Monday, November 09, 2020

The Next 76 Days "Will Likely Be The Most Norm-Shattering, Law-Defying, And Potentially Violence-Inciting" Of Trump's Presidency; Trump Could Throw "The Greatest Political Temper Tantrum In History", Acting "Like A Malicious Child With A Sledgehammer In A China Shop"

Donald Trump is psychologically incapable of accepting defeat and he has just been soundly defeated while the whole world watched by a man he ridiculed for well over a year as weak and senile. Donald Trump cannot tolerate, on any level, being considered a "loser" and for the rest of his life, he will be continually reminded that he is a "loser". 

For the next 76 days, until Joe Biden's inauguration on January 20, 2021, however, Trump will also still be in charge of one of the world's most powerful countries.

It's not an ideal situation.

Dr. Bandy X. Lee, the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, has been speaking publicly about the dangers regarding Trump's diminished mental capacity since 2017. She says the current situation was entirely predictable "from his personality and the power handed to him". Lee told Salon's Matthew Roza that the United States is "entering a very dangerous period".

The 76 days between now and the inauguration will likely be the most norm-shattering, law-defying, and potentially violence-inciting that we have experienced so far in this presidency.  Donald Trump is about to engage in a fight for his life, having given himself no possibility of losing, and even his and our preservation cannot be assured, given the powers he has in his possession. . . .

We have a person who has no internal constraints and who would go to any extents to avoid being a 'loser' and a 'sucker.' We know this because he labels other people these things, in order to deny and disavow these qualities in himself, since he cannot tolerate them. Losing will be like psychic death for him, which will drive him more easily to annihilate himself and others than to accept. Violating laws and norms is nothing for him, even when he is not in such peril, and so we can expect to see an acceleration of that.

Elizabeth Mika is a counselor and therapist who contributed to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. She says Trump "will continue spinning the election results as a fraud and conspiracy to oust him, fomenting rage and hate among his followers, and social unrest which will serve as his revenge by proxy." She points out that many Trump supporters also have narcissistic traits.

Collective and individual narcissism is the fuel of tyranny. These character disordered leaders are elected to affirm the sense of specialness and superiority (narcissism) of their followers. It is a symbiotic (and ultimately destructive) relationship as both sides satisfy their narcissistic needs through it, for some time at least — because sooner or later the political or any structure built on narcissism falls apart. However, when combined, as they often are, these two traits alone — narcissism and authoritarian submissiveness — create a powerful mix that cements the followers' devotion to their leader. . . . This devotion can be very reality-resistant and justify all kinds of problematic behaviors, including violence. . . .

Of course these leaders' strength is illusory — it is actually their lack of conscience (psychopathy) that is mistaken for strength. Since they don't have empathy and do not experience guilt, shame and self-doubt, they appear to be decisive and clear-minded. But it is really emotional primitivism and brutality.

Dr. Michele Gelfand, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World, says we should expect troubling psychological behavior from Trump, because he

has proven to be a rule breaker who is willing to try to break norms anytime it serves his agenda. He also sends strong signals to his followers that they should challenge the rules as well . . . [L]ike other authoritarian leaders [Trump] creates an atmosphere of threat and fear, targets people who are already struggling, attacks civic institutions, and promises that he is the only one who can restore order. It's a very similar pattern that we see among other leaders with authoritarian tendencies.

Rozsa writes:

As the votes continued to be counted this week, Trump prematurely declared victory, filed numerous frivolous lawsuits in states that he lost and outright fabricated claims of fraud. This is unsurprising and fits with the aforementioned psychological assessment; indeed, Trump spent months falsely claiming mail-in ballots are susceptible to fraud without producing a shred of evidence to back that assertion. (His motive: Democrats in this election were more likely to vote by mail than Republicans.) He has appointed post office officials who slowed down the mail, increasing the likelihood that ballots would not arrive in time to be counted. There have even been hints that he will simply refuse to leave office if he loses, a throwback to his refusal during the 2016 election to accept any outcome other than a victory. (He also made spurious claims of voter fraud after the 2016 election in order to deceive people into believing he had won the popular vote, even though he did not.) . . .

Even if Trump does not attempt to install himself as an authoritarian ruler, there are still other ways his narcissistic personality could harm America as a result of losing the election, as many experts have suggested. He could punish states that voted against him when it comes to matters like providing federal aid during the pandemic or tank the American economy by pressuring the Federal Reserve to try to drive up interest rates and stop supporting the stock and corporate bond markets. It is nearly certain that he will try to convince millions of Americans that the candidate who defeated him, former Vice President Joe Biden, is not a legitimate president.

Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic, November 8, 2020:
Presidents who leave office in the modern era recede from public life, often happily so. They write memoirs, plan their library, and pick up new hobbies. As a courtesy, they give the sitting president space to govern without catapulting themselves into the national conversation. Donald Trump will be different: He isn't going anywhere.

