Stopping Trump

Trump Maladministration

People are still talking about the interview of Donald Trump published in the New York Times on Thursday. It’s an incoherent mess. None of the headlines come close to how alarming it is. As Charles Pierce wrote, Trump’s New York Times Interview Is a Portrait of a Man in Cognitive Decline.

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart.

If you read nothing else about the interview, make it Ezra Klein’s analysis. It begins:

The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.

Seriously, there is no other reasonable assumption to be made from that interview except that Donald Trump has a major mental impediment that goes beyond being merely stupid. There’s no question about that; the only questions are what is wrong with him? and how bad is it? IMO “dementia” and “pretty effing bad” are safe guesses.

One thing the interview cleared up for me is how he could continue to claim that he has signed more bills than other presidents, when in fact his bill signing record is way behind the norm. Trump has signed fewer bills to this point in his presidency than any elected president since Dwight Eisenhower. The issue is that he doesn’t seem to understand that an executive order is not the same thing as a bill. At one point Trump said this:

So now I have associations, I have private insurance companies coming and will sell private health care plans to people through associations. That’s gonna be millions and millions of people. People have no idea how big that is. And by the way, and for that, we’ve ended across state lines. So we have competition. You know for that I’m allowed to [inaudible] state lines. So that’s all done.

Now I’ve ended the individual mandate. And the other thing I wish you’d tell people. So when I do this, and we’ve got health care, you know, McCain did his vote.

… We’ve created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn’t have insurance. Or didn’t have health care. Millions of people. That’s gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that’s a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don’t even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. … With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.

Somewhere in that word salad one finds reference to associations. Ezra Klein explains,

He signed an executive order making it easier to form association health plans, which are health plans formed by groups of small businesses, and making it easier for those plans to skirt Obamacare’s insurance regulations and to contain small businesses from multiple states.

As of now, and Trump doesn’t seem to realize this, it’s just an executive order — the rules defining and implementing it have not been written, so it is not yet happening, and we don’t know how it will work in practice, much less how many people may eventually sign up. Nor does the order get rid of the prohibition on selling insurance across state lines for most people — it’s only for this one kind of plan which can include members in multiple states, and which will only serve a tiny minority of the health insurance market.

See also Association health plans: Trump’s attack on Obamacare, explained.

In the past few days Trump has been on a de-regulation roll. He scaled back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents, for example.  He rolled back offshore drilling safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon spill.  Also this past week he laid off the entire Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) without bothering to give a reason. Here I go back to something Charles Pierce said —

In Ronald Reagan’s second term, we ducked a bullet. I’ve always suspected he was propped up by a lot of people who a) didn’t trust vice-president George H.W. Bush, b) found it convenient to have a forgetful president when the subpoenas began to fly, and c) found it helpful to have a “detached” president when they started running their own agendas—like, say, selling missiles to mullahs. You’re seeing much the same thing with the congressional Republicans. They’re operating an ongoing smash-and-grab on all the policy wishes they’ve fondly cultivated since 1981. Having a president* who may not be all there and, as such, is susceptible to flattery because it reassures him that he actually is makes the heist that much easier.

It’s not just Republicans in Congress; probably the whackjobs who make up his “staff” are happily writing whackjob executive orders and putting them in front of him to sign. One can imagine Mike Pence behind the firing of the HIV/AIDS advisors.

One part of the interview that drew a lot of criticism is his comment,  “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” Ezra Klein did a good job unpacking that, I think. He points to this section of the interview —

TRUMP: It’s too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it’s too bad he recused himself. I thought. … Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].

NYT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to …

TRUMP: I don’t want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I’ll be honest, I have great respect for that.

In other words, Trump thinks the job of the attorney general is to protect the president; he thinks the Justice Department works for him. And when he said of the Mueller investigation, “For purposes of hopefully thinking I’m going to be treated fairly, I’ve stayed uninvolved with this particular matter,” Ezra Klein wrote,

Here, Trump offers insight into his own thinking. He appears to believe that he is engaged in some explicit or implicit quid pro quo with the Department of Justice: He doesn’t fire Jeff Sessions, demand prosecution of his political enemies, or whatever it is he imagines doing with his “absolute right,” so long as they treat him and his associates “fairly,” which likely means protecting him from Mueller’s investigation.

See also Josh Marshall, “Read His Words Carefully.” “President Trump has a decades-old penchant for public comments which are nominally conciliatory but contain an indifferently concealed note of menace,” Marshall writes. Trump is saying that he’ll leave the Department of Justice alone as long as they do their job as he defines it, which is to protect him. If he thinks they are not protecting him, however, heads will roll.

