Focus On Trump's Acts, Not His Psychology
He is a clear threat to our democracy.
Posted Feb 11, 2017
My last blog explained why he is bad, not mad—crazy only like a fox. And that lumping him with the mentally ill is an insult to them, not him.
The urge among amateur diagnosticians to mislabel Trump as mentally ill is perfectly understandable. They are terrified (as am I) by his dictatorial and impulsive behavior and feel compelled to resort to psychiatric name calling as a way of delegitimizing him. But this is inaccurate, unnecessary, unfair to the mentally ill, ineffective, and badly off target.
We must challenge Trump on his outrageous behaviors and constant lies, not on his mental status. Speculations on Trump's psychological motivations, or whether he believes his own lies, are both distracting and irrelevant.
At this crucial moment, with our fragile democracy at serious risk, I really couldn't care less why Trump does what he does. It is his dangerous actions that count, not the psychological reasons he does them.
Within a week of taking office, Trump declared war on our Constitution and also on the courts charged with defending it. He claimed that, based on his evaluation of risks to national security, he could arbitrarily exclude travelers from selected Muslim countries, without any judicial review of the legality of his executive order.
His claim is unprecedented and has been twice rejected by the court: "There is no precedent to support this unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our democracy."
Trump ridiculed the four judges who ruled against him and claimed that they were acting politically—despite the fact that two had been appointed by Republican presidents and two by Democratic presidents. No president in our long history has ever shown such disrespect for the judiciary or willingness to defy the necessary checks and balances restraining presidential power.
Impending court decisions in this case may constitute a key turning point in United States history. Should the judges accept Trump's "national security" excuse for unconstitutional acts, it will embolden him to push for a much greater power grab. He can create a de facto dictatorship, eroding our precious civil rights, based only on his arbitrary interpretation of "national security."
The courts must establish that Trump's "national security" excuse is not a blank check, allowing for serial violations of the Constitution. Court decisions have always been heavily influenced by politics. The question now is whether judges will have the courage to support our Constitution in the face of Trump's determined bullying.
Trump is also setting up a straw man—he tweets that should a terrorist act ever occur, we should "blame them," not hold him responsible. He is preemptively abdicating responsibility for protecting the United States as best he can, but to do this in a manner consistent with upholding the Constitution and respecting our laws. Trump wants to establish the dangerous dichotomy that we either grant him dictatorial power or not hold him accountable for protecting national security.
All previous presidents understood that they were responsible for national security. None, not even George Bush, ever presumed that this gave them the right to rule autocratically and above the law.
Trump can be contained only by the checks and balances that have always safeguarded our democracy. His persistent power grabs must be opposed by Congress, the courts, the media, and the public.
So far Congress has proven useless, the courts are still to be tested, the public is mostly passive. The free media are the last and likely the best protector of democracy—which is why Trump persists in the bold lie that it is dishonest and that he is truthful.
Opposition to Trump's power grab must be based on politics, not psychology. Everything possible must be done now to strengthen the backbone of the current very flawed Congress and to elect a wiser and more courageous one in 2018.
And vigorous efforts must begin immediately to end the Trumpian dark age in 2020. If he gets a second term, Trump could go far in destroying the precious, but fragile, democratic institutions that have governed us for almost two-and-a-half centuries.
It is no accident that Orwell's 1984 shot to the top of Amazon's best seller list immediately after Trump's election. Another book people should read is Sinclair Lewis' It Can Happen Here.