Even after his defeat, the soon-to-be-former president, who feeds on attention, will make sure that he's not deprived of any of it. From his exile in Mar-a-Lago, he'll phone in to favored TV anchors and radio hosts to carp about the election results. If he's not banned from the platform, he'll use Twitter to keep up a running commentary on incoming President Joe Biden. . . . "There is nothing about him that goes gently into the night," Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University and a presidential historian, told me. . . . "He doesn't want to become a third-rate, has-been figure."

Or an even bigger target for prosecutors. No small part of his return to private life will be spent fighting a range of legal threats and investigations into his business dealings. . . . [Manhattan] D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. has suggested in court filings that his office is investigating Trump's business activities. Separately, the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, has embarked on a civil probe into whether the Trump Organization inflated its assets to obtain bank loans.

Trump's deteriorating mental state has been an issue since he took office. Bob Corker, a former republican Senator from Tennessee, referred to the White House in 2017 an "adult day care center", adding "I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him."

In 2019, Miles Taylor, who worked in the Department of Homeland Security, published A Warning anonymously, but outed himself in 2020. He wrote that working with Trump was "like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak":
He stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information, not occasionally but with regularity.
Other senior officials have reported Trump appears to be suffering from some form of dementia. Former White House adviser Omarosa Newman stated in her book Unhinged that Trump's "mental decline could not be denied". Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said last year that Trump "has declining mental faculties".

Mary L. Trump, a clinical psychologist and Trump's niece, says Trump's behavior shows the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder. She also told one cable news interviewer during the days of vote counting that knowing her uncle as she does, he was likely in "an uncontrollable rage" in the White House. Several mental-health experts have suggested that Trump may suffer from malignant narcissism, a term coined by the psychologist Erich Fromm, in 1964, in order to describe Hitler and Stalin.

John Gartner, a psychologist, psychotherapist, and former assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, led the Duty to Warn movement in 2017 and has advocated removing Trump from office through the Twenty-fifth Amendment. He told Jeannie Suk Gersen of The New Yorker that malignant narcissism is a "psychiatric condition that makes you evil". Gersen wrote that it combined:
narcissism (which features the extremes of poor self-esteem and distorted self-enlargement), paranoia (which Gartner sees in "the crazy conspiracy theories, sense of victimization, and demonization of minorities"), psychopathy ("lying and exploiting people"), and sadism. The condition is considered dangerous because the combination of aggression, suspiciousness, lack of empathy, and a fragile ego might result in vindictive and destructive acts when the sufferer is wounded.
Before Trump's impeachment trial in February 2020, more than 800 mental-health professionals signed a letter to Congress, warning that "failing to monitor or to understand the psychological aspects" of humiliating Trump "could lead to catastrophic outcomes".

Gartner, like Dr. Lee, thinks the time between Trump losing the election and January 20 has the potential to be the "most dangerous" period of his Presidency. "What does a malignant narcissistic person do when they're enraged? They want to act out in an aggressive and sadistic way, to regain their sense of power." Gartner compared the voting public to "the abused spouse" who finally says to the abuser, "We're going to leave you. We're kicking you out of the house. Come January, we're packing your bags. Well, what does he do then?" 

On October 9, 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a new bill establishing a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of the Office, which would help preserve stability "if a President suffers a crippling physical or mental problem". The announcement came only one week after Trump allegedly contracted SARS-CoV-2. The 25th Amendment allows Congress to deem a President "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" and remove him from power. 

The New Yorker:
Section four of the Twenty-fifth Amendment provides two distinct avenues for removing a President against his will. In one, the Vice-President joins with a majority of the Cabinet to send Congress a written declaration that the President is unable to serve. In the other, the Vice-President does so along with a majority of "such other body as Congress may by law provide." The purpose of the House bill is to provide the congressionally appointed body that the Amendment contemplates, by creating a commission of seventeen members to be chosen by both parties, consisting of physicians and former high executive-branch officials. According to the Twenty-fifth Amendment, once Congress receives a declaration of the President's incapacity, both houses could then decide, by two-thirds votes, to replace him with the Vice-President. . . .

The discussion resurfaced more seriously [in October], however, in light of Trump's hospitalization for COVID-19 and the White House's lack of transparency around his treatment. The news that he was medicated with the steroid dexamethasone, used for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, also alarmed many because its known side effects include aggression, agitation, and "grandiose delusions"—behaviors that, judging from the President's Twitter account, at least, he already seemed to exhibit. 

The 25th Amendment has been use din recent administrations but only for very temporary and limited times. George W. Bush invoked it twice for colonoscopies. The Reagan administration considered it when Reagan was in surgery after being shot, but decided against it. It was invoked four years later when Reagan had surgery for colon cancer. 

