A Mental-Health Expert Says WH Staffers Have Solicited Her Advice About Their Boss

My father is a moderate Republican and a psychologist. During the Trump campaign, he called the man a malignant narcissist. He wasn’t making an official diagnosis; he was in his living room, talking to his family. In the following post, Slate interviews Dr. Bandy Lee, who is also not focused on making a diagnosis, but is very devoted to her duty to warn. The whole article is worth the read, but the crux is that Lee has been contacted by people who work with Trump and who have concerns about him. Lee also believes that Trump’s psychosis is getting worse. Here’s an outtake:

Q. What sorts of things are you talking about, besides lying?
A. The increasing frequency in lying, the increasingly belligerent tweets, his inability to vary his responses to situations. For example, he cannot let a criticism go. He has to fabricate reality to situations that are distressing to him. And the thing about pathology, as opposed to normal reaction, is pathology actually becomes more rigid and more predictable. A healthy individual might be able to vary their response, especially if it’s strategy. They can choose to act differently if something is not working. Whereas pathology tends to become more and more rigid as it worsens. And what we’re seeing is simple repetition now, and worsening, greater frequency of his poor coping mechanisms.

Read the rest here:  https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/09/trump-mental-health-bandy-lee-psychiatrist.html

Trump’s First Disaster Alert

My guess is that it would go like this:

Hello, this is THE REAL PRESIDENT of the United States, talking on everybody’s own telephone, because I want all of you to listen to the national disasters: The news media—almost the whole news media—is a national disaster. It’s a real disaster for all the real people in this country. My alert system will give you the TRUE information when this and other disasters are getting out of control. Also: We have a national disaster at the border. This disaster’s been around longer than the media, and it’s really a very illegal disaster. It will do all sorts of non-lawful things to all the people who actually stand for what the United States really means—which is not taking any more of anybody else’s disasters, which are very much out to cheat us. We have enough disasters of our own, so be sure to vote. Unless there’s a disaster, which I’ll tell you about. Like a big black out or a brown out. Those are worse disasters than you think. Far worse than Puerto Rico, which, believe me, wasn’t really a disaster at all. I know all this, and now you’ll also know, because thanks to my alert system, you can count on me to bring you the disasters. Go USA.

Notes from the Hell’s Ape

Well, I love that the anonymous NYT op-ed came out. I love how it corroborates Woodward’s account. I love that even people like Pence are having to deny that they wrote it. I love how some of the most effective resistance to Trump comes through the newspapers—the writers—those who wield wordswordswords.

But I wonder what all has happened here. It sounds to me that the op-ed author acted from a few motivations. The first is that he put a savage stop to Trump’s claims that the Woodward’s book is BS. “No, really,” says the author. “That’s what he’s really like.”

The second motivation is that this author was so moved by the recent passing of a certain public servant that the author chose both to evoke and emulate McCain’s stance. Ex. 1: I choose to love government over governors. Ex. 2: I will take up McCain’s renunciation of Trump, even—as with McCain—it imperils my position.

The third motivation is that the author wants to save the Republican party. The funeral for McCain was essentially a public mourning over the passing of political statesmanship, especially as it has presented itself on the right. When Biden paraphrased Hamlet about how we shall never see McCain’s likes again, he was talking about the death of that nobility and its shameful replacement with the Trump era’s reality-show, Russian-fed corruptibility. (Seeing that Biden is speaking Hamlet’s line where Hamlet discusses his assassinated father-king, we can also pick up on a call for political retribution over the political destruction of political statesmanship. But that’s another post.) The op-ed author, maybe feeling a little Hamlet of his own, might be speaking for what’s left of level-headed Republicanism: We’re still here. We’re going to come back. We’re resisting in ways the Left could never dream of.

