Matt Taibbi tries hard to convince us that there is an upside to the awful revelations in Michael Wolff’s gossipy new book about the first year of the Trump presidency.
The book certainly doesn’t seem like good news. Wolff tells us our president is probably a neurotic illiterate, incapable of focus beyond a few seconds, and thought of as a deranged simpleton by even his most trusted advisors.
Wolff basically describes Trump as a deficient buffoon who, when it comes to politics anyway, is totally out of his element, mistaking fake ardor for the real thing, constantly demanding fealty from Congress, the business world and staff:
Now he is president, though, and, this being a new year, it’s worth looking at the possible bright side of Wolff’s account. Trump appears to be so far gone as to have no attention span at all, and to be totally consumed with press coverage of himself, almost to the exclusion of all else. This perhaps caps the irreversibly destructive consequences of his presidency.
That is not to say that horrible things haven’t and won’t continue to emanate from the Trump White House. (Just look at the recent heightened use of drone strikes, for example.)
But it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq. Moreover, his confederates – especially now that Steve Bannon is out – seem mostly concerned with keeping the boss away from the real power of his office, almost like parents trying to steer a two-year-old away from the gas range.
Trump by most accounts is worst of all, and the horror effect is enhanced by the seemingly total absence of redeeming qualities in his personality. But a guy who fell backwards into the presidency and has been too brain-hampered upon arrival to do much with the office – there are worse narratives.
Just remember, Trump could be cunning, focused and bursting with willpower, in addition to being a gross, ignorant pig. We can only hope that Wolff is right that he isn’t that.
I dunno. The fact that the president of the US is too stupid and ignorant and suffering from such deep mental incapacities that he may be unable to do serious damage seems like cold comfort. The key concern for me is the paragraph where Taibbi says “But it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq.” True, he may not do anything terrible as a result of careful planning, like the way that the illegal and immoral war against Iraq was carried out. But Trump’s reckless impulsiveness that is oblivious to the possible blowback to his actions is perhaps a greater danger since he seems to think that there can be no negative consequences.
It may well be true that, as Taibbi says, all the people around Trump see him as a child who needs to be kept away from sharp objects and serve as e a protective shield. But is that enough? And who are the people around him anyway? His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are intellectual lightweights, hopelessly out of their depth and venal to boot. The other key people like his chief of staff John Kelly, defense secretary James Mattis, and head of the NSC H. R. McMaster are all military people representing a very narrow worldview. His press secretary Sarah Sanders and key advisor Kellyanne Conway are sycophants who will defend Trump and cheer him on in whatever he does even of it makes them look deranged. It is not a crew that inspires much confidence.
So no, I do not buy Taibbi’s attempt to sell this hopeful picture.
Pierce R. Butler says
Perhaps (the name does not appear in the linked article) Taibbi just wants to warn us about … President Pence.
Actually, I’m surprised that the Republicans are in such full-defense mode of Trump. It’s not as if they really need him to work on their agenda. If they dumped him (either impeachment or the 25th amendment) they’d get Pence, who would probably go along with the agenda even moreso.
Not to get too conspiratorial (without much evidence), but one wonders if maybe the Russians have kompromat, not only Trump, but on many of the Republicans, too.
Or maybe they’re waiting until just before the elections so that they can say, “Re-elect us! See, we took care of the problem.” Oh, that, and “Squirrel!”
Mano Singham says
I agree with you that Pence would be easier for congressional Republicans to work with but I think they fear the wrath of Trump’s supporters if they visibly conspire to remove him from office. They have no choice but wait for him to disintegrate on his own.
I did not read the Taibbi column but the sentence ““But it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq.” has to be about the most idiotic political statement in years.
Well, considering the quality of the analysis coming out of the Washington/New York commentariat, I may be a bit harsh.
Maybe he never noticed that the assassination in Sarajevo which was a proximate case of a minor conflict, now called World War One, was not a careful plot to plunge Europe into war.
The invasion of Afghanistan was not a careful plot by Bush, Chaney and the Pentagon. It was one idiot US president, who once he figured out where Afghanistan was, decided to be “strong”. And was too “Presidential” and stupid to negotiate the extradition of Bin Ladin and the rest of Al Quaeda from Afghanistan.
The Orange Idiot could easily start a war in Korea with hundreds of thousands of casualties (I am being optimistic) without the faintest idea of what he was doing.
Marcus Ranum says
it’s hard to imagine Trump focusing long enough to enact a plan as destructive as, say, the invasion of Iraq.
…. yet he is still obsessing over Hillary Clinton who -- last time I checked -- has not had much to do with US politics since she conceded to Trump.
He is exactly the kind of person who will focus on an enemy. In fact, it appears that’s part of what Bush and Cheney did in Iraq.
Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says
How focused, exactly, would he need to be? Serious outsider question. I have no doubt you could massage his ego through a few signatures. How much would he have to be involved in to launch a clusterfuck, in Iran for example?
@ 5 Marcus
There is a difference between “obsessing” and focusing”. Parroting a few stupid slogans internalized before the most recent mental declines is not the same as being able to coherently keep plans and people together to achieve an actual outcome as complicated as the invasion (aka gratuitous attack) an a country.
@ 6 Dave
How much would he have to be involved in to launch a clusterfuck, in Iran for example?
Who knows? Given some of the US military’s senior officers seem to be Christian Dominionists and they (and other senior officers) seem to have decided Iran is “the” existential threat to the USA/Israel (superseding the USSR, Cuba, Grenada, Panama, El Salvador and, possibly, Vatican City on a bad day) it is difficult to know what the raving insane idiots in Washington might do.