A few days before the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, I posted on this blog my observation that President Donald Trump’s behavior was becoming more erratic, and that there was an increasing likelihood that he would decompensate to the point where action under the 25th Amendment is necessary. Things just got a lot worse.
Today he has been sending out tweets accusing the mainstream media (“fake news”) of misrepresenting his position on the Charleston violence to the public. It would be one thing if his effort was simply tactical, trying to blunt some of the extraordinarily negative public reaction to statements from Mr. Trump that failed to acknowledge that Nazism, anti-Semitism, and racial bigotry are evil, while opposition to those beliefs is not.
The thing is, his effort is not simply tactical; it reflects his increasingly tenuous grip on reality. Mr. Trump has always tended to believe that he can create his own reality, but in this case, he is so completely out-of-touch that it is pathological: Members of the public have listened to every word of Mr. Trump’s various statements on Charleston and formed their own opinions. This isn’t about “fake news.”
Yes, commentators can help shape opinions, but we have seen the derision with which a handful of right-wing commentators have been met when trying to defend Mr. Trump’s remarks. Plus, elected officials of all stripes, business leaders, and everyone else you can think of have joined the chorus of voices condemning the President for failing to denounce fascists and bigots in unambiguous language; it’s hard to find someone rational who hasn’t. For Mr. Trump to see this as just another round in his fight with the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, etc. is delusional – there is no other word for it.
No president has ever been this ostracized for his behavior. I doubt that he can psychological withstand the pressure without cracking completely. What exact form his deterioration would take, I don’t know, but I believe that he first will try to find refuge in people who reinforce his aberrant social views and prop up his fragile ego – that would be a typical coping mechanism as he tries to hang onto the delusion that, destructive as it may be, helps give order to his view of the world. In other words, he is going to be vulnerable to folks like Steve Bannon. And Bannon, with a nose like a vulture for decay, knows it. That’s bad.
I am not rejoicing in what I see happening to the President, by any means. Mr. Trump is unlikely to go down without a fight, even if it becomes obvious to Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet – as well as to Mr. Trump’s family – that Mr. Trump must be removed. Resistance by Mr. Trump would be accompanied by civil disorder instigated by his supporters, and the United States would be in a very vulnerable position as the attempt at a transition of power played out. Messy doesn’t even come close.
Plus, I am not enthusiastic about the ultimate outcome of removal – replacement of Mr. Trump with Mr. Pence. If you want a sense of what I think about Mr. Pence, read the article that recently appeared in La Civiltà Cattolica, generally considered a Vatican house organ. More disciplined and less psychologically imbalanced than Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence poses a greater danger of successfully advancing the destructive agenda of the unholy alliance between secular bigots and nativists and hard-right Christians that brought Mr. Trump to power. Of course, we will only have to worry about that problem if we survive the one at hand.
August 17, 2017