Manic Monday Reads: “Trump Is Not Well”Posted: September 9, 2019
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
That understated headline from The Atlantic by contributing editor Peter Wehner just about sums up all the news that no one should consider fit to print but blast it at us daily because “Accepting the reality about the president’s disordered personality is important—even essential.”
I wasn’t shy about making the same case publicly. During a July 14, 2016, appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, for example, I responded to a pro-Trump caller who was upset that I opposed Trump despite my having been a Republican for my entire adult life and having served in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the George W. Bush White House.
“I don’t oppose Mr. Trump because I think he’s going to lose to Hillary Clinton,” I told Ben from Purcellville, Virginia. “I think he will, but as I said, he may well win. My opposition to him is based on something completely different, which is, first, I think he is temperamentally unfit to be president. I think he’s erratic, I think he’s unprincipled, I think he’s unstable, and I think that he has a personality disorder; I think he’s obsessive. And at the end of the day, having served in the White House for seven years in three administrations and worked for three presidents, one closely, and read a lot of history, I think the main requirement for president of the United States … is temperament, and disposition … whether you have wisdom and judgment and prudence.”
That statement has been validated.
Donald Trump’s disordered personality—his unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving—has become the defining characteristic of his presidency. It manifests itself in multiple ways: his extreme narcissism; his addiction to lying about things large and small, including his finances and bullying and silencing those who could expose them; his detachment from reality, including denying things he said even when there is video evidence to the contrary; his affinity for conspiracy theories; his demand for total loyalty from others while showing none to others; and his self-aggrandizement and petty cheating.
It manifests itself in Trump’s impulsiveness and vindictiveness; his craving for adulation; his misogyny, predatory sexual behavior, and sexualization of his daughters; his open admiration for brutal dictators; his remorselessness; and his lack of empathy and sympathy, including attacking a family whose son died while fighting for this country, mocking a reporter with a disability, and ridiculing a former POW. (When asked about Trump’s feelings for his fellow human beings, Trump’s mentor, the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, reportedly said, “He pisses ice water.”)
The most recent example is the president’s bizarre fixation on falsely insisting that he was correct to warn that Alabama faced a major risk from Hurricane Dorian, to the point that he doctored a hurricane map with a black Sharpie to include the state as being in the path of the storm.
“He’s deteriorating in plain sight,” one Republican strategist who is in frequent contact with the White House told Business Insider on Friday. Asked why the president was obsessed with Alabama instead of the states that would actually be affected by the storm, the strategist said, “You should ask a psychiatrist about that; I’m not sure I’m qualified to comment.”
The worst thing about this is summed up by Jonathan Chait writing for The New York Magazine today: “Trump Has Figured Out How to Corrupt the Entire Government.” And yet every one in elected office appears unable to face it and get rid of him before he does more damage.
Donald Trump came to the presidency a complete novice to government and often found his corrupt, authoritarian impulses frustrated by its bureaucracy. But he is slowly learning how to control the machine that has stymied him. This is the story of 2019, as Trump has replaced institutionalists attempting to curtail his grossest instincts with loyalists happy to indulge them. It is playing out across multiple dimensions. This is the through-line between several seemingly disconnected episodes from the last several days.
The pattern played out in its most absurd form via Trump’s manic insistence on justifying his inaccurate warning that Alabama “likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated” from Hurricane Dorian, at a time when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was forecasting the state faced no risk. At first, Trump attempted to justify his lie by brandishing a chart he crudely doctored.
More ominously, on Friday, the NOAA issued an official statement backing up Trump’s original false claim. And the Washington Post reported the agency had instructed its staff not to contradict Trump’s claims. “This is the first time I’ve felt pressure from above to not say what truly is the forecast,” an NOAA meteorologist told the Post. “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around. One of the things we train on is to dispel inaccurate rumors and ultimately that is what was occurring.”
The controversy might appear absurd and contentless. But Trump views the stakes as high, not without reason. Among his supporters, Trump has created a cultlike devotion to his competence and honesty, both of which are threatened by acknowledging his falsehood about the hurricane.