See also “The 47 most outrageous lines in Donald Trump’s New York Times interview.”

To me, the most frightening thing about the fact that the so-called president is mentally incapacitated is that nobody’s doing anything about it.  We’re well into 25th Amendment territory here. A responsible Congress would be taking steps in this direction already. However, the current Republican-dominated Congress isn’t going to do anything as long as they think having Trump in the White House is useful to them. So, safeguards don’t work.

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  1. James F. Epperson  •  Dec 30, 2017 @5:30 pm

    Almost one year ago, at a professional meeting in Atlanta, I went out to dinner with a couple of mathematician friends of mine.  One of them predicted that Trump would be gone in 6 months to a year, because once he had signed enough legislation the Republicans would get rid of him, either via impeachment or the 25th Amendment.  I thought he was right at the time, and that may well have been the plan.  The problem is, the GOP is too spineless to Do the Right Thing, possibly because they now understand and fear the reaction from his wing-nut base.  So we all continue to ride the tiger.

  2. grannyeagle  •  Dec 30, 2017 @7:30 pm

    Word salad is a symptom in schizophrenics.  However, Trump is too old to  be diagnosed as schizophrenic.  The interview definitely makes no sense.  I can't figure out if it is dementia or just old age.  Personally, I suspect he cannot figure out what is happening that he is not able to control everybody like he did in his RE business.  This is very frustrating and he doesn't know what to do so he just rambles.  One look at his face tells me he is not in good physical condition.  Notice the bags under his eyes and the gray color.  Plus his lifestyle.  The only good habit he has is not drinking and not smoking.  But then sometimes you just can't figure these things out.  So we wait and wonder and pray.

  3. KC  •  Dec 30, 2017 @8:13 pm

    Honestly, Trump makes Reagan seem like a cognitively astute. 

  4. John M from Ct  •  Dec 30, 2017 @9:23 pm

    I have to imagine that the president will eventually take some action – or be unable to take some action – that will force his staff and/or Congress to face up to his incapacity. As long as he just rambles, self-obsesses, and lashes out, he remains useful to the GOP functionaries who have agendas to fulfill. But when he actually does something flat-out insane, incapable, or criminal, his people will have to do something to put him away.

    At least, that is what I have to imagine. The bad part is what the deciding action will be: An attack order? Mass arrests? Assassination orders?


  5. csm  •  Dec 30, 2017 @9:31 pm

    The Founding Fathers apparently did not foresee that we would reach a point where we'd have a government run by men and women with zero integrity, who would put their political fortunes and that of their party above that of the nation.  Trump is unfit on many levels.  In addition to his serious character flaws, the interview shows him to be suffering from some type of mental or physical impairment that clearly calls into question his ability to function competently and effectively in the job.  To acknowledge this is not a partisan attack; its an observation that that any honest observer would make.  

    And if the person who holds the office of President of the United States is truly "the most powerful person in the world" then how much more obvious is it that our institutions are either seriously flawed and/or broken when we reach a point where there is nothing that can be done to mitigate the dangers not just to the US but to the world this situation poses?

    We have one solution left, and that's the vote.  People have got to be made to realize just how serious this situation is, who is enabling Trump and subverting the intent of the Founding Fathers through their self-dealing and inaction, and vote them out.  If that doesn't happen, it may be time to turn out the lights and admit that the American experiment in democracy is a failure.

  6. Tom_b  •  Dec 31, 2017 @9:24 am

    Two cheery notes for 2018: 

    Indictment and arrest can occur without impeachment, according to the Starr memo.

    If Mueller *is* fired, I suspect there are dozens of Fortune 500 companies or wealthy individuals (like the guy who dropped 10 million on the “impeach Trump” ads) that would be delighted to keep Mueller funded.

  7. bernie  •  Dec 31, 2017 @10:53 am

    The notion that Trump has an organic mental deterioration is not news to us who have been dealing with relatives or acquaintances similarly effected.  Some days you think they are lucid, and some days you just fence with windmills.  Over time, the Don Quixote days increase and the days of lucidity decrease.  At a certain point what the person was, and what the person is now, have little resemblance.  The car keys must go and dependency on others increases dramatically.  This all happens without any understanding by them of what is going on in general.  For example, a statement like my memory isn't so good anymore is rare.  Any thought that this is a breakthrough I found to be invalid.  It is best to presume the individual has no perception of what is going on, and is immune to social feedback.  

