Teflon Trump

Alan Zendell, December 11, 2017

I don’t know whether I’m more frustrated by the White House’s rejection of any point of view but its own concerning sexual misconduct, or by the strident defense of the president in this regard by people who surely know better and act entirely out of political or financial self-interest. Only the most ignorant, uneducated segment of Trump’s base can possibly believe that he’s completely innocent and that all his accusers are liars conspiring against him. Isn’t that what paranoids say?

The administration makes loud noises about border walls that will protect us from – I’m not sure who, but whoever they are, the president wants us to believe they mean us harm. He shouts about making America great again while trying to destroy its basic institutions. And his lies boldly go where no American leader has ever gone before. Isn’t it time to ask ourselves which is worse? Will we be any better off safe from all those evil-doers trying to get over The Great Wall while we sit by watching our values erode and we rot from within?

Sadly, our system and our nation have evolved to the point where millions of Americans know full well that our president is morally bankrupt, but they simply don’t care – which is bad enough, except that there’s a lurking eight-hundred pound gorilla no one but a few fringe comedians talks about in public. Even I feel the need to approach the subject gently. Rather than making stuff up like he does, I’ll rely on my Oxford dictionary, which defines sanity as: The ability to think and behave in a normal and rational manner.

Let’s apply that definition to our president, taking the last part first. Does he behave in a normal and rational manner? We’ve discussed his narcissistic personality disorder at length, as have numerous critics and media outlets (with one obvious exception). We’ve shaken our heads at his intemperate nature, his capacity to insult people with all the sensitivity of a mad charging boar, his out of control White House tantrums, and his willingness to bend the truth and outright lie. But to be honest, haven’t most of us behaved that way at one time or another? Does that mean he’s not sane? The key is not whether he or anyone else exhibits those behaviors, but if he can control them.

When we examined the last part of the definition of sanity we (deliberately) overlooked the first three words, and therein lies the problem. Does our president have the ability to think and behave rationally? More to the point, what kind of stimulus does it take to render him totally helpless to manage his compulsions? By all appearances, not much.

Even his supporters criticize his use of Twitter, for example, but in doing so they ignore that huge elephant in the room. The real question is not whether he should rein in his impulses but whether he can. Does anger or stress make it impossible for him to resist the compulsive behavior that we might dismiss as comically childish if it weren’t so frightening?

The truth is that we wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior in our children, our friends, our loved ones, or our professional relationships. Whenever possible if it were anyone else we would avoid him and attempt to isolate him, and we surely would not voluntarily place him in charge of anything critically important.

When Ronald Reagan was beset by scandals like Iran Contra the country forgave and forgot to the extent that he was known as the Teflon President. Up to now, Donald Trump seems to be Teflon-coated as well. His base is gradually shrinking but most of it remains intact. So I asked myself why it was okay to give Reagan a pass that I’m not willing to give Trump.

Maybe it’s that whether you agreed with his politics or not, Reagan always seemed well-intentioned and a genuinely nice guy. He rarely raised his voice, he never insulted people, and except for branding the Soviet Union the Evil Empire, he never called anyone names. He always seemed disciplined and in control, and when he screwed up he acknowledged it and sucked up the buck the way Harry Truman did.

I submit that President Trump is incapable of behaving that way. He is driven and victimized by his own dark compulsions, and many of us find that horrifying. It’s not unreasonable to start seriously questioning his sanity. When Richard Nixon broke down during the final months of his presidency even his closest allies realized he was dangerously dysfunctional. They built a wall around him, not to keep out terrorists, but to keep him muzzled until they could remove him from office.

I suspect that many in his own party are starting to wonder if the same thing is happening to Trump. He’s never really been able to complete a sentence coherently, and now he’s even slurring his words. I’ve reached my own conclusion. I think he’s insane and his functionality is hanging by a thread, more illusion than fact.

We really need to do something about it.

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