April 12, 2024

is his problem

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
What is his problem?
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – With the Finnish president standing beside him at the White House, looking like he’d rather be elsewhere, President Trump unleashed one of his more memorable rants, berating a reporter for asking about Ukraine, calling House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff “a lowlife” who couldn’t carry Secretary of State Pompeo’s “____ strap,” and assailing former Vice President Biden and his son as “stone-cold crooks.”
          As for himself, Trump allowed, “There are those that think I’m a very stable genius.” Who talks that way? Anyone worthy of that reputation doesn’t boast about it. And it’s not the first time Trump has conferred upon himself that unique appellation. What is his problem?
          We’re barely two weeks into the formal impeachment investigation, and he’s already melting down. His demeanor in the press conference was bizarre by any measure even though this president correctly feels his back is to the wall with the impeachment process closing in and public opinion moving against him.
          To be objective, we are obligated to make sense of Trump’s behavior if we can, and there are several possible scenarios to explain his problem.
          First, there is the possibility that Trump is becoming unhinged. Clearly narcissistic, is he suffering from other disorders? He is lashing out against friends and foes alike, embracing long debunked conspiracy theories, dispatching the attorney general and his personal lawyer to seek assistance from foreign governments in locating evidence of the U.S. intelligence community working with the Clinton campaign to undermine him in 2016, this despite solid intelligence that Russia intervened in the election on his behalf. Then, there are the president’s outrageous claims of treason committed against him and the country, when in fact the whistleblower is working on behalf of our national security.
          Second, the pressure he is under is bringing out his autocratic tendencies. As president of the Trump empire, he could do what he wanted without anyone questioning his authority. As president of the United States, he must deal with two other co-equal branches of government, and he doesn’t like it. By defying Congress and openly calling on China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, he’s daring lawmakers to make the case that the same offer made in private could be an impeachable offense.
          Third, he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s getting himself situated for next year’s November election, portraying himself as the victim of a partisan witch hunt. If the House proceeds to impeach, as appears likely, and the Republican-controlled Senate fails to convict, Trump will consider himself vindicated and, in his view, go into the 2020 election with the wind at his back.
          If the president does have a debilitating, disqualifying, or incapacitating problem, the 25th Amendment is waiting in the wings, waiting for Vice President Pence and a majority of the Cabinet to invoke its remedy and remove the president from office. However, Trump has preemptively called upon the media to obtain transcripts of Pence’s now-infamous July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian president. Further, Pence has traveled to Ukraine to make the administration’s case, so Trump is portraying him as knee-deep in the scandal and, by implication, saying don’t harbor any ideas about him as a successor president.
          Pence aides have countered, saying any potential wrongdoing did not register with the vice president and insinuating that Pence is from the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, oblivious toady school of politics. After all, not everyone can be a very stable genius.
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2019 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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