And that’s fine. That’s good. The op-ed’s proclamation serves the Republicans, sure. But we need sane Republicans. We need them because we need two strong parties. And if the op-ed shows how some corners of Republicanism are still healthy, while also disclosing how the current White House is outright diseased, that’s a win for us all. Because I think ousting Trumpers will take us all. That’s what the op-ed said. That’s what McCain said. That’s what any hope of lasting, post-Trump bipartisanship has been saying all term. We can fight about foreign policy and de-regulation another day. (And lordy, we must.) But in the meantime, we have to address the fact that we have suffered a foreign-aided coup that continues to use divisiveness, lies, and civil-rights suppression to tear down the very core of the country we have so long built and defended. The op-ed’s Republican knows that. And I suspect that as much as they’re telling the nation that the old Republican tribe still exists, they’re also begging Congressional Republicans to come back to it.

These are all the reasons why the op-ed should have appeared in the NYT. But now I have to discuss my worries about what might happen as a result. When WH staff talks about Trump’s reaction to the op-ed, the word they use is “volcanic.” In terms of the op-ed, Trump himself has used one of his favorite words, which is “treason.” What do despots do when they sense treason but can’t find it? They kill everybody. Blooey. Meltdown. Orange lava all over the place. If nothing else, Trump needs to become the punisher, just to save face. I don’t know if Trump will terminate his whole staff*, but I’m guessing he will fire someone. And chances are very good that he’ll seek to replace that someone with a staffer who has less expertise and more willingness to do what they’re told. Being the bully that he is, Trump will also likely make life very difficult for his remaining staffers. He might remove more security clearances, or prevent work-a-day cooperation, or I don’t know. Imagine ways a paranoid ruler can impede his staff. Trumpy’s probably doing the same. What’s also strange is that, through the op-ed, Trump now has incontrovertible evidence that his staff frequently—if not routinely—works against him. Now, you’d think he’d have realized this beforehand. He says to assassinate Assad, for example, and that order never goes through. I suppose that he could be unhinged enough not to keep track of his day-to-day impulses. The staff says, “Don’t listen to him. He’ll move onto something else.” And then he does. That sort of chaos is a horrible possibility. But an alternative one is that Trump has only suspected that his closest people are out to oppose him—that is, until now. “Trumpers!” he’ll say tomorrow. “Look! The enmity I’ve talked about has been here all along.” I mean, what do Trumpers like to say? “You never gave the president a chance.” Well, now everyone can see how, for reasons that might well be heroic, members of his own executive circle did not. At least not for long.

So James and I texted about all this yesterday. For the White House’s coming climate, James used the term “hellscape.” Autocorrect changed that to “hell’s ape,” and we laughed at the new moniker for our tyrant-in-chief. James and I like to consider ourselves a couple of above-average thinkers, but we would both admit that if we can consider this stuff, the op-ed author probably did too. The op-ed author knew there would be fallout. Depending on who the author is, they may have known that every person has a written voice as well as a spoken one. In the face of a little research, their identity might disclose itself as easily as we do when we speak to a friend over the telephone. Still, they published. This writer, who knows Trump’s paranoia better than most anyone, likely realized that they could be taking down the rest of the WH staff with them. Still, they published. For all we know, with some of the staff’s permission, they published. The NYT, almost certainly realized that Trump and his goons would use this op-ed as Exhibit A in their case for strengthening libel laws. And still, they published. So, by the way, did every news outlet that repeated it. Last night, ABC News read the thing almost verbatim, as the top story in its 6:30 time slot.

The so-called leader of the Free World—the one who once tried to throw his high-school roommate out a window—is now “volcanic.” And according to some of Trump’s closest staffers and observers, the consequences of publication are worth it. Mentioning the 25th Amendment is worth it. Evoking McCain is worth it. Last week, commentators called that man’s funeral a “war council.” I see that now. Because yesterday, dearies, brought war’s declaration.

*It’s interesting to note that the only member of the executive branch whom Trump can’t outright fire is the VP. Now we see why Pence was so quick to deny any association with the op-ed.

Time is a Builder

“Per longstanding Supreme Court precedent, the president’s authority over security clearance matters is both constitutional and plenary. Although there is no known precedent for the action [Brennan’s revocation] proposed by the White House, nothing legally prevents the president from unilaterally granting, denying, or revoking a security clearance,” said Sean Bigley, national security attorney and managing partner at Bigley Ranish. (This is from a July 24 article on the threat to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, by Government Executive.)