    To those who are skeptical, I recommend viewing the Trump-Stern interview. A side by side comparison seems to show striking differences with current interviews in mental agility, command of language, and social savvy.  These are more than the normal lose a step or two declines, but a pattern that resembles what now normally is lumped in conversational language as Alzheimer's.  Even a committee of professionals would be challenged to agree on a label, and like the organic brain problems effecting former athletes, only autopsy results might support or discredit certain professional diagnostic notions.  Such is the nature of the art/science.  As for the metaphysics, I hesitate to speculate as to the status of the soul.

    Our problem does not depend on diagnostic specificity.  Our problem is how do we act, react, and continue to function with this problem in our lives. The answers to these questions are not apparent.  At times we think that shouting louder and arguing better will chase the confusion away and the person will return to normal.  This is a normal but generally ineffective technique.  Accommodations may work for a bit, but sooner or not much later, the skills defy them, and nothing makes the remote control work the television for them.  In the meantime, dealing with the increasing personal aggravation and frustration will rip at one's caring heart. In this case it is hard to ignore the welfare of the country which transcends caring about the welfare of the person.

    Also, we will deal with deniers.  It is truly amazing how other friends and family members are able not to see the deterioration.  The more you try to pick up the slack and make things work, the more they deny the existence of the problem.  Many appear to be unable to conceptualize a pattern of mental deterioration.  By the time they admit a problem exists, the situation is beyond any semblance of control or accommodation.  This will be the case here too, in my judgement.  What is beyond me is how to take my experience and weak understanding, and translate it into this situation.  I do understand the path will be a troubled one.  It is not about stopping Trump or curing Trump's disorder, it is about saving our country and our sanity. 

  8. Doug  •  Dec 31, 2017 @1:31 pm

    I find the interview far more alarming than just the dementia which is suggested in Trump's words. To assume that because he's an incoherent megalomaniac, he's witless and on the verge of impeachment is dangerously optimistic. 

    Let me speculate that an item not yet in evidence  is true.. Suppose Trump did negotiate with the Russians that in exchange for their help in the election, Trump would let them have Ukraine and resolve Syria as they like. Suppose he agreed to actively weaken NATO, and cripple the US State Dept. Suppose Flynn was the point man for the negotiations – if he's willing to testify, Trump knows that Mueller knows.  Trump is facing at a charge of treason, if the truth comes out and when political fortunes change. If that's true, there is NOTHING that Trump won't try to escape the noose. 

    Trump gave the interview for a purpose – to make public statements to lay the groundwork for a desperate ploy. The thing he repeated 13 times was that "everybody knows" there was no collusion. He proposed it over and over as an established fact beyond question. I infer that to state otherwise would not be treating Trump fairly in Trump's judgement.

    That's the other statement Trump intended to make – that Trump has confidence Mueller will treat him fairly. Consider Trump's subjective opinion of "fair" in conjunction with the statement Trump has the "absolute right" to do as he pleases with the Department of Justice, presumably including the FBI.

    A secret House study group, comprised entirely of Republicans, headed by Trump's lap dog, Devin Nunes war discovered last week. Alarm Bells: IMO, the study group exists by the direction of the White House, assigned to come up with a specific discovery. (That's speculation, but not far-fetched if you check Nunes' history,)

    Trump knows that firing Mueller won't end the investigation – firing Rosenstein and closing the investigation won't end the DOJ sentencing of Flynn without a pardon. Even if Trump ends the investigation and pardons Flynn there's the evidence gathered by Mueller and his team which will come into the custody of a democratic administration sooner or later. And even if Trump destroys the paper, there are dozens of career law enforcement people who know the truth. Sessions himself has taken sides – he won't put himself at risk of obstruction of justice charges. Will Sessions risk jail and destroy evidence? Trump isn’t sure of that.

    The judiciary is an obvious obstacle – illegal acts will be put before the courts for a verdict. Many believe that the institutions that have worked for 240 years – checks and balances – will work. The Donald has expressed his contempt repeatedly for the "so called" judges who rule against him. He has no respect for separation of powers.

    Let me point out one more known feature of El Presidente. He admires dictators – Putin, Duarte in the Philippines… Trump also is thrilled by Generals, he's got a record number in his Cabinet. Historically, dictators don't expand their power through Constitutional means – they declare an "emergency", grant themselves illegal power and enforce it with the army. That's how it's done, and the presumption it can't happen here or now is pure hopeful thinking. And I'd quote Maha's conclusion as a warning: 

    "So, safeguards don't work."

