Monday, November 19, 2018

Donald Trump: Lost in Paradise

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)
Ironically, the Internet has a short memory. It's ironic because of the subject matter I'm about to discuss: The very likely prospect that Donald Trump has Alzheimer's.
     I was reminded today of how brief the Internet's collective memory goes when I tried to find an anecdote that I vividly remember from Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign against Bill Clinton. The anecdote, part of an article I'd read 22 years ago, was about how shamelessly Dole tried to get the endorsement of Ronald Reagan, then deep in the throes of his own dementia. Dole had pressed his book on Reagan, which was of course displayed front and center for the equally shameless photo op. Then Reagan said something startling- "I read your tree."
     The author of the article then paused excoriating Dole long enough to explain something about sufferers of Alzheimer's. He mentioned the associative leaps they at times make when trying and failing to find the word they're looking for. In President Reagan's mind, books were made of paper and paper comes from trees, two associative leaps, in order to describe the book that had been thrust into his hand for a cheap endorsement. What Ronald Reagan said about reading Dole's "tree" was actually typical of those with the dreaded disease.
     I give you Donald John Trump, lost in Paradise.
     Trump was finally convinced to go to the scene of the latest disaster to be mismanaged on his watch, which he avoids as strenuously as going to war zones hosting our troops. Everywhere he shows up in those places of woe, he invariably, every single time, manages to embarrass the victims he pretends to comfort and his hosts. As Bill Maher recently said in his season 16 finale of Real Time, it's as if every disaster Trump goes to, he's like, "How can I hurt?"
     Whether it be throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans and bragging about the invisible F-35 at emergency management meetings there, telling hungry hurricane victims to "have a good time" or telling a war widow on the phone that her dead and dismembered husband "knew what he signed up for," Donald Trump has proven more times than physicists can count that he is a sociopath who is psychologically as badly equipped for comfort as a predator spotting wounded prey.
     We all know Trump is a sociopath. There's no doubt about it. He gave us a clue as to how much of a sociopath he is in a Howard Stern radio interview he'd given a decade ago when a fellow billionaire was sitting next to him at a ball at Mar-a-Lago and had a medical emergency. He fell off the stage, hit his head and the old man was bleeding profusely. Trump told Stern his reaction was not to get the man some medical help because that's not what he's about but, "Oh my God, someone get him out of here. That's disgusting!", referring to the blood. (Think about similar comments he made about Mika Brzezinski and, less than two months into his campaign, Megyn Kelly.)
     What happened in Paradise,California over the weekend was extraordinary in more than just Trump forgoing his usual weekend golf outing in Mar-a-Lago for something vaguely presidential. These photo ops that always feature dour-faced Governors and Mayors and in which no one reasonably expects the president to do anything more constructive than to show a baseline of compassion and leadership, is generally considered one of the easiest parts of a president's job.
     Not that time. Not ever, in fact.

Watergate 2.0
It was almost exactly one year ago, November 15th, to be more precise, when Donald Trump had a very public losing battle with a water bottle. The mainstream media and amateur pundits alike made merry over that extremely awkward moment, calling it karma for daring on the campaign trail to mock Marco Rubio for having his own awkward moment with bottled water a few years earlier.

     Indeed, as Mike Warren (@MichaelRWarren) put it on Twitter back then, "This has really been a missed branding moment for Trump Water." But I was not among the ones who were laughing or mocking Trump for his own battle with the bottle. I saw something else in it that alarmed me much more than Trump having yet another WWE trash-talking moment during his own campaign. 
     If you go to Alzheimer.org's website, you'll see the 10 early warning signs of the onset of Alzheimer's disease and at least eight or nine of them apply to Trump. The usually reliable WebMD site lists 14 more signs, one of them being, "Mild coordination problems, such as trouble writing or using familiar objects."
     Such as a water bottle, for instance. Trump's own "Watergate" showed a noticeable lack of fine motor function, whereas Senator Rubio's own moment was just awkward timing and an inconvenient thirst while delivering a rebuttal under hot studio lights.
     Fast forward to this weekend. There "President" Donald Trump stood, his camouflage USA hat screwed on his careful combover, his hands on his hips, trying to look like someone in charge but only succeeding in looking like Clark Kent in the disguise of a punch-drunk deer hunter who'd just fallen out of his blind. Outgoing Governor Jerry Brown stood beside him as Donald Trunmp stood in the charred ruins of what used to be Paradise, California, the community of 20,000 that was wiped out by the worst wildfire in California history, and called the now defunct town "Pleasure."
     Not once but twice. Poor Governor Brown almost did a double take when Trump first called it "Pleasure." And, yours truly, not having any memory issues either long or short term, immediately thought way back to that dreadful moment in 1996 with Bob Dole in Reagan's office.
     "I read your tree."
     "Pleasure, what a name."
     Pleasure is often associated with Paradise or what passes for it in our burning and smoking nation. Yet this wasn't a case of Trump being too incurious about learning the name of the fire-ravaged town in which he stood. He honestly couldn't remember it.

Fuck the Goldwater Rule. 25 for 45
There have been several dystopian movies about a president who is completely off his rocker. And those of you old to remember the last days of the Nixon administration (in which Nixon rattled around the empty halls of the White House mumbling to oil portraits of his predecessors) will know that at least in that instance, life imitated art. Ironically, it was Nixon himself who was the first to invoke the 25th Amendment when Vice President Agnew resigned under a cloud of scandal and, less than a year later, President Gerald Ford became the second to invoke it by naming a Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, to fill the void he'd created by replacing Nixon.
     But those two times, the 25th Amendment was invoked just for one of its intended purposes, which was to establish and solidify the Rules of Succession. But the 25th Amendment also provides a policy for a president who is deceased or otherwise unable to fulfill the duties of the office.
     Donald Trump has provided us with many reasons to invoke it yet, horridly, neither party publicly seems willing to even consider invoking it despite the fact we have in the Oval Office a man who can't even drink from a water bottle without both hands or is capable of completing a sentence or remember the name of the disaster area he's visiting. Indeed, at this point it's almost as if mocking Donald Trump is cruel and verges on elder abuse were it not for the awesome power still in his shaky grasp.
     And quite a few modern day Republicans' sanity have been seriously questioned, often for good reason. It really started when Barry Goldwater was preparing to run into a buzz saw called Lyndon Johnson and a progressive electorate in 1964. When Goldwater suggested we use nuclear weapons on North Vietnam, psychologists in the press began to seriously question the Arizona senator's mental fitness for office. When that was decried in psychiatric trade journals and the press, psychologists and psychiatrists quickly established the non-binding "Goldwater Rule." It stated that no one in the psychiatric profession diagnose from a distance a politician's mental health.
     It's impossible for us to now imagine a supposedly elected president who is more mentally disabled than Donald Trump. Dazed, he shakily wobbled on one leg and walked away from Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu before shaking his hand, walking right past his presidential limo just after getting off Air Force One and, last weekend, couldn't remember the name of the California town mentioned most often in the news this week.
     Not removing Donald Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment is placing party primacy over the good of the nation. Leaving Trump in office indefinitely to the point where every so-called pundit is already theorizing over whom Trump will oppose in 2020, as if he'll actually be around that long, is worse than a reckless political ploy. The Republicans don't want to replace him with Pence because one, Trump's a useful idiot and, two, Pence is a dangerous nonentity balefully waiting in the wings.
     That's a helluva price to pay for not having to admit they bet on the wrong horse because they couldn't tell he was really a jackass long past his shelf life. It's a hell of a price to pay to run the risk that this plainly mentally impaired man has his shaky finger on the big red button.

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