Mac Deford: Trump; Even More Dangerous as Damaged Goods
Thursday, March 30, 2017 9:55 AM
Last week, as a joke — at least I thought it was funny — my column consisted of purported letters from Donald Trump’s psychiatrist assessing him with every kind of mental disorder I could think of.
It was a hoax, of course, an obvious one, I assumed. But a handful of readers contacted me, implicitly accepting the “purloined” letters as real.
Which proves not that I would be a successful diagnostic psychiatrist, but that Trump is so beyond the pale that people are quite willing to believe even obvious fake news about him.
Is it any wonder that his approval rating continues to drop, this week reaching an historic low of 36 percent. Vladimir Putin’s rating, by contrast, is over 80 percent. Trump is clearly enamored of Russia’s strongman, which has led many to wonder if there’s some hidden Russian connection in Trump’s past. Or is it just jealousy at Putin’s success? For others, it’s a fear that Trump intends to shove our democracy in an authoritarian direction.
Realistically, there’s no risk of that: to push our 225-year-old democracy towards a Russian-style autocracy would take an incredible mixture of skill and popular support. Trump’s mixture of incompetence and disengagement, twitter tirades notwithstanding, is already weakening support from that minority base that voted for him. And even Congressional Republicans are beginning to back away from our Halloween version of a president.
In “The Art of the Deal,” we learned from Donald Trump — the younger, successful Manhattan real estate manipulator — that once you’ve done the deal, you move on to the next one. Winning the presidency was the ultimate deal; unfortunately, for Trump — and more so for us — there is no next deal. We’re stuck in an awkward version of “Groundhog Day,” with Trump playing the same pathetic role over and over again for four years.
One could almost feel sorry for the poor fellow — isolated in the White House, his young, half-his-age wife still in Manhattan — if he weren’t such a boorish lout. His latest project, according to the Washington Post, is to have Jared Kushner, his jack-of-all-trades son-in-law, recreate the executive branch of the United States as a Trump-style business. Good luck, Jared: turning Yom Kippur into Good Friday would be easier. Especially when you consider that the CEO of this would-be business enterprise takes pride in insulting some of his key customers.
And, anyway, one would have thought that Jared’s plate was full: wasn’t he just put in charge of resolving that Israeli-Palestinian problem which — is Trump aware? — has eluded a few old Middle East hands this past half century.
Assigning his daughter Ivanka’s inexperienced husband the task of turning our executive branch into an easy-to-run business as he wraps up the Middle East peace process while squeezing in ski trips to Aspen: maybe Trump doesn’t have all the psychoses I assigned to him last week. But he’s clearly delusional. Or maybe he thinks the American public is.
As Trump tries to recover from his self-inflicted health care debacle by pounding out some more tweets, one can only look back on past presidents and despair. “Like a talented Big Ten coach, he rallies his team from an early major defeat” — one could have written about President Obama, or President Reagan, or Harry “the-buck-stops-here” Truman.
But no, one can’t write that about this bad sport. The buck, in Trump’s mind, stops everywhere but the Oval Office: the health care fiasco was the Democrats’ fault; no, the House’s Republican Freedom Caucus is to blame; or was it Paul Ryan who screwed it up?
Even worse, if one were a Trump supporter, than watching the man’s first major piece of legislation collapse so early in his tour is the selfish spectacle of the president trying to blame everyone else for his self-inflicted disaster.
Looking at how Trump has pointed the blame finger, we’d be kidding ourselves if we thought that at least he has learned from this debacle.
The real concern now must be what Donald Trump will do going ahead as, no doubt, he tries to convince the world — and himself — that he can deliver, that he is the super-fixer, the fantastic deal-maker he’s always claimed to be.
Let’s hope he now takes on tax reform: even more complicated and partisan a struggle than health care, it will simply lead to another ignominious defeat. But at least it would tie Trump down for months.
But suppose he decides that now it’s time to score a few points on the international scene: perhaps a purposeful escalation of tension with Iran. Or worse, as he looks towards Asia, he’ll see North Korea as a worthy, and redeeming, target.
What, of course, would make such a focus so dangerous is that North Korea’s Kim Jong-un — with China as his mentor, his small but growing nuclear arsenal, his rapidly developing long-range missiles, his growing threat to South Korea and Japan — is so totally unpredictable. Ditto, Donald Trump.