Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative commentator George Will unveiled a new diagnosis Wednesday for President Donald Trump after his visit Tuesday to disaster-stricken Puerto Rico.
News media reports of Trump's visit to the island U.S. protectorate showed the president lobbing paper towels into the crowd, after praising the Puerto Rican people's recovery efforts:
President Trump throws paper towels into the crowd at a Hurricane Maria relief event in Puerto Rico https://t.co/FLHYyPsaLD
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 3, 2017
President Trump also compared the death toll from Hurricane Maria to the 1,833 lives lost during Hurricane Katrina.
“You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together,” Trump said. “Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.”
Unfortunately, the latest fatality count from Hurricane Maria is at least 34 people.
Will appeared on “Morning Joe” and lambasted the presidential optics:
George Will on Morning Joe: President Trump May be Suffering 'Social Autism' pic.twitter.com/iFKX7e941e
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) October 4, 2017
As noted by Jon Levine of The Wrap, Will and Joe Scarborough engaged in a back-and-forth over the president's purported lack of empathy.
“He lacks basic empathy. He does not understand. He cannot put himself in the place of others who are suffering,” Scarborough said.
“It’s not clear he sees other people,” Will replied. “There’s such a thing as a kind of social autism that he just doesn’t connect with other people and again, there is no point in saying maybe he’ll acquire it. This is not part of his genetic makeup.”
It is an interesting choice of words from a commentator whose profession is staked on being a wordsmith. Discrediting any citizen, let alone the president, by using a psychiatric label is always a tenuous proposition fraught with peril, due in part to its stigmatizing effects.
A notorious smear that was circulated early in the Trump presidency, and which led to a public apology, was Rosie O'Donnell claiming the president's son, Barron Trump, may have autism.
Needless to say, that kind of irresponsible commentary is a much more egregious offense, since it targets a relatively defenseless young person. President Trump, as we all know, is more than capable of speaking up in his own defense.
Regardless, undermining the presidency based on psychiatric hearsay has become common practice at “Morning Joe,” although Scarborough has at times refuted the presidential “mental illness” narrative. In this case, no such refutation of the charge was initially forthcoming.