At some points words fail, or they are starting to fail me. We have an Administration in freefall. Have we passed through the circle of chaos? Are we at the circle of havoc?
The real Donald Trump has stood up, once again. Let no one ever be fooled. Let there be no doubt. The man who sends out a twitter tirade accusing a former President of crimes for which he provides no evidence, the man who doubles down when everyone with any sense pushes back, that man is our Commander in Chief. Every one who normalizes Mr. Trump now, or has in the past, will have to answer to future generations for their acquiescence, silence or sophistry—if, indeed, not outright cowardice.
How hollow do all those pundit plaudits (including from many progressives) sound now for an average and disingenuous speech of someone else’s words read from a teleprompter to Congress and the nation a week ago? A “presidential” Trump is a punchline to a joke no one wants to have told. Conspiracy theories are corrosive in society at large. When they dictate national policy, they can be lethal.
This is a man who challenged the citizenship of President Obama, with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who claimed widespread voter fraud with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. This is a man who has taken a rhetorical blowtorch to our Constitutional principles with lies, innuendo, and no evidence. Those who rose in Congress to applaud his turns of phrase bear responsibility. Those who cynically use his presidency to push forward unpopular giveaways to the rich and well connected bear responsibility. Those in the press who meet insults with explanations bear responsibility.
Even the most grounded of presidents must fight to keep themselves moored to the real world. The Oval Office can be a bubble. Power attracts sycophants and cynics. But I have never seen anything like this. The sheer level of paranoia that is radiating out of the White House is untenable to the workings of a republic. I have a real question if President Trump actually believes what he is saying. Even Richard Nixon, the most paranoid president to date, ruled for years with a relatively calm hand. This Administration has been an off kilter whirlwind since the inauguration, and news reports suggest that seething anger from Mr. Trump is only getting worse. There is a growing consensus that the President may be “unhinged.” It’s a serious allegation, but even if it is not the case, Mr. Trump only has himself to blame.
To call a drama Shakespearean or operatic is usually an overreach. But I imagine artists of the future, and even the present, will find ample inspiration in our moment in history. Doesn’t Steve Bannon strike you as an Iago whispering in the ear of an Othello-like Trump, consumed by jealousy and paranoia?
As the questions mount around Russia, as the circles of defense begin to falter, the determination to create diversions will escalate. But if the President hoped he could create a distraction, I think he misjudged the will of the American people. We have woken. We are paying attention. And we love our country too much to let it falter without a fight.