This entry features a reposting in full of Andrew Sullivan's Friday, Dec. 1st Daily Intelligencer piece and contains a pictures of a variety of (topically-unrelated) autumn arboreal scenery -- some of which I've previously posted. I'm not captioning them.
Following this entry, I intend to post a Jukebox Saturday Night entry as well.
America Is Trapped in Trump's Delusional World
By Andrew Sullivan
December 1, 2017
This past week was, in some ways, the most potent distillation of the Trump era we have yet encountered. This is not because any single incident is worse than any previous one over the past year. It’s because the last few days have brought all of them together in a new, concentrated way -- a super-storm, as it were, of liberal democratic destruction.
We have deranged tweeting; truly surreal lies; mindless GOP tribalism; evangelicals making excuses for the molestation of minors; further assaults on the free press; an unprecedented attack on the most reliable Atlantic ally; the demonization of personal enemies; stupendous tribal hypocrisy with respect to sexual abuse; the White House's endorsement of a foreign neo-fascist hate group; the vengeful hanging out to dry of a Cabinet member; and the attempt to pass a catastrophic omnibus piece of legislation in one mad, blind rush in order to get a "win." And all in a few days!
At its center is mental illness. It radiates out of the center like a toxin in the blood. And this, again, is nothing new. On Trump’s first day in office, with respect to the size of his inauguration crowd, he insisted that what was demonstrably, visibly, incontrovertibly false was actually true.
At that moment, we learned that all the lies and exaggerations and provocations of the previous year were not just campaign tools, designed to con and distract, but actually constitutive of his core mental health. He was not lying, as lying is usually understood. He was expressing what he believed to be true, because his ego demanded it be true. And for Trump, as we now know, there is no reality outside his own perfervidly narcissistic consciousness.
Give such a man the power and trappings of the most powerful office on earth, give him a few months, and such delusions will get worse. Sane men and women are corrupted by the wielding of power; a psychologically disturbed figure from the get-go will degenerate into deeper and deeper forms of madness.
It therefore comes as absolutely no surprise that, all these months later, he believes he has achieved more in ten months than any administration in history, or that he won the popular vote once you remove millions of illegal voters, or that a huge wall on the southern border will still be paid for by Mexico, or that his favored health-care bill would make health insurance cheaper, better, and more available; or that his massive tax cut for the super-wealthy is about the “forgotten men and women” of the white working class.
In his speech last Wednesday night in Missouri, for example, he claimed that his tax proposal was the biggest tax cut in history (not even close); that it was "going to cost me a fortune, this thing, believe me ... I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that's okay" (an absolute inversion of reality); and that the stock market had been flat before his presidency (the Dow was at 7,000 when Obama came to office and 20,000 when he left).
Or cast your eyes back a few days and consider his condemnation of various sexual abusers and harassers (such as Al Franken and Matt Lauer). Why on earth would someone who has been personally accused by a dozen women of sexual assault get on his high horse with respect to others? Because in his own mind, he never committed assault. Every single woman who accused him really is a liar and the tape that recorded his bragging of assault was in fact as faked as Obama's birth certificate.
And this is not the only indelible delusion we discover he still clings to. He believes -- alone among the leaders of every single other country -- that climate change is a Chinese hoax, even as the Chinese, for some unfathomable reason, invest heavily in renewable energy; he is adamant that Russia did not meddle in the U.S. elections last year and that the U.S. intelligence community is lying about it or full of “hacks.” He believes that every poll that shows him as unpopular is fake; and that virtually everything the mainstream media reports about his administration is fabricated.
This is a man who inhabits his own world -- and it is not the one you or I or anybody else inhabits. And he does not do so passively. His delusions are so fixed and profound that he constantly lashes out at anyone, from a grieving Gold Star widow to random black NFL players to the prime minister of Great Britain, when they dare to inhabit the actual world and proffer a different point of view.
He is a man who believes that the random, context-free videos he retweeted from a neo-fascist hate group really do show the fundamental nature of Islam, i.e. that Muslims beat up people on crutches, routinely smash Christian statues, and throw people off roofs. This is what he feels, and therefore it is what he believes, and nothing can convince him otherwise.
And all of this is not just part of an entertainment complex. Because his party has become a cult around his unhinged infallibility, his fantasies are entrenching themselves in the real world.
And so, faced with the gravest nuclear threat since the end of the Cold War, Trump is involved in actually baiting and taunting an unpredictable dictator, vastly increasing the chances of irreparable catastrophe, with no tangible strategy visible and no secure line of communication open.
He has eviscerated the institutions of American diplomacy, because the only diplomats he needs are himself and his dim-witted, mute dauphin, who has formed a strange alliance with another privileged scion in Saudi Arabia. The foreign leader he most admires, moreover, is engaged in an open campaign to sabotage and subvert Western democratic institutions. Those he most detests -- such as Angela Merkel -- are attempting to save them.
Yes, this is the famous Microsoft Desktop autumn image (taken somewhere in Vermont).
And now, we have the necessity for this madman to have a "victory" in the Congress. This matters much, much more than the content of such a victory. All Trump cares about is the "win" -- and he will describe its content as what he wants it to be, not what it is, and most of his supporters will believe him.
And so, at a time of deeply destabilizing social inequality, this law will actively shovel billions more to the super-rich, add more than a trillion to an already unprecedented peacetime debt, eviscerate affordable health care for millions, increase taxes on many middle-class blue-state residents, and eventually require massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare as we inevitably face a future fiscal collapse.
But again, Trump’s delusional vanity simply wishes all these consequences away. They will not happen. Believe him. And not only are his absurdly rosy predictions true, they are actually going to be surpassed. As he said last Wednesday night: "They're going to say Trump is the opposite of an exaggerator."
It is not even a reassurance that reality will win in the end. It will, of course. In the end. But in the near future, Trump is pumping a huge stimulus into an economy that doesn’t need one, and it may well give the country enough of a feel-good 12-month bubble to sustain a majority in Congress, and the further empowerment of all this madness as a result.
The costs will be borne by the next generation, saddled with future student and national debt, grappling as well with the kind of inflation last seen in the 1970s, and by current generations who, in our retirement, will discover there is much less Medicare and Social Security than we’d expected.
The only form of reality that will hit sooner is, of course, whatever Mueller discovers. But Trump has already declared this a media and Democratic hoax, and his own reality must mean that Mueller is fired, that the entire justice system be derided and discredited as a corrupt form of elitist convenience, and the super-storm of this week will become a hurricane, made all the deadlier by the ever-warmer waters of the tribalism and polarization Trump daily seeks to intensify.
I have no idea what follows; but this liberal democracy is in a death rattle. And so is the international order it once sustained.