    Some time soon, before Flynn's testimony to Mueller is public, the House study group is going to declare "proof" of the Deep State and a conspiracy against the president. Trump will be shocked – shocked – and to save the Republic will declare emergency powers to replace anyone and everyone who is part of the Deep State. Because the Judicial Branch is also infected by traitors, Trump will fire judges who are part of the Deep State. And Trump will have sole power to identify enemies of the state.I believe this is what Trump means by "absolute authority". Maybe I'm wrong and he is the feeble-minded fool who can be replaced by the 25th Amendment. 

    Such a coup is impossible, you think. He doesn't have the physical power to implement such an audacious act. The FBI won't arrest judges – the CIA as much contempt for Trump as he's displayed for them. Ah, but the Generals – will military ground forces be deployed in the boundaries of the US to detain "Deep State" leaders in the FBI and DOJ as well as Federal Judges who rule against Trump? 

     I don't think Trump will succeed – US troops who are comfortable with atrocities against Muslims are going to balk at the slaughter of unarmed US citizens – I think. That's what it will come to – the public will rise up against a coup as has never been seen in my lifetime (which includes the protests against the Vietnam war).

    For those who think I am as deluded as Trump, I have this reply:

    I hope you're right.

  9. grannyeagle  •  Dec 31, 2017 @4:30 pm

    I tend to agree with Doug and do not trust our system of government to be able to withstand the onslaught simply because the people who are representing us are not doing their job.  I also get tired of hearing if you don't like the government and the representatives, then get out and vote.  Well, we have been voting and things only get worse.  I know I am being pessimistic but I am afraid our government is on the verge of failing.  What will replace it I don't know, can't even imagine.  My only hope is in what I believe is the divine in the human animal, that it will win out and we will evolve into a better species.  But change is never easy, it's like giving birth, it could be violent and bloody. 

  10. Doug  •  Dec 31, 2017 @7:45 pm

    grannyeagle – To be perfectly clear, I do not think Trump will succeed. I think he will try. I do not think the GOP leadership, as a party, will vote in the Senate to impeach. This may doom the GOP, conservatism may split along three fault lines – Trumpism, Establishment GOP in service to money, and Independent conservatism which is real conservatism without a racist twist, without being aligned with corporatism.  The question,  if Trump destroys the GOP, is whether democrats can score when there is no other team on the field.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  Dec 31, 2017 @9:33 pm

    I'm in with Doug's assessment of the situation.

    Personally, I also think tRUMP's cognitive skills have declined – "BIGLY!"

    And that at this point, he's about as crazy as a shit-house rat, and as confused as a new immigrant who's told that here in America, we park on the driveway, and drive on a parkway!

     And I think he has his "defense shields" up all of the time, trying to protect his narcissistic, all important, Ego.

    But I don'the think he's smart enough to successfully pull-off the kind of coup that Doug's talking about.  But there are plenty of rich and powerful people out there who are smart enough.  And capable enough.

    And those are the people who could/can/would/will use tRUMP – or, rather, the power of his position – to achieve a coup.  And I don't think that they believe that most Americans will protest.  They may even believe that most people in the long run won't even notice, or even care if they do.  And sadly, they may be right.

    Between the Reich-Wings media outlets and their propaganda, and the Republicans ceaseless whining and bitching, a lot of people have tuned out politics.  And those who will complain, and loudly protest, will be labeled as more liberals and DVH's crying "wolf" again.  Or they may think that this coup is another case of business as usual, that "BOTH SIDES" are to blame:  So, STFU EVERYONE!  FSM knows our MSM has certainly greased those skid enough!   

    And don't look to the Republicans in Congress to intervene anywhere along the line.  There isn't even a molecule of patriotism left in that party.  Their party got them to where they're at, and they'll look to the party go keep them where they're at – and the circumstances be damned!

    And as for "the power of the vote," don't make them laugh!  If your vote's not suppressed, then they can always adjust and/or flip the voting machines results more to their liking.  Or, someone can be paid to miscount, or throw out/lose, any paper ballots.  

    I, too, hope that I'm completely wrong. 

    But until I am proven wrong,  I live in fear for our country.


  12. aj  •  Dec 31, 2017 @10:33 pm

    The " I have an absolute right to do what I want with the Doj "statement is the impeachable kicker. He has declared his absolute power. As long as they treat me fairly. ..

    A threat.

    As delusional as he is, he sits down  and gives an interview to make himself the subject of a 3 day weekend. He is putting on his reality TV show. He claims the media would collapse without him.

    The problem with this malignant narcissism is the presidency feeds the hot balloon. Any who get near are sucked in. The US will soon fall because of the .1percent. Trump is  their choice.


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