So many people tell me that the country is in terrible shape. They point to Trump’s tirades, which are indeed pretty terrible, but which are also largely inconsequential. The economy is doing fine, though we have not figured out a way to deal with the declining wages of larger and larger parts of the work force, a situation which has spread all the way up to the salaried professionals, and we do not know how to do away with the educational gap between people of color and whites and Asians, the latest New York test scores showing that about sixty percent of Asians and whites score at grade level in reading and math while about twenty percent of African Americans and Hispanics score at grade level. But these are deep problems of social structure that must await a truly progressive administration to be addressed, while the problems that immediately confront this administration are going just fine. North Korea has quieted down and Rachel Maddow may be correct in thinking that the whole brouhaha was cooked up by trump to shift attention away from his own troubles, which is the Russia investigation and also the fact that Congress will not give him what he wants, which is his wall and an end to the Russia investigation. We have ceded Syria to the Russians while taking out ISIS by ourselves and with Kurd and Iraqi and Iranian help; Putin has got what he wanted of Ukraine and is unlikely to push farther, knowing that our tainted President is not in any position to do him favors. Even climate issues are going the Progressive way, whatever Trump’s view of the Paris accords, because California and various corporations are going ahead with forging their own policies on carbon emissions. Greening America is too good a business for it to stop happening. Yes, Trump claims he will bring back coal, but he won’t, just as he claims he will build a wall, which he won’t because even a Texas Republican congressman can see that a technical fence is more effective and much cheaper than a concrete one. The wall is just a slogan that appeals to Trump’s very limited imagination, and so let us turn to the issues that have occupied the media in the past few weeks to get them through the summer doldrums of Congress being out of session.
Trump’s statements about Charlottesville were supposed to be the point at which he finally went too far, even though there had been so many prior moments when his remarks put him beyond the pale. His remarks about groping women were supposed to have nailed his coffin shut, but he got elected anyway. This time, though, everybody could be revolted by what he had said about the Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Talk shows featured talksters from across the political spectrum all being self-righteous about denouncing his bigotry as inappropriate for anyone much less for a President of the United States. Not just Jews and African Americans denounce Nazis and Hitler salutes. The United States fought its most costly war to take out Naziism. But here he is three weeks later, and all he got from the Congressional leadership was a mild demural because they have other fish to fry, however much they detest the man.
To denounce Trump for making outrageous remarks is, however, to neglect an analysis of how he thinks-- or rather, how he doesn’t think. It may not be in his interests to denounce part of his base, but that wasn’t the motive for his comments. Remember that he is at the same time stupid, inarticulate and mean, and so what he was trying to do when he said there were good and bad people on both sides was not to endorse racism; it was to invoke a cliche about being evenhanded. Every side has its good and bad people, right? There were those on the right who just wanted to save the statues of Confederate War heroes. Now it may be that newsreporting was correct in stating that the group originally out to protect the monuments had withdrawn from the march when they heard that the Neo-Nazis were going to be on the march. But Trump does not depend on information for his opinions. He just assumes that the correct rhetoric is one that denounces violence and bad actors on both sides. So how could that possibly have gotten him into trouble? He just doesn’t get it, even if the rest of the country does, including his supporters, who know which side he tends to take. So no one should care what Trump says, President or not. What he says has no operative component, nothing that is to last as an insight into a particular situation. So just forget whatever he says, even if it is painful to listen to, because everything he says is painful to listen to, as if he were a fifth grader required to recite complexly metered poetry, which also occurred when he read his carefully scripted speech on Afghanistan, his speech writers making sure to capture his usual level of discourse, which is long on empty adjectives and provides very little guidance about what his “new” policy actually might entail, something other than what Obama might have also endorsed as the continuation of a holding action until something more clever turns up, which is unlikely.
Trump’s tirades have made numerous commentators suggest that he is not fit to hold office. He has neither the temperament, the judgment, nor the intelligence nor the command of issues to be in charge of the nuclear football, which none other than General James Clapper, who was National Director of Intelligence under Obama, says has very little that stands between it and the President precisely so that a Presidential decision to go to nuclear war can happen very quickly. Nicole Williams, the MSNBC talk show host and announced ex-Republican, who served as communications director for George W. Bush said recently, and quite accurately, that while people differed about her President’s handling of policy, noone challenged his ability to be entrusted with the gravity of starting a nuclear war. While Rumsfeld and Chaney and Bush and Rice and Powell lied to the American people, I don’t think they lied to themselves and so would not have launched nuclear weapons out of pique.
Cable news is full of suggestions, however, that the current President is a sociopath and not just a mean spirited, narrowly focussed and ignorant fellow. The New Yorker suggests that the Goldwater rule should be suspended. That is the self imposed rule whereby psychiatrists are not supposed to issue diagnoses of people whom they have not personally examined because that is what happened when a number of them said in 1964 that Goldwater was psychologically unfit for office. Psychological professionals should now be allowed to weigh in on Trump’s mental competence before he gets us into real trouble. Maybe we can’t wait for impeachment procedures tied to the Russia investigation, which is merely a collateral issue if he is as defective as some people make him out to be.
But you don’t have to be unbalanced to be unsuited to office and the thing about Trump is that he was very clear about his character during the course of the campaign, never lied about his character, however much it was in his character to lie, and people voted for him anyway. I am looking forward to Hillary Clinton’s book where she will try to explain why people voted for someone clearly unqualified to be President when she, in spite of all here shortcomings, was clearly someone more to be entrusted with the nuclear football and how to handle North Korea and any number of other issues, than was trump. (Do even die hard Trump supporters disagree with that assessment?)
There are in the Constitution no characteristics for what qualifies a person to be president other than that he or she is a natural born citizen and thirty five years of age. That was part of the wisdom of the founding fathers. The office need not be held by an aristocrat or a Harvard or Yale graduate, though a great many recent Presidents went through one or the other of those schools or to a leading military academy. What the talents are that are needed to be President is left to the American people. And so there has to be a reason, whether physical or mental incompetence or some impeachable offense, to get rid of him, not just that he lambasts Mitch McConnell just the way he did his primary opponents. The Republicans, after all, made him their candidate, and now we are all stuck with him, at least until Mueller delivers his broadside, and I don’t think the military people around him will let him anywhere near the nuclear codes, should he take a hankering to take a peek at them.