In my unprofessional opinion

Ilearned that in 1964 an addition was made to the text of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics … section 7 … known as the Goldwater rule. This rule was instituted after “Fact” magazine asked psychiatrists to determine whether presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was fit to lead the nation and then published an article called “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.” The Goldwater rule states that it is unethical for a psychiatrist or psychologist to offer a diagnosis of a public figure without professionally interviewing the public figure. Goldwater sued the publisher of ‘Fact’ and prevailed in court.

At first blush this appears to be a good rule. Any campaign could easily find, or buy, a select group of professionals to offer opinions that seem to establish the fitness of one candidate over another. The repository of expert opinion can easily be sifted and culled through until the one expert who shares a validating opinion can be found. On the other hand, psychiatrists and psychologists have legitimate professional opinions, and, there are some public figures who freely, willingly…sometimes eagerly…publicly expose their most inner nature allowing a basis for opinions to be formed.

But I’m not wondering of the rightness or the wrongness of the Goldwater rule. I’m wondering why it is I’m even thinking about it. It is a sad thing that such a thing has even appeared on my radar. But when someone asks out loud why it is we have nuclear weapons if we’re not going to use them … it doesn’t take a Ph.D to understand how crazy such a statement is … not a little crazy … bat guano crazy. But even the most simple of us understand one doesn’t need to be crazy to say crazy things. So the guy gets a pass; just another politician saying crazy things. But then the guy spends the next year and months saying, No! I mean really … I don’t understand, tell me again … why can’t we use our nuclear weapons? And the guy goes on to wonder … out loud … why can’t we increase our nuclear armament tenfold? Or, why shouldn’t more nations have nuclear weapons? And then we hand the guy the keys to Pandora’s Box. As a citizen of both this nation and this Earth … I’m … sort of curious of what the shrinks think.

Thinking about the Goldwater rule forces me to think about my choices in the election year of 2020. I know a great deal about the candidate I’m going to vote for. No, I don’t know the candidate’s name. I don’t even know the candidates political affiliation, whether it be Republican, a Democrat, a man or a woman. I know more about who and what this candidate is and isn’t in a general sense. It won’t be a candidate who when asked about the others he intends to surround himself with for counsel and advice, answers … himself … because he has a very good brain … and knows more than the generals … but doesn’t understand why he can’t set off hydrogen bombs all over the planet.

My candidate will speak in complete sentences. When he speaks of “Pweato Reeco” he won’t be limited to describing it as an island … surrounded by water … big water. And when he speaks of Pweato Reeco’s stressed economy he will already be informed as to how this stressed economy is a direct result of policies formed in Washington, D.C.

My candidate will possess manners, poise and grace. He or she will warmly shake the hand of the chancellor of Germany and strategically shun the hands of tyrants.

My candidate will be a person of letters, well-read and articulate. He or she won’t make speeches to international bodies that scare the bejesus out of the rest of the world. He won’t say things that make our friends wonder of our friendship, cause neutral nations to wonder of their neutrality and make nations that are not yet our enemies … just wonder.

My candidate will be able to think beyond pictures or bumper stickers. He will understand our flag is an image but what it is an image of is an era.

He or she will be an economist, a historian, mature, have a paper trail, a physician, a professor, a journalist, honest, a scientist, thoughtful, will speak his mind while being mindful of the things he speaks, introspective, a humanitarian and humble. Pick any two.

Most of all, my candidate will never … ever … force me to think about the Goldwater rule or the 25th amendment.

I learned I am not constrained by section 7 of the American Psychiatric Association’s Principles of Medical Ethics and I have an opinion. In my opinion you don’t step on Superman’s cape, you don’t poke a rabid, nuclear dog with sticks and tweets, you don’t even think about increasing our nuclear arsenal from 4,000 warheads to 40,000 warheads, you don’t walk away from nuclear agreements that have already accomplished disarmament … unless you are a little crazy … no, not a little crazy … bat guano crazy. This is all I have learned today.


James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at