John Casey (The Advocate) writes:
As this crisis deteriorates, becomes unmanageable and inexplicably horrible, so will Trump's behavior. A perfect storm that will unravel an unprepared, unrelatable, and unsympathetic president. A fairy tale turned into the horror of all horror stories.Trump's petulant outburst at NBC's Peter Alexander last week was clear evidence of someone who knows he's in over his head, and is unraveling. I know a lot of people wonder if Donald Trump really believes everything he says. I think, at this point, he believes most of what he says. I think he has to, to make his way in the world. But I also think that, regarding the Covid-19 virus and the ever-growing crisis, he knows he has no idea what to do. All of his usual tricks have had no effect: He cannot insult the virus, he cannot sue it, and he can no longer ignore it. He possesses an extremely limited set of coping skills. And he is out of ideas.
He also seems to live each moment as if it is the only moment that has ever existed. Right now is a moment and so Trump says whatever he needs to say to make himself look good at this moment. Then, that moment is gone and the next moment is here. And Trump says what he needs to say to make himself look good at this moment. Of course, what he says in the second moment might be the complete opposite of what he said in the first moment. It doesn't matter. He may not even remember what he first said. He operates in a world devoid of context, a world in which nothing is connected, and a world (usually) without consequences for him.
Trump's recent comments about the virus show how he will say whatever he thinks will get him through a particular moment.
March 15, 2020 (US cases: 7,473)The number of US cases keeps rising. In the last four days: 19,383 ... 24,207 ... 32,356 ... 43,714 ...
Trump: "Take it easy, just relax. ... I'm not concerned, OK? ... We've stopped it. ... It's a very contagious virus. It's incredible. But it's something we have tremendous control of."
March 16, 2020 (US cases: 8,210)
Trump: "I was talking about what we're doing is under control. But I'm not talking about the virus."
March 17, 2020 (US cases: 9,193)
Trump: "I've felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic."
March 19, 2020 (US cases: 13,789)
Trump: "It's something that surprised the whole world. If people could've known about it, it could've been stopped in place."
Trump has never had this kind of responsibility before. He doesn't want this level of responsibility. He doesn't like it, because he has no idea what to do. He is unable to take orders from anyone, or even to really listen to them (when people pay attention to someone else, he usually looks down with his arms folded defiantly across his chest), and he cannot run away. Donald Trump is uniquely unsuited to assume any role in fighting this virus.
Trump is now saying this virus is merely a part of the normal flu season. The mounting deaths are brushed aside:
We have a very active flu season, more active than most. It's looking like it's heading to 50,000 or more deaths — not cases, 50,000 deaths. Which is — that's a lot. And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we're talking about. That doesn't mean we're going to tell everybody, "No more driving of cars." So we have to do things to get our country open.Trump is impatient and is ready for everything to go back to the way it was pre-coronavirus, as soon as possible. He wants to stop "social distancing" because he thinks it's not good for business. "I'm not looking at months, I'll tell you that."
Trump wants to "reopen" the country in 15 days. He is saying this at the exact moment the US has become the global epicenter of the worst public health crisis of the last century.
Trump said, dismissively, on Monday: "If it were up to the doctors, they'd say let's shut down the entire world." (And he has gone back to claiming that the virus "is going away".)
Trump has stopped listening to all medical experts. Instead, he is asking "informal advisers, TV personalities, and MAGA loyalists outside his administration for their ideas". (In other words, only people who will tell him his ideas for amazingly brilliant.)
Trump also said this: "We can't let the cruise lines go out of business." ... Oh, it turns out Covid-19 survived in Princess Cruise ship cabins for 17 days after passengers left. ... Anyone feel confident that Trump will rethink that 15-day thing?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was noticeably absent on the stage when Trump spoke: "I cannot see that all of a sudden, next week or two weeks from now, it's going to be over. I don't think there's a chance of that." ... Trump was asked if Fauci agrees with reopening the country: "He doesn't not agree."