So let’s think about this for a minute. This exclusion inflicted on Brennan is something Trump can pull on anyone. In fact, today, he announced (per NBC) that he’s revoking the security clearance of the DOJ official “whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing the dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia.”

I would like to make seven points:
1. Whoever’s situated Trump to do his damage studied our Constitution and our executive branch more than most Americans ever will. And they banked on that.

2. Let’s not underestimate FOX News, whose commentator was the first to suggest Brennan’s revocation. (Rand Paul repeated the idea a few days later.) FOX is not only becoming the Trump State’s sanctioned news service, but it also seems to wield incredible sway over the government itself. This means it’s not too impossible to assume that Trump could revoke security clearance from most people who know something about the world (and thereby tend to disagreement with him), while he both replaces these folks with yes-men and continues to heed the urgings of a network that basically lies for a living.

3. If you have to dodge forest fires, hurricanes, fracking earthquakes, and the whole damn Ku Klux Klan, find a way to vote in the midterms. That’s a critical step–and if Dems don’t win, I honestly worry about civil unrest.

4. That said, this November’s elections alone will not stop Trump. See Point #1. (Come to think of it, also see Point #2.) It will take years for this country to recover from the Trump State. Our enemies knew this. So although it sounds horridly pessimistic, let’s come to grips with that reality. We’ve been attacked by foreign agents, and by domestic propagandists, and by all those in power who care for their own longevity more than they give a flip about their country. They’ve given ordinary people permission to openly hate one another. And they prop up a man who increasingly seeks to control information until–among other things–it deepens the national divide. Starting in November, and going forward, it might take our whole lives to rebuild.

5. That’s a difficult realization. I didn’t know this post would land us here. But in another way, this truth might not be a tragic one. All said (and with all respect to Trump’s victims), it can be a fine thing to recover your country. It’s a good life’s work. It’s like clean-up after a massive tornado. It’s sad work–traumatic, even. But it’s our work. It’s a common purpose. It’s solid good. Somebody once said there are two kinds of heroes: There are the ones who prevent catastrophe. Then there are the ones who respond, and reform, and rebuild even after they’ve inadvertently played a part in bringing about that catastrophe. I think the first hero mostly operates through ability, bravery and luck. The second operates through ability, bravery and wisdom.

6. There are more of us than there are of them. There always have been. The world itself is mostly with us. And as our nation becomes worse off, some of those supporting Trump will step away from him. In time, we will win. But in the meanwhile, we are at the mercy of a government that hates the government. And while we fight and fight again to save it from itself, the civilization that is the soul of this country will have to find safeguarding outside of the White House.

7. I nominate the schools and the arts. I choose the internet and all the other public libraries. I look to the mosques, and the churches, and the synagogues–not the hate clubs, but the ones that read a breathing scripture, those who are houses of love. I look to the immigration safe house, and the resistance-teach-in coffee house, and to the food-pantry shelter house, and to your house, and to my house, and to that neighborhood–that collection of houses–that recently discovered how a resident received hate mail for his rainbow flag, and put that same banner on all their porches. There are more of us than there are of our opponents. If nothing else, as the decades come, they will lose by sheer demographic. And they know that. And it’s why they work so hard to cheat, and hate, and lie. Because they realize that unless they set up some kind of fact-controlled dictatorship, unless they bring about a (deeper) American apartheid, we will simply outlast them all.

Truthtelling

NBC: “A Gallup/Knight Foundation survey published in June found that U.S. adults estimate that 62 percent of the news they consume is biased and that 44 percent is inaccurate. A Quinnipiac University poll published on Tuesday found that 51 percent of Republicans believe the media is the enemy of the people. The same poll reported that 44 percent of American voters are concerned that Trump’s criticism of the media will lead to violence against people who work in media.”

If you’ve ever been called to write (good) journalism, do it now.