Also on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported the Department of Justice is launching an antitrust investigation of automakers who had agreed with California to raise their emissions standards. Trump is driven by a desire to overturn an Obama-era rule increasing mileage standards out of an obsession with destroying his predecessor’s legacy and an automatic rejection of any policy to limit climate change. Trump took the agreement as a personal affront, raging publicly at the automakers for dealing with California and undercutting his leverage to loosen emissions standards.
The antitrust investigation is a preposterous abuse. The automakers are not conspiring to fix prices. They are negotiating pollution regulations with a state that is legally entitled to set its own air-pollution rules. But the threat of retribution has already dissuaded automakers from dealing with California. “One person with direct knowledge of negotiations said that Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz had indicated an interest in joining, but later abstained due to fears of political fallout,” reports the Journal. The New York Times notes that other auto firms steered clear of dealing with California because they “fear retribution from an unpredictable administration.”
You can also read Timothy L O’Brien at Bloomberg: “On Trump, Sharpiegate, Turnberry, the Taliban and Chaos. Good government decays when compromised by a cult of personality.” Does this mean the press will stop normalizing what he does now as well as how he behaves?
The U.S. military has also fallen under the president’s sway, it would appear. Politico reported on Friday night that Democrats in the House of Representatives are investigating whether Air Force crews have been improperly routed for stays at the president’s money-losing golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, raising the possibility that taxpayers’ dollars are helping a Trump business stay afloat. As I noted in a column last year about Trump’s financial conflicts of interest there, the “Scottish government has also drawn attention for considering steering business to Turnberry as part of its courtship of the U.S. military.” Politico reported on Sunday night that in response to its reporting, the Air Force has ordered a comprehensive evaluation of its use of Trump resorts to lodge crews.
The Air Force may have chosen to patronize the president’s hotels without any pressure from the president, of course. Vice President Mike Pence bent over backward to say as much when he decided to house his official entourage in a Trump hotel on the west coast of Ireland last week, about 125 miles away from the meetings he had to attend in Dublin. Attorney General William Barr also may have just been picking the best place to throw his annual holiday party when he decided to pay at least $30,000 for the privilege of hosting it at Trump’s Washington hotel.
But however the military, the vice president, and the attorney general all ended up doing business with the president, the mere fact that they are lining Trump’s wallet looks awfully like institutional kowtowing, at a minimum. In a worst-case scenario, it smacks of financial conflicts and the possibility of deeper corruption that has hung over the White House throughout the Trump era. And it’s linked to the same loss of integrity and institutional erosion on display at NOAA.
While obsessing over his Sharpie, Alabama and the media, Trump was also doing end-runs around most of the country’s foreign policy and national security institutions as he tried to orchestrate an end to the war in Afghanistan. He landed on a showy, self-aggrandizing concept: hosting the Taliban, a terrorist organization tied to Osama bin Laden, at Camp David over the weekend – just days before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The summit unraveled, in part because of possibly irreparable differences between the Taliban and the Afghan government as well as infighting among White House advisers lobbying for Trump’s attention.
There are some responses today but we’ll see what happens.
From the Washington Post: NOAA’s chief scientist will investigate why agency backed Trump over its experts on Dorian, email shows — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acting chief scientist said in an email to colleagues Sunday that he is investigating whether the agency’s response …
From Natasha Bertrand at Politico: Air Force leaders order probe of Trump resort stays
And this one that I still can’t believe since we’ve just seen another year where we’ve got First Responders dying from the events of 9/11 of 18 years ago …
from Chas Danner at New York Magazine: Trump’s Canceled Meeting With Taliban Was a Failed Attempt to Rush a Peace Deal
On Saturday evening, just days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which led to America’s forever war in Afghanistan, President Trump revealed in a series of tweets that he had canceled a secret Sunday summit with Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David. The reason, he claimed, was that the Taliban had admitted to killing an American soldier and 11 others in a suicide bombing last week in order “to build false leverage” in its peace negotiations with the U.S.
“What kind of people would kill so many in order to seemingly strengthen their bargaining position? They didn’t, they only made it worse,” the president declared.
