American Psychiatric Association. It just provides a means. In other words, members of Congress, most of whom aren't MDs or psychiatrists, are empowered to remove a president they deem unfit.
So yes, I think it is more than fair and I think it's incumbent upon each of us as stewards of our children's future to come to some conclusions, after two years, about this bizarre conduct of our president.
One could argue that over the very long primary season this kind of behavior on the part of Donald Trump was not unusual and it wasn't a mystery to anybody. So one could argue that voters consciously went into that election in 2016 knowing that the president behaves this way.
Well you certainly wouldn't describe his conduct and his statements in the campaign as normal or healthy. They were abnormal and unhealthy. And because there is such a flood of this every week, that abnormal bizarre conduct has been to an extent normalized. People are beginning to get used to it. And that's worrisome.
President Richard Nixon's foreign policy became infamous for something called the Madman Theory, the idea that an unhinged leader is just too unstable to work with and therefore that in itself was a deterrent. Is that what you think is happening here or is this something else?
I wouldn't go too far in drawing parallels between the Nixon history and that of Donald Trump.
I think Donald Trump is the case before us about which we have to reach some conclusions. I think he's mentally unwell, imbalanced. He's delusional. He's paranoid. Everyone is an enemy who is not his sycophantic friend and supporter. He attacks his friends. He’s sociopathic in his conduct. He has no conscience, no sense of shame or guilt or remorse or regret.
Have you ever heard him apologize to anyone? He's sick. He really is. And that's dangerous.
While there are checks and balances which Congress is beginning to bring to bear, those checks and balances don't apply to the Commander in Chief, and especially not at 2:00 a.m. when he's up in the middle of the night and there's a crisis brewing, and he's hurling incendiary grenades across the world by means of tweets and his principal advisers—the more sober of them—are sound asleep.
There is no check and balance and that's why this situation is so very dangerous. The president alone has authority to launch nuclear weapons.
What are you hearing from other Republicans about this?
Silence. Well, you speak of other Republicans. You're assuming that I am one. I'm not any longer—I resigned from the Republican Party the day after the general election and reregistered as an independent. I want no part of Donald Trump or his enablers. And I hope someday I can return to the party, but not until Trumpism is gone.
How would you assess the state of the Republican Party after nearly seven months of a Trump presidency?
Utterly lost. The silence and the excuse making of the Cabinet and the principal Republican leaders in Congress constitutes enablement.