Recently, it has been reported that Hillary Clinton is using psychologists to prepare for her debates with Donald Trump. Apparently, some within the Clinton campaign believed that Mr. Trump seemed ill-at-ease when, during a Republican presidential primary debate, he addressed Senator Marco Rubio’s contention that Trump’s small hands likely meant his private parts were also small.
In fact, Trump seemed completely comfortable addressing that intensely personal attack, simply saying that it wasn’t true. His willingness and ability to dispense with the matter in such a straightforward way shouldn’t give the Clinton campaign confidence that Trump can be rocked with psychological missives; it should terrify them. Because when a man can speak directly, in front of cameras and the entire nation, even about those matters which are usually unspeakable, he isn’t going to run away from much of anything.
Donald Trump wears his psyche on his sleeve.
Hillary Clinton is the one whose psychological make up would seem to leave her vulnerable. Her penchant for lying is a problem, but the really big problem is that she seems unable to determine when her lies are registering with audiences as clearly untrue. At the core, people who lie transparently do so because they lack empathy—the ability to intuit and vicariously experience what others are thinking and feeling. Locked behind walls of narcissism or arrogance or imperiousness, consumed with the pursuit of power, they can’t tell convincing lies because they can’t truly resonate with how their words and mannerisms are being received.
Hillary Clinton's penchant for lying is a problem, but the really big problem is that she seems unable to determine when her lies are registering with audiences as clearly untrue.
Hillary Clinton is, to borrow from a fairy tale, like the emperor with no clothes, who thinks that others can’t see his nakedness. We have in Ms. Clinton, if you will, an empress with no clothes. Everyone knows her cover ups are transparent—except, seemingly, Secretary Clinton, herself.
All that Donald Trump needs to do, in order to expose Ms. Clinton as a liar is to ask her to repeat her defenses related to her use of a personal email server when she was Secretary of State, her mingling of State Department business with Clinton Foundation business and her having abandoned Ambassador Chris Stephens, Foreign Service Office Sean Smith and two former Navy Seals to die at Benghazi. Tens of millions of Americans watching will feel, in their hearts, that she is a liar.
As a forensic psychiatrist I have seen this psychological paradigm before—in those with sociopathy. Not infrequently, criminals attempt to hide their crimes with lies that are so obviously untrue that they leave investigators shaking their heads and chuckling. The criminals cannot tell that their lies are ineffective, because they are too insensitive to the feelings of others.
Scott Peterson, who killed his pregnant wife, then dumped her weighted-down body in the San Francisco Bay, claimed he was making cement anchors because he needed them to go fishing. Really? That’s the best lie he could tell? Believe it or not, yes.
Remember when Hillary Clinton told the House Oversight Committee investigating Benghazi, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”
That’s really the best Secretary Clinton could do. As a compulsive liar intent only on maintaining power, she doesn’t know that she is fast becoming the Empress with no clothes. And only she believes others cannot see.
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.