Category Archives: Presidential Temperament

More Disturbing Stuff About Trump

Published / by stevec

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Two new pieces this week from critics of Donald Trump.

Krugman published an editorial, Wrecking The Ship of State. To motivate folks to read the editorial, here are some exerts :

But can we now admit that he really is as bad as — or worse than — his harshest critics predicted he would be? And it’s not just his contempt for the rule of law, which came through so clearly in the James Comey testimony: As the legal scholar Jeffrey Toobin says, if this isn’t obstruction of justice, what is? There’s also the way Trump’s character, his combination of petty vindictiveness with sheer laziness, leaves him clearly not up to doing the job.

Take health care. It’s still unclear whether Republicans will ever be able to pass a replacement for Obamacare (although it is clear that if they do, it will take coverage away from tens of millions). But whatever happens on the legislative front, there are big problems developing in the insurance markets as we speak: companies pulling out, leaving some parts of the country unserved, or asking for large increases in premiums.

…insurance markets were clearly stabilizing last fall. Instead, as insurers themselves have been explaining, the problem is the uncertainty created by Trump and company, especially the failure to make clear whether crucial subsidies will be maintained.

Or take the remarkable decision to take Saudi Arabia’s side in its dispute with Qatar, a small nation that houses a huge U.S. military base. There are no good guys in this quarrel, but every reason for the U.S. to stay out of the middle.

And consider his refusal to endorse the central principle of NATO, the obligation to come to our allies’ defense — a refusal that came as a shock and surprise to his own foreign policy team. What was that about? Nobody knows, but it’s worth considering that Trump apparently ranted to European Union leaders about the difficulty of setting up golf courses in their nations. So maybe it was sheer petulance.

Another shocking piece is Graydon Carter’s Editor’s Letter in the latest Vanity Fair A Farce To Be Reckoned With. Again some exerts:

The thing is, you cannot rise above Donald Trump, you cannot go under him, and you cannot engage him in a conventional way. Before he became president, you could basically ignore him—he was a local joke, after all. Now that he’s commander in chief, you must resist him, with everything that is in you and in every way you can. As anyone who has followed his jerry-rigged career from the 1980s onward will tell you, Trump just drags you to the bottom of the pond every time. Decades ago, he was a short-fingered vulgarian tooling around town in a mauve stretch limo, reeking of Brut.

With Trump, everything past is prologue. On the day after his inauguration, while millions in the U.S. and around the world protested his improbable election, Trump went to C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia. The ostensible purpose of the visit was to patch things up after he had repeatedly trashed the intelligence community in the weeks leading up to his swearing-in. Trump’s speech was short, just 15 minutes, but even here, after paying lip service to the C.I.A. and its heritage, he went off piste, claiming that his beef with the intelligence community was a figment of the media’s imagination—as was the slim size of the crowd at his inaugural. These complete fabrications were made despite all printed, oral, and visual evidence to the contrary. That he spoke these words standing before the marble wall of 117 stars representing the lives of the men and women from the agency who had died in the line of duty was troubling enough. Across the hall from him, however—and in plain sight—was another marble wall, with a clearly visible quote from John 8:32 put there by former C.I.A. director Allen Dulles: AND YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.

Had Trump heeded those words, his presidency wouldn’t be so trussed up in the Gordian knot of his appalling lies, contradictions, and deceptions. His presidency is effectively doomed—it’s only a question now of how and when it will end. Treason? Impeachment? Incapacity? Until that day, you should be forgiven if you think you are suffering from extreme, full-blown P.T.S.D.—President Trump Stress Disorder. You are not alone. A serial liar in the office or home is one thing—and stressful enough. But a serial liar in the highest office in the land is something else altogether. Couple that with an erratically fragile ego, a severely diminished mental capacity, a lacerating temper, and access to the nuclear codes, and it’s going to get a whole lot hotter in here.

Far and away the most unfit man ever to hold the nation’s highest office, Trump has crammed so much into his first few months that most of us have trouble keeping track of the quotidian acts of executive mayhem. He has no foreign or domestic policy to speak of—he bases most of his decisions on what will play best to his base out there among the Twitterati. He cozies up to dictators and fellow strongmen, flattering them and giving them unwarranted credibility, while running roughshod over traditional allies. He has signed executive orders that attempt to slash decades of advancement in educational, medical, and environmental protections. The torrent of hate that Trump has so cavalierly unleashed has moved attacks against Jews, Muslims, Hispanics, and African-Americans from the margins toward the mainstream. Both the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center report spikes in hate crimes and bias-related incidents since Trump’s election

As an executive, Trump is a shambles. Can you imagine a company in America that would hire Trump as its C.E.O.? (Enron doesn’t count: it’s no longer in business.) He’s not a true leader in any proper sense of the word; he’s a ringmaster of a heaving, leaking White House that is much closer to the Circus Maximus or a traveling carny show than any traditional government operation. When he told NBC News that Comey was “a showboat” and “a grandstander,” what he really meant was that there was room for only one of those in this town.

