Parker column: Like a child
Washington Post Writers’ Group
I’m almost beginning to feel sorry for him.
Donald Trump, that is.
Having previously posited that it’s wrong to make fun of the mentally deficient, I’m reluctant to further highlight recent revelations from author Michael Wolff, whose new book, “Fire and Fury,” reports on what can only be described as insanity at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Then again, Trump is the president and, therefore, rules of civility take a back seat to the nation’s health and security. Besides, even a saint would be tempted to mutter, Toldja.
The thing is, countless people — and not just Democrats — have been trying all last year and before to convey that Donald Trump wasn’t up to the job. Even his inner circle concluded as much after a brief romance with the fantasy that they could make him into a useful president. His behavior, language, outbursts, impulsiveness — all suggested that he is “like a child,” as Wolff put it Friday on NBC’s “Today.” Worse, given those very characteristics, that he’s quite possibly not mentally competent to perform his duties.
One needn’t look far for evidence. Most recent is his taunt to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un that his (Trump’s) nuclear button is bigger than Kim’s. This was Trump’s response after Kim had said that his nuclear button was always at the ready. What is it about certain men who must always resort to measurements? That’s a rhetorical question.
Other interesting tidbits include that members of Trump’s Cabinet have called him an “idiot” and a “dope” behind his back. Would the two people in the back of the room who have not used these words to describe the president please raise your hand? We’re so glad you were able to join us before returning to the asylum today.
More serious than gossipy is that, according to a report last week from the New York Times’ Michael Schmidt, Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to try to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Trump apparently thought this was entirely appropriate, fresh as he was in the job, but surely his legal counsel knew better? Sessions, who actually does know something about the law and the Constitution, did, of course, recuse himself.
What Wolff has accomplished through more than 200 interviews and his nearly free access to the White House and the president’s inner circle has been to document through notes and recordings what has long been obvious. Commentators may have insight — though not much was needed to appraise this president — but Wolff has tapes.
That Trump quickly responded by seeking a cease-and-desist order to prohibit the book’s publication is consistent with the behavioral tendencies mentioned above. Past presidents, many of whom have suffered various indictments and humiliations at the fingertips of authors, have never sought to stop a book’s publication. What explains this commander in chief’s impulse to quash a book’s release? Either he fears what’s therein, or, as is customary for him, his first impulse is to destroy what and whom he doesn’t like. Said Wolff on “Today”: “He has to be satisfied in the moment.”
Other gleanings from Wolff’s reporting: The president doesn’t read and instead watches a lot of TV, preferably on one of the three screens in his bedroom, where he often retires by 6:30 p.m. to eat his dinner and make calls. He doesn’t listen, easily becomes bored and seems unable to pay attention. He repeats the same three stories within minutes of having just told them, and his memory loss is apparently becoming more pronounced.
Even during the campaign, when some say Trump was sharper, he was easily distracted and bored. Wolff tells of campaign adviser Sam Nunberg trying to teach Trump about the U.S. Constitution. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment, before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head,” says Nunberg in the book. (That amendment is the one about people being safe from unreasonable search and seizure. Perhaps Trump, rather than being disinterested in the presentation, was expressing his opinion of the amendment.)
If some of the anecdotes are new, the news isn’t: Donald Trump, who never wanted the job, isn’t up to the presidency. His narcissism — as expressed while either playing red-button roulette with a nuclear clown or trying to kill a book — poses a danger to the country and the world.
The truth will out, we keep telling ourselves. But will people believe it? That is the question.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is email@example.com.
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