I use a newsreader that collects feeds from various news sites that I follow so that I see only the ones that are new since I last checked. I check the newsreader periodically to see what has happened, starting in the morning. There used to be a fairly standard number of new posts, that is until Donald Trump became president. Now there are periodic spikes in the number of posts so that whenever I check first thing in the morning and see that there are many more updates than usual, my first thought is “Oh, hell, what has Trump said/done now?”
And sure enough, today it is all about the report in the Washington Post that Trump had disclosed “highly classified information” during his meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak. This report has been denied by Trump’s national security advisor H. R. McMaster but as usual, we are dealing with carefully parsed news reports and denials by McMaster that allow for wiggle room. Robert Mackey thinks that there is evidence that the news report got the facts largely right.
But the larger concern is not whether Trump was right in what he did (as president he has the legal right to reveal any classified information and a case could be made that sharing knowledge of potential terrorist threats with Russia is desirable) but whether he knows what he is doing or is just blabbing away in his usual self-aggrandizing fashion. As the Post report says:
“It is all kind of shocking,” said a former senior U.S. official who is close to current administration officials. “Trump seems to be very reckless and doesn’t grasp the gravity of the things he’s dealing with, especially when it comes to intelligence and national security.
The allegation of Trump having loose lips brings back to the fore the increasingly discussed question of whether Trump is losing control of his cognitive faculties or is ‘merely’ suffering from narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) (as commenter kestrel thinks), or is playing the media and the public by giving them distractions to shift attention away from his lack of concrete achievements in terms of fulfilling has campaign promises.
Kali Holloway thinks that there are signs of a real problem of the first kind.
Remember when Trump forgot which country he’d just bombed? When it just slipped his mind to sign a pair of executive orders during an event created for that explicit purpose? When he couldn’t locate Rudy Giuliani, who was sitting directly across from him at a media briefing? Those things don’t seem like innocuous senior moments.
Trump also seems to exhibit other signs of Alzheimer’s listed by health organizations. Moodiness, paranoia, belligerence and erratic behavior are all key indicators of the onset of dementia. Trump’s inappropriate tweets, his belief that his phones are tapped and his quickness to anger, as described by his staff, all fit the bill.
Holloway links to an actual single sentence spoken by Trump as transcribed by Alex Leo.
“Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my, like, credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger, fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”
‘Meandering’ would be the kindest way of describing it. ‘Palinesque’ would be to insult even that chronically incoherent speaker.
David Pakman also marshals the evidence in favor of the first possibility (cognitive decline) and against the second one (NPD).
I was surprised by the suggestion that Trump has trouble with balance and has a morbid fear of staircases and steps, even a couple of them, and that this is one of the symptoms of cognitive decline. I wonder how he will handle the standard symbolism of American presidents waving while climbing down the ramp of Air Force One when it lands on the tarmac of airports? Surely people would have noticed something by now?
Are such speculations on Trump’s cognitive acuity distractions? Are they taking responsibility and culpability away from him by making it seem as if his words and actions are out of his control? Defenders of Trump warn that allegations about Trump’s mental state will be used to try to remove him from office and that they are ready to fight back.
I also wonder what the effect of these speculations will be on those who are being considered for the post of FBI director and other top positions that remain unfilled in the Trump administration. There have been suggestions of people who are federal judges being considered. But who would give up a secure and prestigious job like that in order to accept a position under Trump where you run the daily risk of being embarrassed, contradicted, humiliated, and even fired? The only people who will accept such jobs are those who are grifters like Trump and his family, willing to exploit the position for quick gain, either in terms of raising their personal profile or in material ways.
This is not good.