Wednesday, November 22, 2023


I've made it clear that I don't believe Donald Trump is any crazier right now than he was in 2016 or during his presidential term, and I don't believe he's significantly close to dementia. He confused Sioux City and Sioux Falls? So did Barack Obama in 2008. He flubs historical facts? He did that years ago, too.

But his rhetoric is becoming angrier and more eliminationist -- is that a sign of increasing mental illness on Trump's part? One of the experts quoted today by Thomas Edsall in The New York Times thinks so:
Leonard L. Glass, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, emailed me:
[Trump] acts like he’s impervious, “a very stable genius,” but we know he is rageful, grandiose, vengeful, impulsive, devoid of empathy, boastful, inciting of violence and thin-skinned. At times it seems as if he cannot control himself or his hateful speech. We need to wonder if these are the precursors of a major deterioration in his character defenses.
Glass continued:
If Trump — in adopting language that he cannot help knowing replicates that of Hitler (especially the references to opponents as “vermin” and “poisoning the blood of our country”), we have to wonder if he has crossed into “new terrain.” That terrain, driven by grandiosity and dread of exposure (e.g., at the trials) could signal the emergence of an even less constrained, more overtly vicious and remorseless Trump who, should he regain the presidency, would, indeed act like the authoritarians he praises.
I might believe that Trump's "grandiosity and dread of exposure" inspired this dehumanizing language if I thought Trump these words were Trump's own. It seems far more likely that a speechwriter -- almost certainly Stephen Miller -- added “vermin” and “the blood of our country” to Trump's speeches. (The phrase "poisoning the blood of our country" came from an interview, but in a speech last month, Trump said of immigrants, “It’s the blood of our country; what they’re doing is destroying our country.”) Maybe Miller told Trump that he was trying to make him sound like Hitler, maybe he didn't. (The idea that the historically illiterate ex-president "cannot help knowing" these are Hitleresque words is preposterous.)

So perhaps the person who's crossed into "new terrain" is Miller, not Trump. Miller would almost certainly be a top adviser in a second Trump administration -- possibly the top adviser. He could be "Trump's brain," the way Karl Rove was George W. Bush's. If Leonard Glass and other credentialed folks want to analyze some political psyches from a distance, maybe they should consider the possibility that Miller is the one who's lost all restraints on his cruelty. Trump might be a Hitlerian monster in a second term not because he has fewer inner restraints (did he ever have any, apart from a sense of self-preservation?), but because his advisers feel nothing constrains them anymore. I think Trump is too old to change, but Miller may just be coming into his own -- a monster in full.

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