Trump has spoken of the media’s trying to muddy his message of unifying the country. With his brazen attempts to gut government entities like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the State Department, as well as his plans to roll back financial legislation such as Dodd-Frank, among so many others, about the only people he is uniting are scientists, economists, environmentalists, health-care professionals, diplomats, career civil servants, parents, children, educators, and other afflicted groups. They have come together in historic droves as they resist the rules of engagement and the reign of terror of the petulant man-child in the Oval Office. And in the end, they will win the day.

 

 

Who Will Save The Republic?

Published / by stevec

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From my Friend Charles Feinstein in a letter to the New York Times, May 14:

Two questions were raised on Saturday’s op-ed page.  Bret Stephens asks how long Trump’s stupidity will save us.  Timothy Egan asks a far more pertinent question:  who among the Republicans in Congress will step up to save us?  

Trump validates the claim that he is unfit for office every day in many ways.  The number of people who are questioning his mental health seems to be increasing.  The latest outrage, firing Comey who is investigating nothing less than treason, has called forth frightening comparisons with Nixon and Watergate.  And what do we hear from the Republicans in Congress?  At best complicit silence, at worst full-throated support for the excesses of our autocratic president.  We will need a Welch/McCarthy moment if we are to prevent further damage by Trump to our democratic society.  We are told that Cato the Elder ended every speech in the Roman Senate, regardless of topic, by reminding the Senators that “In addition, I recommend that Carthage be destroyed.”  It is perhaps time for the Congressional Democrats to end every speech with a Cato-like question:  “In addition, I ask where are the decent Republicans?”  And if they won’t ask it, we should.

Charles D Feinstein
Redwood City, CA

Unfit To Be President

Published / by stevec

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By leaking intelligence and the intelligence sources’ location to the Russians, Trump once again demonstrates that he is unfit to be president. He does not care about employment or healthcare or immigration. He does not care about the greater good. He only uses these issues to score points with his base. His sole motivation is self-aggrandizement. He is a 7 year-old parading as an adult

Maybe even worse, by continuing to support Trump in the face of all the evidence that he is unfit to lead, many republicans are demonstrating that they too do not care about the greater good. These republications seem to only care about power and are thus unfit to represent.

David Brooks has a good piece in today’s New York Times, When the World Is Lead by Child. Here are selected exerts:

At base, Trump is an infantalist. There are three tasks that most mature adults have sort of figured out by the time they hit 25. Trump has mastered none of them. Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth.

Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

[concerning leaked secrets] From all we know so far, Trump didn’t do it because he is a Russian agent, or for any malevolent intent. He did it because he is sloppy, because he lacks all impulse control, and above all because he is a 7-year-old boy desperate for the approval of those he admires. …The Russian leak story reveals one other thing, the dangerousness of a hollow man.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”

What Motivates Trump

Published / by stevec

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What motivates trump? Certainty not ideology. The Trump strategy is driven by  Winning. “He believes in power and strength, and he believes in himself. So that becomes his philosophy,” Dan P. McAdams. Perhaps this is why he flips on issue after issue, NATO, China, Russia and Syria.

Months before the 2016 U.S. presidential election took place, Dan P. McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, set out to better understand Donald Trump. This was reported in The Altlantic January 29, 2017:  In his article “The Mind of Donald Trump,” McAdams concluded that the then-presidential hopeful is extremely extroverted, extremely disagreeable, narcissistic, and filled with anger.” McAdams suggested that Trump is a fighter, but that, apart from a desire to win, it is not clear what motivates him to fight. “It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation”

After Trump was elected McAdams, in an Atlanic interview,  made several observations, quoted here in part:

The first is that I would double down even more on the idea that what you see is what you get when it comes to Trump. … Now that Trump has won the election, we’re seeing this dynamic continue to play out. He’s still fighting, even though the election itself, and the battle that was the campaign is over. Most candidates want to win the election so that they can become president, but it seems like Donald Trump wanted to become president so that he could win the election. It’s all about winning, but even now that he’s won he can’t seem to let go of the fight.

The second thing I would emphasize more is the theme of authoritarianism. I think what we have seen in the last six months—and now that he is president—is that Trump really doesn’t know how, or want, to work within the typical institutional structures of democracy. Like an authoritarian leader, he wants to transcend that and connect directly to the people. He does that through Twitter, by going around the press, or by making it sound as though the world is an extraordinarily dangerous place and positioning himself as a sort of authoritarian leader, savior and strong man who will deliver the country from “carnage,” to use a word he used in his inaugural address.

[concerning a question about lying and deceit] The lying has gotten more extreme now that he’s in the Oval Office, and I didn’t think it would get this bad. I thought Trump utters falsehoods in order to promote some kind of agenda or for some specific strategic purpose, but now there are times when it seems like he just lies for the sake of lying.

[in my original piece] I may have underestimated the extent of Trump’s authoritarian leanings. When I think of an authoritarian I often think of someone who is a true believer in something. They take office and they have an agenda that they really believe in and Trump doesn’t seem to have much ideological conviction, so I thought, how can he be an authoritarian? But actually Trump does have principles. He believes in power and strength, and he believes in himself. So that becomes his philosophy.

I think it’s really important to try to understand who the president is. And when you learn that there isn’t much behind the mask except for these narcissistic goals and authoritarian values, that’s important to learn, and it helps you predict what kind of president he is going to be.