Friday, October 18, 2019


Oh God, not this again. The Atlantic's Peter Nicholas writes:
The country is entering a new and precarious phase, in which the central question about President Donald Trump is not whether he is coming unstrung, but rather just how unstrung he is going to get.

The boiling mind of Trump has spawned a cottage industry for cognitive experts who have questioned whether he is, well, all there. But as the impeachment inquiry barrels ahead on Capitol Hill, several associates of the president, including former White House aides, worry that his behavior is likely to get worse. Angered by the proceedings, unencumbered by aides willing to question his judgment, and more and more isolated in the West Wing, Trump is apt to lash out more at enemies imagined and real, these people told me. Conduct that has long been unsettling figures to deteriorate as Trump comes under mounting stress.
I'll grant that, as George Conway argues, Trump probably has pathological narcissism and/or antisocial personality disorder. I'll admit it's possible that, as Yastreblyansky asserts, Trump is decompensating now -- responding to stress by being less able to summon up coping strategies.

Or maybe being completely unsocialized and lashing out in ways no ordinary person could get away with is his coping strategy.

Nicholas has a lot to say about Trump's supposed deterioration, but this strikes me as particularly uninformed:
Even a casual observer can see the disordered and nonlinear thinking behind Trump’s speech. A case in point was Trump’s rally last week in Minneapolis. Within minutes of taking the stage, Trump launched, without explanation, into a dramatic reading of what he imagined was the pillow talk between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, a pair of former FBI officials who had exchanged text messages critical of the president. He gave no context as to why he was talking about them, leaving it to the audience to fill in the Mall of America–size blanks. Trump never even mentioned that they had worked for the FBI or that Strzok was at one point involved in the Russia investigation—just that they were “lovers” who disliked him. (Still, as theater, it seemed to work. When Trump cooed, “Oh, God. I love you, Lisa!” the audience laughed appreciatively.)
Of course it worked! When this happened, we weren't seeing the deterioration of a now-disordered mind. We were witnessing what goes on in the wingnut mind -- the collective wingnut mind.

Trump didn't have to explain his segue to the topic of Strzok and Page because nearly everyone in that Minneapolis audience knew exactly what he was talking about. They listen to talk radio. They read Breitbart and Townhall and Gateway Pundit. And, most important, they watch Fox News -- lots and lots of Fox News. Search "strzok" at and you get 2,024 hits. (At you get 254, and 108 at Every wingnut regards Strzok and Page as two of the great villains of our era. They all know about the texts. They're all aware that Strzok made a cryptic reference to an "insurance policy" in a text to Page that alluded to the aftermath of a possible Trump victory.

I've cued this up for you if you want to watch it. Trump alludes to a Washington Post story that, he says, ran "nineteen minutes" after his swearing-in, the headline of which was "The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun." (That's a real story. The headline is accurately recalled, and it did appear at nineteen minutes after noon on January 20, 2017.) His leap from that to Strzok and Page is sudden -- the Post story is about a left-wing campaign to impeach Trump -- but every committed right-wing partisan in America believes that lefty activists and the "Deep State" as represented by the Mueller investigation are all part of one giant anti-Trump octopus. Trump is no crazier than his fan base for believing this.

Nicholas goes on to write:
At least one lawmaker thinks that Republicans could hit a tipping point—though he’s a Democrat. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland told me that it might be easier for Republicans to concede that Trump is unwell than that he’s a criminal who violated his constitutional oath by committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The path to removing Trump, in this formulation, might not be impeachment, but the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.
I've said this repeatedly and I'm going to say it again: Removing Trump by means of the 25th Amendment is harder than removing him through impeachment. Conviction after an impeachment requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, but the impeachment itself can be done with a simple majority in the House. By contrast, Section IV of the 25th Amendment offers the president the opportunity to challenge his designation as unfit to serve (Trump would inevitably lodge a challenge), at which point a two-thirds vote in both houses would be required to remove him. And this is after a majority of the president's Cabinet has proclaimed Trump's unfitness in writing, twice. (Read Section IV of the amendment for the sequence of events.)

I've said that a majority of the Cabinet would have to declare Trump unfit. (At this moment, would that mean the whole Cabinet, or would the acting secretaries not count?) In fact, that's one point on which the amendment is vague. It says that the vice president and a majority of "the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide" need to make this assertion. Nicholas says that Congressman Raskin wants to take this out of the hands of the Cabinet.
Raskin, a former constitutional-law professor, is sponsoring a bill aimed at clarifying a provision of that amendment—a vehicle for removing a president who is unable to carry out his duties, with the consent of the vice president—by shifting responsibility for making such a judgment from the Cabinet to a panel created expressly for that purpose.
But why would Senate Republicans ever agree to this? Why would Mitch McConnell's crew agree to make this process easier?

Sorry, folks -- a 25th Amendment removal of Trump is not going to happen -- not unless, and probably not even if, he becomes a lot crazier than his voters, who are, after all, the same voters who elect Republicans in the Senate and House.

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