Trump Is Unraveling - The Atlantic
By: Peter Wehner (The Atlantic)
The country is witnessing the steady, uninterrupted intellectual and psychological decomposition of Donald Trump.
May 5, 2020 Peter Wehner Contributing writer at The Atlantic and senior fellow at EPPC Win McNamee / Getty
In case there was any doubt, the past dozen days have proved we're at the point in his presidency where Donald Trump has become his own caricature, a figure impossible to parody, a man whose words and actions are indistinguishable from an Alec Baldwin skit on Saturday Night Live .
President Trump's piece de resistance came during a late April coronavirus task-force briefing, when he floated using "just very powerful light" inside the body as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and then, for good measure, contemplated injecting disinfectant as a way to combat the effects of the virus "because you see it gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on them, so it'd be interesting to check that."
But the burlesque show just keeps rolling on.
Take this past weekend, when former President George W. Bush delivered a three-minute video as part of The Call to Unite , a 24-hour live-stream benefiting COVID-19 relief.
Bush joined other past presidents, spiritual and community leaders, frontline workers, artists, musicians, psychologists, and Academy Award winning actors. They offered advice, stories, and meditations, poetry, prayers, and performances. The purpose of The Call to Unite (which I played a very minor role in helping organize) was to offer practical ways to support others, to provide hope, encouragement, empathy, and unity.
In his video, which went viral, Bush—in whose White House I worked—never mentioned Trump. Instead, he expressed gratitude to health-care workers, encouraged Americans to abide by social-distancing rules, and reminded his fellow Americans that we have faced trying times before.
"I have no doubt, none at all, that this spirit of service and sacrifice is alive and well in America," Bush said. He emphasized that "empathy and simple kindness are essential, powerful tools of national recovery." And America's 43rd president asked us to "remember how small our differences are in the face of this shared threat."
"In the final analysis," he said, "we are not partisan combatants; we are human beings, equally vulnerable and equally wonderful in the sight of God." Bush concluded, "We rise or fall together, and we are determined to rise."
That was too much for Trump, who attacked his Republican predecessor on (where else?) Twitter: "[Bush] was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!"
So think about that for a minute. George W. Bush made a moving, eloquent plea for empathy and national unity, which enraged Donald Trump enough that he felt the need to go on the attack.
But there's more. On the same weekend that he attacked Bush for making an appeal to national unity, Trump said this about Kim Jong Un, one of the most brutal leaders in the world: "I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!"
Then, Sunday night, sitting at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a town-hall interview with Fox News , Trump complained that he is "treated worse" than President Abraham Lincoln. "I am greeted with a hostile press, the likes of which no president has ever seen," Trump said.
By Monday morning, the president was peddling a cruel and bizarre conspiracy theory aimed at MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, a Trump critic, with Trump suggesting in his tweet that a "cold case" be opened to look into the death of an intern in 2001.
I could have picked a dozen other examples over the past 10 days, but these five will suffice. They illustrate some of the essential traits of Donald Trump: the shocking ignorance, ineptitude, and misinformation; his constant need to divide Americans and attack those who are trying to promote social solidarity; his narcissism, deep insecurity, utter lack of empathy, and desperate need to be loved; his feelings of victimization and grievance; his affinity for ruthless leaders; and his fondness for conspiracy theories.
None of these traits are new in Trump; they are part of the reason why some of us were warning about him long before he won the presidency, even going back to 2011. But, more and more, those traits are defining his presidency, producing a kind of creeping paralysis. We are witnessing the steady, uninterrupted intellectual and psychological decomposition of an American president. It's something the Trump White House cannot hide—indeed, it doesn't even try to hide it anymore. There is not even the slightest hint of normalcy.
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