The New Yorker:
In the realm of mental incapacity, as Richard Nixon faced likely impeachment, his staff feared that his unravelling state might lead him to order a nuclear launch, and his Defense Secretary went so far as to tell the Joint Chiefs not to execute such a military order if it came directly from the President. But Nixon's Cabinet did not seek to set in motion his removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Reagan's staff considered invoking the Amendment when his dementia became evident to them, late in his second term, but decided against it. In 2017, Rod Rosenstein, then Trump's Deputy Attorney General, reportedly suggested that the Cabinet invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment, shortly after Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James Comey.
One of the first things you notice about Trump (after the non-stop lying and exaggerated image (knowing more about everything than anyone else)) is his habit of projecting his own flaws (and crimes and weaknesses) onto other people in an effort to deflect criticism of himself. So, to use three recent examples, he claimed Biden is on drugs, Biden's son is ultra-corrupt, and Biden will do anything steal the election. One observer commented:
Trump is a man with almost zero ability to empathize or imagine other people’s motives or drives. His ego and narcissism are so oversized they warp all his opinions into reflections of himself. Since he has no understanding of anyone but himself, when he tries to attribute motive, needs, or desires in others, they are therefore at best something from himself that he recognizes in them, or simply a reflection of feelings he himself has. In simple terms, one might say his mind is empty of any thoughts that are not self-referential. And so self-projection is simply a consequence of this vacuity.
Trump's claim of Biden's mental decline neatly fits into this habit. In March of this year, Trump said of Biden: "They're going to put him in a home, and other people are going to be running the country." 

Way back in October 2016, James Fallows of The Atlantic wrote, after Trump's doctor claimed he was "unequivocally the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency" and Trump suggested Hillary Clinton might be abusing drugs, and said both candidates should submit to drug testing before the final presidential debate (something Trump repeated in 2020, knowing it would never happen):
To a first order of approximation, everything that Donald Trump has said about his opponents should be understood as projection, in the psychological sense of the term. That is, any defect Trump has complained about in his primary or general-election opponents, is more likely to seem an obvious flaw in himself.

Trump called Ted Cruz "Lyin' Ted," and Cruz has his moments. But no other politician of any party approaches Trump's level of nonstop falsehood on matters large and small. Trump says that Hillary Clinton is secretive and scheming, and she too has her moments. But no other modern politician has matched Trump's secrecy about his business operations or his taxes. He is hyper-attentive to other people's weight gains, but is quite pudgy himself. . . . Trump has said that Hillary Clinton is turning the campaign negative through personal attacks rather than policy. That she's skating through without offering substantive details. That she's race-baiting and dividing the country. That she is not as respectful of women as he is. That there's something wrong with her physical and mental health. And, most of all, that she has bad judgment and a risky temperament.

Whether these and related attacks are a shrewd preemptive strategy against Clinton ("She's going to say I don't know policy, so let's get to her first!") or simple reflexive "projection" in the classic sense, I can't say.  (My guess, of course, is the latter.) Either way, after the election I think we'll look back to see the striking correlation between the flaws Trump calls out in his adversaries, and the flaws everyone else sees in him.
Malcolm Nance, a veteran intelligence analyst with the US Navy, told The Guardian:
If Trump loses power he'll spend his last 90 days wrecking the United States like a malicious child with a sledgehammer in a china shop. We're likely to see the greatest political temper tantrum in history. He may decide he wants to go out with a bang, he may decide he will not accept the election result. Who knows what a cornered autocrat will do? . . .

I've had a lot of experience with autocrats, despots and third-world potentates, so I got to see how these people behave. There's been a change in the way autocrats and wannabe autocrats like Donald Trump have ended their careers. In the old days, if you weren't killed by your political foes, you took a billion dollars, went off to the French Riviera, and disappeared. They just went off the stage. Now they no longer want to do that. They want to have all of their money and remain in power, and spend the money. Who knows with Donald Trump?
Before the election, Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and chair of the Human Rights Foundation, wrote an opinion piece for CNN, in which he said "it's time to prepare for the worst":
After praising dictators, attacking veterans, demeaning women, discrediting our democracy, and surrendering to a raging pandemic, we can only hope that Trump has also undone himself.

We cannot know exactly what Trump will do in these final days, only that whatever it is, he will be thinking only of himself. . . .

Normal people don't like to imagine terrible events, which is why autocrats consistently surprise them. (As when I wrote here back in April that it would seem logical to someone like Trump to try to sabotage the US Postal Service if he thought it could help his electoral chances. Unimaginable, until it happened.)