The Cost of Doing Business

After reflecting on the financial good news of last week, I can’t figure how much of the US economic recovery is on account of Obama’s old work, or from Trump’s new policies. I suspect it’s a little of both. I also suspect the removal of regulations has played a major part in our energy production, at least. In this case, it’s ironic that the administration is calling such production “sustainable.”

I have no problem with a booming economy. (And as my mother pointed out, we Democrats better be very careful about how we react to the boom—because we do not want to sound as if we’re rooting against the economy.) That said, I’ve got everything against my country getting rich to the tune of environmental and humanitarian degradation. Just today, I got an e-mail from the NRDC about how the Trump administrations’ drilling plans will threaten such areas as the Bears Ears National Monument. Last week, as the court-ordered border reunification deadline passed, CNN reported that 33 percent of detained children still remain separated from their parents. (How this detention ever affected the economy is beyond me—but the Trumpers claim that undocumented immigrants take their jobs, so…)

And here’s more behavior I reject: I reject Trump’s implication that America is a victim and that we’re just now reclaiming respect around the world. According to Gallup (from last January), the median approval of US leadership dropped 30 percent, among 134 countries, during 2017. Last month, tens of thousands of British protestors dogged Trump with—among other things—the Trump-baby blimp. Later in that same month, world leaders were still condemning Trump’s lap-dog routine with Vladimir Putin. And last May, while I was in Iceland, our tour-guide, who depended on tips, joked about Trump to a busload of high-end, excursion-booking, Americans. All of this is a far cry from President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

And let’s not forget that this victim talk is actually despot talk. Victimhood, such as it is, has been used to justify atrocity and tit-for-tattery from Carthage to Dachau to the border detention centers. Stalin used at least the threat of victimhood to liquidate tens of millions of his own people while his Soviet Union transformed itself into an industrial super power. (Hmm.)

And speaking of Russia… In his annual foreign policy speech, last October, Vladimir Putin said this: “The biggest mistake our country made was that we put too much trust in you [the west]; and your mistake was that you saw this trust as weakness and abused it.” Sound familiar? Putin says that the US humiliated Russia. (Just this week, Trump said that other countries have humiliated us.) Putin says that NATO has betrayed Russia. (Earlier this month, Trump called NATO delinquent.)

The script changes, somewhat. Obviously now, Trump and Putin are such good buddies that they have secret conversations. But the voice is the same—and the stance is the same. Trump sounds like Putin’s protege. And our economic growth, though welcome, is far too small a compensation for us embrace the same tradition of totalitarianism that we’ve resisted since the pilgrims fled it 300 years ago.

I Think Something Similar Happened with Ivan the Terrible

I’ve lately heard some friends talk about how low the Trumpers will go in their tolerance for their president. And I’m afraid it doesn’t matter how morally repugnant Trump is as long as he can stock the courts and give hell to the “illegals.” To his supporters, the ends justify the means. Dearies. Have you ever been in an argument with somebody like that? You realize, at some point, that they seek to win at any cost—even if it means sacrificing any mutual respect, trust, or goodwill that has ever grown between you. And this suggests that although, in the end, they may win their fight, they’ll have lost the relationship. In this case, of course, it will be a relationship with half the country (and possibly a large portion of the world). And if I were a Trumper, I would think very carefully before accepting a sacrifice like that.

A friend once said she wondered what would happen to the arch right if they finally succeeded in mangling the courts to the point where they toppled Roe v. Wade and marriage equality. What would the conservatives have left to rally around? Who would be their grand enemy then?

I’m guessing it would be immigrants, seeing that Trump is already promising to “save ICE.” That will be his battlecry for the midterm elections. We liberals need to be very cautious about how much we let him frame that contest.

And as for the Republicans, I suggest (again) that they reconsider who they’ve let into their bed. Trump rallies people behind him by pointing to enemy after enemy. That’s what bullies do. The trouble is that there always has to be an enemy. And this means that if you let Trump do everything he wants to quash women’s rights, gay rights, and immigrant rights, you better have some other scapegoats to feed him after he’s done. If you don’t, his enemy might well become you. And then, because you’ll have driven off everyone else in the meantime, there will be no one left to spare you from the very country you saved.