But speaking of making things worse, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the president’s announcement was hardly the whole story. The Camp David meeting — according to Afghan, Taliban, and Western officials — was actually a failed gamble by the Trump administration. The summit, which the Trump team proposed late last month, was an attempt rush a conclusion to the negotiations by flying Taliban and Afghan leaders to the U.S. so that the parties could iron out the remaining details and conclude with a big peace-deal announcement and photo op.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators have reportedly made real progress in nine rounds of talks over the last year, suggesting America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan may finally soon be over. But finalizing the end of an almost two-decade war is not like finishing the production of a television-show season. Though Afghan President Ashraf Ghani — who is facing reelection at the end of month and had been mostly excluded from the talks — had agreed to the summit, Taliban leaders objected to the plan. They insisted that they would not meet directly with the Afghan government or travel to America until after the deal with the U.S. had been finalized. That didn’t happen, so the hastily arranged summit was scrapped and the Taliban was blamed.
So you may ask yourselves, why am I talking about John Legend and his beautiful outspoken wife? And why am I suddenly seeing #PresidentPussyAssBitch all over Twitter?
Look no further than The Root for this headline “Trump Comes for John Legend and ‘Filthy Mouthed Wife’ Chrissy Teigen on Twitter; Ends Up With a New Nickname We Can All Agree On” by Genetta M Adams.
I think it goes without saying that there’s a lot of bad shit happening in the world right now: the Bahamas and the Carolinas continue to recover from the havoc wreaked by Hurricane Dorian, yet another reminder of the coming climate apocalypse; mass shootings are a regular feature of America life and the global economy is about as jittery as a junkie.
But do you know what the leader of the free world was doing Sunday night? Rage tweeting about musician John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, all because he didn’t think he was getting the credit he deserved for his work on criminal justice reform (yes, I know! I told you the world is crazy right now!)
How did we get here? On Sunday night, Legend appeared with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt in a program about mass incarceration and the broken criminal justice system. Legend was on to discuss Free America, a program he initiated to end mass incarceration.
Clearly, the president tuned in because after the show aired, he threw a four-tweet tantrum because he wanted the world to know that MSNBC failed to give him and the GOP enough credit for passing the First Step Act, a bipartisan (ahem!) law that “reduced mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and eased the federal ‘three strike’ rule imposing a life sentence for three or more convictions,” according to the Insider.
Go to the link if you want to see the tweets. So, you can see why I think that saying “The President isn’t well” is highly understated.
The one agency that appears ready and willing to buck the trend is the NWS. From the AP: “NWS chief backs forecasters who contradicted Trump”. Jay Reeves has the byline.
The head of the National Weather Service issued a strong public defense Monday of forecasters who contradicted President Donald Trump’s claim that Hurricane Dorian posed a threat to Alabama as it approached the United States.
Director Louis Uccellini said forecasters in Birmingham did the right thing Sept. 1 when they tried to combat public panic and rumors that Dorian posed a threat to Alabama. It was only later that they found out the source of the mistaken information, he said.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Weather Association, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters “did what any office would do to protect the public.”
“They did that with one thing in mind: public safety,” said Uccellini, who prompted a standing ovation from hundreds of forecasters by asking members of the Birmingham weather staff to stand.
Earlier, the president of the 2,100-member association, Paul Schlatter, said any forecast office “would have done the exact same thing” as the Birmingham forecast office.
Trump has defended his tweet about Alabama, and he displayed an altered forecast map in the Oval Office last week in an attempt to make his point. Apparently siding with the president, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued an unsigned statement critical of the Birmingham forecasters Friday.
But Alabama had never been included in hurricane advisories and Trump’s information, based on less authoritative computer models than an official forecast, was outdated when he sent a tweet saying Alabama could be affected by Dorian.
Discussing the flurry of social media contacts and phone calls that followed Trump’s tweet, Uccellini said Birmingham forecasters used “an emphasis they deemed essential to shut down what they thought were rumors” when they posted on social media that Alabama’s wasn’t at risk.
“Only later, when the retweets and politically based comments started coming to their office, did they learn the sources of this information,” he said.
Congress of the United States of America! That was the NWS! Be more like the National Weather Service! Show some fucking leadership!!!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Oh, and if you want to see more Things that Look Just Like Donald Trump you can go to Bored Panda. And thanks to Delphyne for finding that last rooster!!!