Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Cult of Diminished Mental Capacity

It seems like it was only yesterday when your refusal to pledge allegiance to the cult of Russophobia got you branded as, if not downright unpatriotic, then at least the naive tool of Vladimir Putin.

Now that year-long investigations have turned up zero evidence that Russia "hacked" the 2016 presidential elections or that Donald Trump "colluded" with Putin rather than maybe just launder money with the help of the Russian oligarchy, the newest cult revolves around the 25th amendment and the juicy revelations contained in the hastily written and hastily released Fire and Fury.

If you express any doubt that Donald Trump is in the early-to-middle stages of Alzheimer's disease or another form of progressive dementia, then you are a naive fool who refuses to honor the long-distance diagnoses of mental health professionals who possess some sort of remote control PET scanner that sees directly into Trump's Swiss Cheese of a brain. 

Before the new cult of Oprah Winfrey came along the other day to take a little of the psychiatric heat off Trump, his melting brain and deteriorating personality were all that the pundits of CNN and MSNBC could talk about since the book came out last week. Finally, the "open secret" of the president's worsening dementia could be talked about in polite company!  And not just talked about, but weaponized. Knowing full well that Trump watches a lot of TV, they embarked on nothing less than a round-the-clock propaganda campaign to not only convince the public of his incapacity, but to convince Trump himself. He must have felt like Ingrid Bergman to dozens of cable news Charles Boyers. Don't ever dare to defend your sanity, my dear, because it only proves how insane you are. 

"Trump's 'Very Stable Genius' Tweet Proves He Isn't" is the expert opinion of CNN's Chris "Sigmund" Cilizza, with Meta-Narrative Disability as his differential diagnosis:

Trump's lack of strategy is, in an odd sort of way, the most consistent thing about him. Any look at his life tells you that he is someone who just, well, does stuff.
Why has it taken the political world so long to wake up to that fact? Because we tend to view presidents -- and presidencies -- as tied together by some sort of narrative arc. That each statement, each policy decision, each tweet is somehow in support of a broader agenda. That the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That theirs is a story being told to us by the White House -- and it's our job to sniff it out.
Trump's presidency is abnormal in all sorts of ways. But perhaps the most important to understand is that it lacks any sort of meta-narrative. There are just his reactions to things. That's it.
And that, whether you like Trump or hate him, is not the hallmark of a three-dimensional chess-playing super genius.
This is quite a different tune than the one CNN was playing last year at this time. Back before he became so incapacitated, Trump apparently was a master gaslighter in his own right. He was making reality itself become hazy for a whole nation full of Ingrid Bergmans. But of course, it was really Putin who was pulling the gaslighting strings of his Trump puppet:
Russia even tried to gaslight US voters, as intelligence agencies concluded, trying to undermine their faith in the democratic process. And when Moscow thought Trump would lose, it planned to promote the view that the election was stolen, under the #DemocracyRIP banner, a plan whose seeds Trump had already planted.
The challenge will be a steep one for journalists and for all Americans, when so much of what comes from the next president has to be checked and double-checked. The first step is to establish when there is a gaslighting operation in progress.
The media's counter-gaslighting strategy has had an effect all right, but probably not what the pundits had in mind. Instead of reduction, via media torture, to even more of a quivering mess of an old man eating cheeseburgers in his locked bedroom while tweeting increasingly maniacal threats and complaints, the president strategized and decided to go on a full-on mental health campaign of his own. Since, like probably every president before him he is a textbook narcissist, he selfishly made the mental health all about him. He started to ever so carefully over-enunciate his words in public appearances. On Tuesday, he opened to TV cameras what would normally have been a private negotiating session on immigration reform. Not only did his mouth form complete sentences, not once did it hang open or even so much as dribble. Trump performed without incident for over an hour. He even uncharacteristally offered to "take the heat" from critics of his pro-DACA concessions rather than lash out as expected.  He simply was his usual un-meta self, with the Queens accent which makes the fluent media-political complex cringe so self-righteously.

What's more, the Democratic bigwigs in the room actually groveled and laughed and joked and preened and expressed great enthusiasm about working with this supposedly deranged man about his cruel plan to build a wall against immigrants. Once they got their seat at the lime-lit table, they couldn't help themselves.

 "Democrats are for security at the border,” Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer assured Trump during the meeting. “There are obviously differences, however, Mr. President, on how you affect that.” 

Richard Durbin, the Senate minority whip, likewise couldn't contain himself at the utter fascistic sanity of it all, gushing to Trump: "We’re all honored to be part of this conversation.There are elements you’re going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas.”

He later schmoozed to the TV cameras that "my head was spinning" over the 90-minute jam session with Trump. Political dementia is, like, so contagious.

As even the New York Times approvingly wrote, the collaborative aura and appearance of civility "were a remarkable break with the divisive messaging that propelled Mr. Trump to the White House and the harsh policies that have defined his first year in office, marked by efforts to demonize and deport immigrants who have entered the country illegally."

I guess you just can't gaslight a gaslighter after all.

It's preferable to the ruling class that cruel policies such as the mass expulsions of human beings be done as quietly and secretly as possible, as was the case under the Obama administration. Despite all his xenophobic rhetoric, Trump is not anywhere close to beating the discreet and intelligent Obama, who deported more people during his tenure than any other president.


I usually profoundly disagree with everything that conservative New York Times pundit Ross Douthat writes. But as he insightfully opined in his Sunday column (days before the Democrats engaged with Trump in that bipartisan matter so beloved of the establishment press): 
But op-ed provocations notwithstanding, the 25th Amendment option isn’t happening — not without some major presidential deterioration in the midst of a major crisis, and probably not even then. And while I blame Republicans for a thousand things that brought us to this pass, it’s too extreme to blame them for not pursuing an option that’s never been tried before, against a president who was recently and (yes) legitimately elected, especially when that option requires extraordinary coordination across the legislative and executive branches and could easily fail … with God-only-knows what kind of consequences. So unless Robert Mueller has more goods than I expect, we are going to live for the next few years in the way that America lived during the waning days of Nixon, the end of the Wilson administration, and perhaps at other moments known only to presidential inner circles — with our own equivalent of the petticoat government, which in this case includes military uniforms, dress suits and whatever outfits Ivanka and Kellyanne Conway favor (but not, any longer, the layering of collared shirts perfected by Steve Bannon).

My published response:
The more the media rails about Trump's mental status, the more the third of the electorate which supports him will feel the vicarious paranoia and outrage against the "elites" who, they feel with some justification, are trying to gaslight him out of office sooner rather than later.

There's cunning method to Trump's madness. After all, it does take a special kind of malevolent brain to be able to con and market your way into the ranks of the Forbes 400. The real scandal is not that he "colluded" with Russia to deny Hillary her coronation, it's that his corrupt way of doing business over the decades has been so rewarded by the very Establishment now seeking his ouster.

As long as the stock market keeps booming and the rich keep growing richer, the #Resistance will continue playing out as a soap opera for our aghast entertainment. Were it not for the fact that Congress has done zilch to take away Trump's capacity to blow us all to smithereens at any time, this whole show would be a work of, like, great comic genius.

The media had their chance to destroy Trump's candidacy. Instead they nourished it with $5 billion worth of free advertising. His TV rallies and debates were ratings bonanzas. Media mogul Les Moonves even gloated that Trump "may not be good for America, but he's damned good for CBS!"

Meanwhile the "demented" Trump is completing plans to destroy Medicaid and snatch health care away from millions of poor people. Where's the media shock and outrage over that?

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