The Times reports: "The president has become increasingly concerned as Dr. Anthony S. Fauci has grown bolder in correcting his falsehoods about the spread of the coronavirus." ... He is losing his patience because someone is publicly correcting his lies.
Trump said GM and Ford are making ventilators "right now". ... Actually, no auto company is making medical equipment such as ventilators and if they were to do so, it would take months to get set up.
Trump is also making jokes about the virus during a White House press conference. He offered a sarcastic "Gee, that's too bad" when a reporter mentioned Mitt Romney testing positive. (In case you forgot what a complete asshole Trump is.)
Trump simply does not give a shit: "Let's go to work. Our country wasn't built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this. It was not built to be shut down."
Before he was elected, Trump said (about many things): "I alone can fix it." ... Things went to shit and he said: "I don't take responsibility at all." ... Now he wants to control a $500 billion slush fund (i.e., the taxes you and your children will be paying for a very long time) and give the money away as he sees fit, but not have to tell anyone how he distributed the money. "Look, I'll be the oversight. I'll be the oversight.")
A couple in Arizona took "chloroquine phosphate because Trump said on TV it was a cure and was safe". Trump: "It's not going to kill anybody." ... The husband is dead and the wife is in ICU. ... Trump said yesterday that the drug "would be a gift from God".
When oh when is the media going to get tough and seriously press Trump on his constant lies, which are literally killing people? ... CBS continues to report Trump's lies as fact. ... NPR and the New York Times also continue to whitewash his obvious lies. (Last month, the Times portrayed Trump as an environmental activist.) No one in the media is truly standing up to him - and it is allowing him to spew hundreds of dangerous lies during a global pandemic. Every day, the media is complicit in the rising number of deaths.
No television station should broadcast anything this sociopath does live. On the off-chance he says anything worthwhile, which would be very rare, run it on tape later.
Chauncey DeVega (Salon) reminds us that numerous mental health experts (in the US and around the world) have repeatedly warned us that Trump is extremely mentally unwell.
He has publicly and repeatedly shown that he is a malignant narcissist, a pathological liar and a delusional fabulist. He is detached from reality and appears to live in his own fantasy world. His lack of empathy, care and concern for others can reasonably be described as sociopathic. ... To defeat the coronavirus will require patient and wise leadership based on facts, reason, and expertise. Because the coronavirus is a public health crisis it is a problem of science and empirical knowledge. It cannot be wished away or prayed away or eliminated through other forms of magical thinking.John Talmadge, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, tweeted after Trump's reply to NBC's Peter Alexander: "These are psychiatric symptoms, not simply boorish behaviors. Trump is mentally ill, cognitively compromised, brain impaired. He can't even recognize a softball [question] tossed his way. Dementia runs in families, destroyed Fred Trump."
Dr. Bandy Lee is a professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and editor of the bestselling book The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Lee spoke at length to Salon, stating that the pressures of the coronavirus pandemic will make Trump's various mental pathologies worse and more dangerous.
Salon: For several years you have been one of the most prominent public voices warning the American people and the world about the dangers represented by Donald Trump. Now, facing the coronavirus pandemic, where are we as a country and people, relative to the events you predicted would result from Trump's presidency?
Lee: This a real crisis, both in terms of Trump's presidency and in terms of his psyche. At first Trump tried to manage the coronavirus in his mind by pretending that it was nothing. It was something that would go away in no time; the virus would somehow magically disappear. That is Trump's fantasy world. When that wasn't happening, and the stock market was in crisis and tumult, Trump then tried to look like he was in charge by giving a speech to the whole country. Trump continues to have these televised speeches and press conferences to make it look like he is control of the coronavirus crisis, all while he has Mike Pence and other government officials praise him on TV.
Trump is not in touch with reality. He cannot control the coronavirus with his mind and by living in a fantasy world, as he has done for most of the crisis. Mental health professionals have been warning for years that Trump's mental health issues would lead to such a dire situation. Trump is not showing just a lack of presidential leadership. What he is doing is so irresponsible and inept that having him as president is in some ways worse than having no leadership in the country at all. Trump is spreading disinformation, suppressing reality, and threatening those experts and other people who are telling him things about the coronavirus pandemic that he doesn't want to hear. ... His mental health issues are translating directly into deaths and widespread calamity.