You could make a very long list of things pundits insisted autocrats would never do that they eventually did. I made such a list myself, about Vladimir Putin. In my 2015 book, "Winter Is Coming," I called it the "Putin would never" list. It included things like taking over private media companies, arresting Russia's richest man for dabbling in politics and invading Georgia and Ukraine

"Doesn't Putin realize how bad this looks?" became the experts' refrain after he crossed line after uncrossable line. As if he cared how things looked. Why should he? Dictators don't ask "Why?" They only ask, "Why not?" They don't stop unless someone stops them. No one stopped Putin. . . .

Putin laid bare the huge disconnect between autocrats and normal people — the autocrats' ability to do things that simply don't occur to people with a sense of decency and a respect for norms and traditions. . . . 

Trump no doubt believes that he has more to lose by leaving office than by fighting — lawlessly or not — to stay. . . . It will take years to untangle the web of his financial dealings and how the treasure and might of the United States was exploited to serve the President's personal interests and those of his cronies. If defeated, Trump will likely spend his last months in a flurry of self-dealing, tossing out pardons and trying to discredit his opponents and the system itself. . . .

Defeating Trump overwhelmingly at the polls is the most important step, but it's only the first step. Americans who want to see the rule of law restored and strengthened must be ready to fight for it — in the courts and in the streets if necessary . . . because there is little doubt that Trump and his supporters will not go quietly.
Susan Surftone, a former FBI agent, focused on Trump's massive personal debt in an October op-ed for The Advocate:
[After his] defeat at the polls on November 3 . . . our very feral president knows he's in the worst trouble of his litigious life. Donald is pulling out all stops with no regard to further damage he is doing to the country he leads. COVID-19 super spreader rallies are being held, and pandemic lies continue to put Americans at needless risk as Trump makes his desperate bid to stay in the White House, out of reach of both state and federal prosecutors. . . . 

Trump, with massive personal debt coming due in the next four years, needs a second term. His last hope is a nine-member Supreme Court stacked with his appointees that will hand a contested election to him while America quietly watches democracy die. . . . Donald Trump knows his back is against the wall. It is likely Trump will be a one-term president as a coming decisive defeat will not allow a successfully contested election to save him. . . .

As January 20, 2021 approaches it is likely he is weighing options as he will soon be exposed to prosecutors and creditors. Trump needs an exit strategy.

After a resounding defeat his Republican enablers will disavow him and push him out of the lifeboat as the party sinks. As the jockeying for position to run against Vice President Kamala Harris in 2024 starts, Trumpism will be pushed to the fringe. Trump will be a lonely, rebuked man. . . . He will need good attorneys, but as a habitual liar deep in debt and someone viewed as responsible for bringing the nation to the brink, Trump will likely not have access to top legal talent. Donald's post-presidency future is indeed bleak.

Trump's currency is the information he will take with him out of the White House. Every former president is trusted to keep the secrets he has learned about our national security to himself. . . . This is Donald's last norm to shatter. His indiscretion can place the country in danger and get people killed. . . . Trump knows exactly who would love to have access to a former president with a propensity for dangerous disclosure. Don't assume Trump didn't pay attention so he doesn't know much. Trump knows sensitive information might save him in the end and we do not know how much and what he has retained. . . . Perhaps hell has no fury like a certain former president toward an America that didn't treat him fairly.
Aninda Dey of The Times of India wrote about Trump's "manic outbursts" and "exhausting sparring sessions with the reality" of his defeat.
Dictators are diabolical, depraved, delusional and narcissist, have a vicious animosity towards logic and reasoning, and their false belief of invincibility triggers their downfall.

Donald J Trump's behaviour in the Oval Office, after his Democratic rival Joseph R Biden Jr. [crossed] the threshold of 270 electoral votes . . . [was a] deluge of rants, delusions, a fake narrative, alternate reality and invincibility . . .

In visible signs of loss of composure, dignity and intelligence, an exasperated Trump tweeted in all caps one hour before results and media projections showed that Biden had snagged the presidency from him on Saturday: "I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT." Twitter immediately flagged it taking the total count of such tweets and retweets to more than 12 . . . 

"The simple fact is this election is far from over," Trump thundered later in a rambling and lie-plagued statement . . . "We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don't want the truth to be exposed."

Digging his heels for a protracted court battle to challenge the results, Trump said, "Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated." . . .

Earlier in the week, as more and more mail-in votes were counted showing Biden widening the lead in key states, Trump delivered the most preposterous and lie-peppered speech of his presidency on Thursday questioning the legitimacy of American democratic process and the election itself. . . .

[Still, Trump has many supporters in government, including California representative Kevin McCarthy] "President Trump won this election. So, everyone who's listening: Do not be quiet; do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes," McCarthy told Fox News.

Dey states Trump has "shunned logic" to "an  unimaginable extent" and his "narcissism, freakish controlling tendencies, self-promotion, image building, personal aggrandisement, stubbornness and fatuousness" will ultimately lead to his downfall. 

But at what cost?

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