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Beyond the Madness of King Donald
Posted on May 15, 2017
By Paul Street
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President Frankenstein, Donald Trump, has been pretty much the bizarre “insane clown president” (Matt Taibbi’s phrase) that I and many others expected. He’s only shocked me twice: his weird Twitter meltdown alleging that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones and his appallingly timed firing of FBI Director James Comey on grounds that seemed to take us all for complete idiots.
“Banana Republic” President
Does Trump’s dismissal of Comey prove that the president is in cahoots with Russia? No, it shows that Trump was incensed with Comey for cooperating with the Senate investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, for ramping up the FBI’s inquiry into the same matter, for drawing too much media attention and for contradicting Trump’s wacky wiretapping charge.
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Whatever his motives and intentions, Trump has, if anything, poured fuel on the Russiagate fire. Recall that it was the cover-up, not the Watergate burglary itself that undid Richard Nixon—another strange and paranoid authoritarian with a knack for cloistering himself off from reality and surrounding himself with frightened yes men.
The firing certainly looks like a Russia-related cover-up to many, especially to political and media actors who are locked into a neo-McCarthyite Russia witch hunt. Many top Democrats and corporate news elites are fiercely determined to tar Trump with a Kremlin brush. Now they can probably enlist some key Republicans to join them in calling for an independent special committee or special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election.
“Fortress Trump: His Drug Is Himself”
Trump fanned the flames further with his preposterous initial claim to have acted because of how Comey reignited the Hillary Clinton email scandal on the eve of the election. As anyone who pays remotely serious attention to U.S. politics knows, candidate Trump praised Comey’s disturbing October surprise, which may have inflicted significant damage on the Clinton campaign. Now Trump is angry at how Comey helped undermine “Crooked Hillary”? It doesn’t wash.
Did Trump really think that Democrats and others would fall for his pretext for firing Comey and not see Comey’s removal as an effort to derail federal investigations into his real and/or alleged Russian connections—and into whatever else might come up in the process? Is he really surprised, as he tells Fox News, that his move sparked a huge backlash? Could he really be that out of it? Seriously?
Yes, it’s quite possible that he is that clueless. Look at what Osnos discovered from his in-depth research on the young Trump presidency:
The madness of would-be king Donald is no small matter. It’s all very Czar Nicholas- and Richard Nixon-like.
Malignant “Dunning-Kruger Narcissism”
It is the on-record opinion of many mental health professionals that Trump exhibits hallmark characteristics of the psychological condition known as “malignant narcissism … characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies,” Osnos reported.
Malignant narcissists live in bizarre defiance of reality and of anything that doesn’t fit their lavish sense of their own superiority and excellence. They delight in the humiliation and even the crippling and killing of others.
I would add another psychological dimension here: the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” As Wikipedia explains: This is “a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately.”
It’s not just that Trump is stupid. It’s that he thinks he’s really, really smart, something the outside world has certainly been telling him for decades by showering him with absurdly undeserved riches and power. And he’s got nobody around him with the standing or courage to tell him otherwise to check either his folly or his hubristic taste for ruling with sheer impunity.
On this last characteristic, recall Trump’s “locker room” comment: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Remember also his campaign statement that he could stand on New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters.
Removal Prior to 2020?
Could Trump be removed before the end of his first term either through a 25th Amendment ejection (on grounds of incapacitation) or impeachment (on criminal grounds)? Given Republican control of both the U.S. House and the Senate, I would have put the chances of that at less than 10 percent before the Comey firing.
Now, the chances have gone up significantly, especially if Democrats take back the House in 2018. Trump is counting on keeping enough of his base supporters—people who would let him “do anything,” even shoot somebody in broad daylight—so Republican legislators will not feel compelled to abandon him.
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