Watching Donald Trump's evasion of responsibility for making the coronavirus much worse, his emotional distance, lack of care and concern, and general lack of interest, it seems clear that he is a likely sociopath. He does not appear to be a human being who is capable of empathy or sympathy for other people. He appears incapable of feeling guilt when his actions hurt people.
That is correct. Donald Trump lacks the traits of empathy, sympathy and guilt. Those basic characteristics of humanity have not developed in him. No matter how many lives are impacted by the virus or how many deaths occur, it doesn't really touch him. Human beings are like objects to Donald Trump. He doesn't really relate to other people as if they are human beings. For example, we have now learned that Trump and his son-in-law and other family members may be trying to make money off the coronavirus pandemic through testing, the vaccine and the masks. Making money from the coronavirus disaster is more real to Donald Trump than the lives of people being lost to the virus.
How does Trump's malleable view of reality, his extreme and dangerous fantasies, impact his decision-making?
It's not that he has a malleable view of reality — if his view of reality was flexible then it could in some ways be productive. Trump actually wishes to hold on to the opposite of reality because he cannot tolerate reality as it exists. In truth, Trump is incompetent and not even able to engage in rational thinking. As such, the most threatening thing to a person whose mind works in such a way is science and facts. Scientific evidence and empirical reality are immutable. They do not change to fit Trump's desires and whims. This is very threatening to Donald Trump.
When the World Health Organization reported a 3.4% death rate for Coronavirus, Trump could not simply wish it away as being less than 1% — which was his immediate desire. This is all very threatening for him. During Trump's press conference last Monday, he looked extremely deflated, as if he was finally beaten down by the actual numbers about the coronavirus. ...
Trump's behavior, his looking beaten down, is what happens to an overinflated self-image when it is confronted with reality. Trump cannot tolerate reality. He cannot last very long without either falling into a deep state of depression or lashing out in massive violence. Those two go hand in hand. ... When reality pushes back against Trump's fantasy world he is going to fight back as though he is fighting for his life. Donald Trump, with all the powers of the presidency and given his mind and behavior, is the most dangerous man on the planet.
Are you suggesting the coronavirus is an opportunity for Donald Trump to fully take over the country and to end democracy and the rule of law?
Once Trump gets a fuller grasp of the situation, one can imagine that his thoughts will immediately go in that direction. Donald Trump is continually at war with the world and reality. Trump could use the coronavirus as an opportunity to secure his power. Given that the American public is frightened and confused, this could be an opportune moment for such a move. When the Senate chose not to convict Trump, it encouraged him. Such a personality does not settle down. Such a personality is not content with the power he is amassing. Trump's expectations of power are rising in ways which are uncontrollable. ...
There are so many naysayers who say, "Oh, Trump's not dangerous, he's bumbling. He hasn't gotten what he wanted, he can't even think that way." How would you respond?
Trump is impaired and, yes, he does seem to be a bumbling fool. But Trump has a massive following and he controls the Republican Party. The problem is that when there is a person like Donald Trump who is impaired in the higher functions of the brain, the lower functions — the primitive or "reptilian" brain — become more powerful than ever before. That part of the human brain is based on fear, on instinct. Those impulses help Trump to control his people, his frenzied irrational followers. Those people are the key to Trump's power. This is not a strategy; it is a pathology. Trump's movement is an actual mental disease spreading across the country. As others have pointed out, Donald Trump leads a cult. The Republicans and his other followers are Trump's cult members.
