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Will Trump’s Incompetence Save Us?

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Will Trump’s Incompetence Save Us?

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Even as an oligarch, Donald Trump turns out to be breathtakingly incompetent. Is there any reason to suppose he’s even loyal to the United States? Does he even understand the concept? Trump is loyal to Trump, and to his absurdly swollen ego. Nothing and nobody else.

How long before the president appears on a White House balcony dressed up like a Third World generalissimo, wearing mirrored sunglasses and gold-fringed epaulets the size of football shoulder pads?

Hosting Russian diplomats in the White House just one day after boasting on national TV that he’d fired FBI Director James Comey to shut down the “fake news” investigation of his presidential campaign’s dalliance with Vladimir Putin’s spies can only be understood as an oligarch’s gesture of contempt.

Contempt for the truth, of course, which almost goes without saying. As if the initial cover story—that Comey got dumped for mistreating poor Hillary Clinton—weren’t insulting enough on its face.

But also contempt for the American news media, whom Trump barred from the meeting in favor of photographers from Tass, the Russian state news agency. As should have been predictable, that backfired badly. Photos of the president yukking it up in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak turned up in Moscow news media. If you didn’t know better, you’d think Trump was bragging about his sexual exploits.

Also contempt for the anti-Trump majority. Here’s how that great American Rush Limbaugh saw it: “So he fires Comey yesterday. Who’s he meet with today? He’s meeting with the Soviet, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov! I mean, what an epic troll this is.” 
(Republicans of the Limbaugh persuasion long ago chose party over country. In their minds, all competing values are subordinate to making Nancy Pelosi unhappy.)

But no, Trump wasn’t talking dirty to the Russians. We should be so lucky. Instead, he appears to have been expressing his contempt for the U.S. intelligence services, by recklessly boasting about Top Secret information regarding an ISIS terror plot that had been shared with the CIA by an ally.

That ally (probably Israel) will now be forced to reconsider whether or not the U.S. government can be trusted to keep a secret. Certainly not as long as Trump’s in office.See, people get murdered when spy networks get blown. Painstakingly cultivated sources flee for their lives. Hasn’t Trump even read a John LeCarre novel? Almost certainly not. Even a movie like The Bourne Identity might give the president a clue if he were capable of learning anything not directly related to his ego or his pocketbook.


Yet again the White House sent out respected advisors—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster—to issue carefully-worded non-denial denials. Trump undermined them in early morning tweets boasting that he had the unquestioned power to do what they’d just finished claiming that he hadn’t done.

The psychological subtext is unvarying: Big me, little you. Trusting this bombastic faker with sensitive national security intelligence is like trusting a basset hound with a ham sandwich. 
See, a real dictator like Vladimir Putin can pull off these contemptuous gestures. Besides being infinitely smarter and more self-controlled than his American apprentice, Putin’s also utterly ruthless and doesn’t care who knows it. Trump is merely egomaniacal and amoral.

“If [Putin] says great things about me,” Trump said during the 2016 campaign” I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing’—the man has very strong control over a country.” Russian dissidents fall off balconies or succumb to poison. Putin skates in exhibition hockey matches, where he scores seven goals. There’s no sign Trump has the chutzpah for that kind of thing. Nor is the United States by any stretch of the imagination Russia—where autocratic governments, secret police and prison camps have been the rule for centuries.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne wonders whether Trump is more thuggish or clownish. He concludes that “Trump can be fairly regarded as both incompetent and authoritarian. We may be saved by the fact that the feckless Trump is often the authoritarian Trump’s worst enemy. If we’re lucky, Trump’s astonishing indiscipline will be his undoing.”

But only if the Republican leadership begins to say publicly what some confide privately: that Trump is congenitally unfit for power and growing more so daily. Even formerly sympathetic figures like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough are beginning to say the word “Alzheimer’s” aloud. 
Trump’s verbal incoherence, angry outbursts, and incipient paranoia are consistent with the disease that killed his father. A timely diagnosis would give Republicans an escape hatch. But he can’t be forced to see a doctor.

Either way, things can’t go on like this much longer.
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Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate.

A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows.
Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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11 Comments

  1. Ann Waldrum May 17, 2017

    Thanks, Gene. Your posts are always a pleasure to read.

    Reply
  2. The lucky one May 18, 2017

    The sooner we get rid of Trump the better. We survived Reagan’s Alzheimer’s second term though we’ve been paying for it ever since.

    I have little respect for Dem leadership but what is this GOP fetish about addled presidents. Reagan was clearly losing what little faculties he had, Bush II was simple-minded and Trump seems to be a mix of the two. Republicans seem to be most comfortable with morons and the mentally ill.

    Reply
  3. Mama Bear May 18, 2017

    Dementia. If you go to U-Tube and find a video of Trump 20 years ago he was very articulate, animated, and made perfect sense. Watch him now and he is disjointed, angry, and …well you know. This is what dementia looks like.

    Reply
    1. dbtheonly May 18, 2017

      25th Amendment, here we come.

      1. Mama Bear May 18, 2017

        from your lips to god’s ear!

      2. Dapper Dan May 18, 2017

        Actually the 25th Amendment is reserved more for a President who’s temporarily incapacitated and expected to eventually return to the job. With Trump to be rid of him forever we need him impeached in the House. If he does get impeached then the Senate can vote to remove him from office. We don’t want to leave the door open to him coming back and now with Richard Mueller on the case his days are growing short

        1. dbtheonly May 18, 2017

          It’s been used voluntarily and temporarily for medical procedures; but there’s no temporary requirement. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia could well be permanent. Or in the alternative, give Trump an easy out as a “winner”. Equally, getting Republicans to say Trump’s health isn’t up to it, strikes me as easier than getting them to accept “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

          I disagree that the time is short. But the clock is running.

    2. Dapper Dan May 18, 2017

      My mother had dementia in the last couple years of her life. It’s a very cruel neurological disorder but with Trump who knows if it’s that or something else ? Granted he’s very incoherent and all over the map in his ramblings so anythings possible

      1. Mama Bear May 18, 2017

        anything could be going on – cocaine abuse? But dementia seems logical.

      2. idamag May 19, 2017

        Possibly, he has the sniffings, like sniffing cocaine.

  4. johninPCFL May 18, 2017

    There is precedent for Agent Orange aving a full term: Saint Reagan (well, Nancy really) ran much of his presidency while he was in the grip of dementia. Most of the staff knew he couldn’t remember what happened 10 minutes ago, so insulated him from decision making. That’s how North conducted Iran-Contra. In what was left of Reagan’s mind, Congress never passed a law banning arms sales to Iran (soooo just past ten minutes ago), and the Contras were cute in their uniforms.

    Reply

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