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Assessment of Don the Con’s First Year in Office: Worst President Ever, and Paranoid to Boot

2018-01-20

Mr. Trump’s first year has been an unremitting parade of disgraces that have demeaned him as well as the dignity of his office, and he has shown that this is exactly how he believes he should govern.
Most important, he is the first president to fail to defend the nation from an attack on our democracy by a hostile foreign power — and to resist the investigation of that attack. He is the first to enrich his private interests, and those of his family, directly and openly.
He is the first president to denounce the press not simply as unfair but as “the enemy of the American people.” He is the first to threaten his defeated political opponent with imprisonment. He is the first to have denigrated friendly countries and allies as well as a whole continent with racist vulgarities.

This quote comes from an opinion piece by Sean Wilentz in the Sunday Review of the New York Times, and is the most succinct and dismissive of the assessments I have seen.  There have been several such assessments published by various commentators and I am sure that there are some admiring characterizations written down as well– in a Google search for “Trump’s first year” I found at least three dozen different reviews. 

Oddly, there were a few really positive reviews, notably from whitehouse.gov, scattered among the derisory screeds.  The NYT opinion piece has a few funny bits, such as this: when Andrew Johnson showed up to take the oath as vice-president (in 1861) he was “drunk and belligerent.”

In addition to Don’s obvious extreme narcissism, he suffers from a deep paranoia and credulity that leaves him an adherent of every conspiracy theory that is presented to him.  He is so irritable that his aides remove every mention of Russia from the daily briefings and news that they give him. 

Fox News obliges him with a diet of flattery and fails to mention, for example, that eighty to ninety percent of people in opinion polls approve of action to protect aliens who were illegally brought to this country as minors and have lived here ever since (“Dreamers.”)  There is a whole universe of facts to which Don is completely oblivious because his sycophants have shaped the information that they provide him to fit their perceptions of his needs and temper.

Someone has been working on Don the Con to shape his policy decisions– and I’m not talking about recently.  Over the last twenty years, his position on social and political policy has swung decisively to the hard right.  When you review his statements over the years, you find consistent racism, but an otherwise less dogmatic outlook. 

For instance, in 1999, in a video interview on NBC, he stated that he was “very pro-choice” although he hated the idea of abortion.  Don has not done a lot of deep thinking in order to come to his current position– he has been approached and befriended by people who wanted to help him become President and who were coming from the Republican Party or else were foreigners who were hoping to help him become President.

These people realized that he had no chance of attaining his dream as a Democrat, especially since his inherent racism fit so poorly with Democratic policies and voters and could not be disguised.  The fact that he was forced to sign a consent decree by the Justice Department and that he publicly condemned five nonwhites who were later exonerated of a notorious rape in Central Park suggested that he would have needed a “come to Jesus” moment to fit in with the Democratic platform.

Don has a long history of being readily swayed, temporarily, by personal arguments presented by people who have access to him.  He is likely to befriend and allow access to people he believes are powerful– mostly people with a lot of money.  Steve Bannon, for example, not a very attractive person, is said to be worth $20 million.

Don is also attracted to, and respectful of, military men, especially generals.  This is consistent with his promotion of Killer Kelly to the post of Chief of Staff.  Although Kelly has imposed some order on the White House, he is beholden to his master and reflexively protects him.  At the same time, he is responsible for many of the details as well as the general tone of Don’s policies– he controls who Don can see personally during the day, and thus who can provide him with information (which is shaped by his interlocutors’ worldviews) that then molds his policy.

Kelly cannot control to whom Don speaks on the phone, particularly at night, when he is locked into his private bedroom at the White House; it is said that he faced opposition from the Secret Service when he insisted on installing a lock on his bedroom door (you can imagine the distress of a Secret Service agent who is unable to access the President when he hears sounds of a crisis inside a locked room.) 

Don calls whomever he feels like calling, and there is a short list of almost entirely wealthy men his age that he calls.  Kelly also cannot control what Don sees on his television, although that is less of a problem since Fox is so reliable in its presentation of the right-wing worldview.

That irresistibly reminds me of a story about the 1954 death of Stalin, one of the world’s two or three most prolific paranoiac murderers.  It seems that Stalin had a stroke during the night and failed to open his bedroom door at the usual time the next morning.  His personal attendant was afraid to disturb him, so he was left paralyzed in his bedroom for at least twelve hours until the servant summoned up the courage to “disturb” him. 

Stalin was still alive when he was discovered, but he died a few days later.  The grisly show trials that had been going on for years stopped immediately when he died; a group of doctors who were on trial for their lives based on a made-up conspiracy were spared by his death.

The parallels between Stalin and Don are most notable in terms of paranoid delusions– there is little else to compare them.  Stalin came to power a relatively young man and ruled for more than 30 years.  Don is already, at 71, the oldest president to be elected for the first time– although the oldest to serve was Reagan, who was re-elected at 73 (and we now know that he had early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease, exacerbated by brain anoxia following the 1981 assassination attempt after which surgeons found him with a .22 slug lodged in his lung close to his heart.)

Reagan offers few parallels to Don either, although Don’s father died of Alzheimer’s Disease.  Reagan was an affable man who actually had some experience, as the governor of California, and was not impaired by narcissism nor paranoia.  I think Don’s paranoia is even more dangerous than his narcissism.

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