It works very much that way because when a person has high levels of exposure to someone with untreated mental pathology, the vector of transmission is not physical, as we are seeing with the coronavirus, but instead through emotional bonds. Donald Trump creates emotional bonds and a condition of dependence on him among the cult members. Trump is delusional. Trump is not just lying, because simple lying does not have such a powerful effect on an entire population. Trump's delusions have been induced across an entire population of his supporters and other followers. Now an entire segment of the American people is delusional and detached from reality through Trump. We see this with Trump initially telling the country that the coronavirus is a hoax, that they should go out to restaurants and gatherings, go to work, hug people, etc. Because Trump's followers revere him, they do what he says.
Trump's obvious mental pathologies, in combination with the coronavirus, seem like a true disaster for America and the world.
It was bound to happen. The coronavirus just happened to be part of the equation. The coronavirus pandemic is a graphic illustration of how disastrous allowing the mental health pandemic that is Trump's cult to continue unabated. A mental disease pandemic is now making everything else worse, including the coronavirus. Trump is inspiring very dangerous behavior. It is fanatical.
This is what happens when mental pathology from an influential figure engulfs a large segment of the population. Trump's followers derive their identity, their sense of meaning in their lives, and how they understand the world from what he says. Trump actually disdains the people who follow him. But Trump will do anything to keep their loyalty because they are the base of his power. Donald Trump has a pathological, authoritarian relationship with his followers. In that relationship they have lost their personhood, autonomy and even their ability to think for themselves. Trump's followers are becoming more dependent, more conformist and more servile to him the longer he stays in power.
Trump supporters contact me every day. Several years ago, I was able to converse with them and I was able to challenge their beliefs — not convert them, per se, but at least engage with them as human beings and start a conversation. That has become much more difficult now, because Trump's supporters are fixed in their thinking. They automatically regurgitate Trump's talking points. They are unable to hear what other people are saying if it does not support Trump. You can no longer reason with them. ... With the coronavirus it will come to a point where Trump supporters get sick and die in large numbers. They will still support Donald Trump.
Trump is not a savior, but a human being with flaws. Trump's followers cannot even conceive of that fact. It cannot even enter their conscious mind because they will block it. If a person tries to explain reality to Trump's supporters, they will do anything to hold onto their fantasies about Trump and to follow his commands. Unfortunately, there is a dynamic where mental symptoms are contagious, and individuals start to have the same symptoms of the primary person — even though they usually don't have a mental health disorder. Mentally unwell leaders influence their followers to behave the same way.
Fox News and the right-wing media have been circulating dangerous lies about the coronavirus. How does that fit into the Trump mental disorder pandemic?
I was watching Fox News some 20 years ago and realized that it would cause a national public mental health crisis in the future. Donald Trump is the result of decades of poisoning people's minds and manipulating and controlling them.
How will Trump's followers and other people addicted to Fox News and the right-wing disinformation machine reconcile seeing real people — perhaps even their relatives — get sick and die from the coronavirus with the lies they have been told by their trusted information sources?
The human mind is very powerful. The human mind is capable of turning everything upside down, and Donald Trump has already instructed his followers not to believe what they're seeing and only to listen to him. Fox News and other right-wing media outlets have been instructing the same thing. I am very afraid that the coronavirus pandemic will cause many deaths and that Donald Trump will then say that the disease was somehow spread in the United States by the Democrats in order to ruin his re-election chances. Trump's followers will believe that and blame the Democrats. In their minds the coronavirus will be the Democrats' fault and not the result of a global disease.
That is another example of how Trump, the Republicans and the broader right-wing movement use stochastic terrorism against Democrats, liberals, nonwhite people, Muslims and any other group or individuals they target as the "enemy." In that logic, if the Democrats are somehow responsible for the coronavirus then violence against them is both reasonable and necessary.
Donald Trump has violence in mind. He's a coward. Normally, he would not even wish to go in the direction of violence, but if his survival were threatened — especially his emotional and mental survival and his inflated sense of self — Trump will resort to violence. That violence could be in the form of a civil war or a war in another country. Trump has said such things before. His foreign policy also reflects his violent mind. My greatest worry is that the more the coronavirus crisis worsens and the more Trump feels threatened as he realizes that he cannot force his delusional reality into being a real one, there is a greater likelihood of him resorting to extreme means.