Thursday, October 26, 2017

Adults in the Room

Via Tenor.

Old Tom Friedman was wondering yesterday ("General Mattis, Stand Up to Trump or He''ll Drag You Down") what old General Mattis should do next, now that he's won the Survivor game in the White House island, last of the so-called adults in the room, the generals and generaloids who are supposed to be managing our rambunctious young president, what with McMaster having failed to "build up much of a relationship with Trump," Tillerson having burned his bridges with the "fucking moron" epithet, and Pompeo and Kelly having sacrificed their moral authority with their public lying in support of the president's lying:

Well, Secretary Mattis, here’s some free advice to the last man standing: Don’t just stand there. If you just stand there, you’ll be next. Because Trump and Sanders will be looking to enlist your old uniform next in their defense — that is, if Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus first to escape responsibility for the bungled operation in Niger.
Secretary Mattis, we don’t need any more diagnosis of the problem. We need action. And I am not talking about a coup. I mean you need to lead McMaster, Tillerson and Kelly (Pompeo is a lost cause) in telling Trump that if he does not change his ways you will all quit, en masse.
I hate to tell ya, Tom, but I think something like that has already been done, with the "suicide pact" among Mattis, Tillerson, and treasury secretary Mnuchin that Buzzfeed reported a couple of weeks ago:

One US official expressed confidence in Tillerson's status due to a so-called "suicide pact" forged between Defense Secretary James Mattis, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Tillerson, whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.
And then Mr. Fucking Moron, who was also eager to inform the public that the president had not "castrated" him, good to know, Rex, didn't get fired, so it's likely that this technique has been used already. At least once, given that old Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III didn't get fired either. My guess is that they need to not use this technique too often, or Trump might stop believing in it. (In Tillerson's case, Trump might not even believe he'll resign: as Buzzfeed reminds us, the terms of his departure and divestment from Exxon, which will pay him $180 million, also leave him liable for a $71 million tax bill that he can avoid if he sticks the job out for a full year, thanks to a loophole introduced to the tax code by the G.H.W. Bush administration to encourage really wealthy people to accept political appointments, because you know how reluctant those guys are, and how much our country needs their expertise and skill.)

As for Trump "changing his ways", are you kidding? Are we still praying for that pivot? Really?

Not just because he's a 71-year-old who feels the ways he has have succeeded for him all his life, but because he clearly can't. At least not without some extensive therapy, which is very difficult for Narcissistic Personality Disorder of the Trump type and its mix of secret insecurity and overt aggression:
The particular mix of these underlying states (insecurity/aggression) is related to the varied clinical presentations of NPD, which can be roughly divided into the “thick-skinned” type (overtly arrogant) and “thin-skinned” type (prone to bouts of insecurity). A particular diagnostic challenge is to identify the depressive-masochistic type of NPD that can underlie treatment-resistant depression (the patient feels his or her suffering is unique and exceeds that of others, with a conviction of moral superiority that does not allow the compromises that help “lesser” people get through life.)
Trump, with his constant sense that "I'm the victim", can't acknowledge that there's any reason for him to change; it's everyone else's fault. When somebody dies in a military misadventure, he's the first president in history to come out and blame the generals, as we saw again this week:
And "I'm the victim" came back too, in response to the news that the Steele dossier was partly financed from within the Clinton campaign, confirming David Corn's report of a year ago that the "explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government" that Harry Reid believed the FBI possessed came from "an opposition research project originally financed by a Republican client critical of the celebrity mogul. (Before the former spy was retained [by the FBI], the project’s financing switched to a client allied with Democrats.)" (H/t Bethesda 1971)
Yes, they paid for opposition research against Trump, as did some Republican primary candidate before them (I believe the best guess is J.E.B.!) , and as US political candidates generally do, including of course the Trump campaign, although it's pretty rare for a candidate to get the research from a foreign government stealing documents from the opponent, in return for offering the foreign government a special right to dictate aspects of our foreign policy ("Give me the info and I'll lift sanctions on your country").

This is of course what the Steele dossier said the Trump campaign seemed to have done, and this is what the very clear email evidence of the meeting between Manafort, Kushner, Junior, and Natal'ya Veselnitskaya seems to substantiate, demonstrating that the dossier is certainly not "fake", though it may for all I know be wrong in many details. That is, Manafort and friends certainly entertained a Russian offer, WikiLeaks did begin publishing the DNC emails as Steele thought it would, and Trump as president has definitely given the Russian government unusual treatment, down to defying an Act of Congress imposing new sanctions over the Russian interference in the election (which Trump continues to insist may not have happened at all). See BooMan for more reasons the Steele dossier looks more credible than ever.

But the guy who won the election is not a "victim": if somebody was a victim, it was the American public which went to the polls that week under the false impression that Hillary Clinton was under an FBI investigation for serious possible misconduct, and that Donald Trump wasn't. (Partly because of the way The New York Times came out almost instantly with a denial of Corn's report, based on interviews with those honorable men Roger Stone and Carter Page, again H/t Bethesda, even as it gave enormous attention to the dead-end story of Huma Abedin's computer.)

In any case, Trump can't control himself for more than a few hours at a time, and he can't take responsibility for anything. This should be understood as a real physical fact about the president, a feature of his brain chemistry. It's a reason it really does make sense to talk about a coup, and a reason the adults in the room should be talking less about resignation than threatening him with jail.

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