Charles Pierce Identifies It–What Are We Going To Do About It?

My mother used to recite a rhyme that I don’t recall entirely, but the gist of it was that the only difference between men and boys was the size of their toys.

Americans are being “governed”–if you can dignify what is coming from the White House as governing–by a boy with a nuclear toy. (If there were any remaining doubts, Michael Wolff’s new book should dispel them.)

Who among us would ever have anticipated having an occupant of the Oval Office tweeting “mine is bigger than yours” at another, equally demented, world leader? (Do you suppose we could settle this by putting the two of them in an examining room, and measuring their “parts”?)

I used to attribute Trump’s unbelievable lack of self-awareness to privilege. We all know people whose money or power insulates them from contact with people who will tell them the truth; the longer their isolation from ridicule or dissent, the less grounded they become. But I think Charles Pierce has a more accurate evaluation of the problem.

Pierce’s column analyzed Trump’s recent interview with New York Times reporter Michael Schmidt. Schmidt had intercepted Trump on a golf course, where are no aides to constrain the free flow of what Trump apparently regards as sentences, and reaction to that interview has been shock and (terrified) awe.

Pierce dismissed criticisms of Schmidt’s conduct of the interview as irrelevant to what it exposed:

In my view, the interview is a clinical study of a man in severe cognitive decline, if not the early stages of outright dementia.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve seen my father and all of his siblings slide into the shadows and fog of Alzheimer’s Disease. (The president*’s father developed Alzheimer’s in his 80s.) In 1984, Ronald Reagan debated Walter Mondale in Louisville and plainly had no idea where he was. (If someone on the panel had asked him, he’d have been stumped.) Not long afterwards, I was interviewing a prominent Alzheimer’s researcher for a book I was doing, and he said, “I saw the look on his face that I see every day in my clinic.” …

In this interview, the president* is only intermittently coherent. He talks in semi-sentences and is always groping for something that sounds familiar, even if it makes no sense whatsoever and even if it blatantly contradicts something he said two minutes earlier. To my ears, anyway, this is more than the president*’s well-known allergy to the truth. This is a classic coping mechanism employed when language skills are coming apart.

Pierce gives several examples from the transcript of the interview–boasts that embarrass rational people, non-sequiturs that most observers (reasonably enough) attribute to ignorance, and Trump’s trademark, repellant grandiosity, which Pierce sees as the desperation of a man who is losing the ability to understand the world around him.

And as he points out, this lack of capacity is oh-so-useful to Congressional Republicans.

In Ronald Reagan’s second term, we ducked a bullet. I’ve always suspected he was propped up by a lot of people who a) didn’t trust vice-president George H.W. Bush, b) found it convenient to have a forgetful president when the subpoenas began to fly, and c) found it helpful to have a “detached” president when they started running their own agendas—like, say, selling missiles to mullahs. You’re seeing much the same thing with the congressional Republicans. They’re operating an ongoing smash-and-grab on all the policy wishes they’ve fondly cultivated since 1981. Having a president* who may not be all there and, as such, is susceptible to flattery because it reassures him that he actually is makes the heist that much easier.

If we had a Vice-President and Cabinet who actually gave a rat’s ass about America rather than their own prospects and assorted zealotries, we could hope for invocation of the 25th Amendment.

If we had Congressional Republicans who were willing to put country above party, we could hope for impeachment.

If the President is seriously mentally ill–and it’s hard to argue with that diagnosis (a number of psychiatrists have already concurred)–that explains his terrifying behaviors.

What’s everyone else’s excuse?