By now everyone in the allegedly civilized world is aware of Trump’s Sharpiegate episode. Trump, having falsely claimed that Hurricane Dorian was a threat to Alabama, was determined to “prove” that he was right and that everyone else, including all the relevant experts, saying otherwise were wrong. In classic Trump fashion he engaged in tweet storms and, apparently, ordered his chief of staff to order the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to support his claims. And on and on and on, like the typical playground bully in junior high school.
Standing alone, this episode supports the questions being raised about Trump’s mental and emotional stability, although there really is nothing new here. His behavior in this situation is of a piece with numerous other aspects of his performance as president, including refusal to read briefing documents, inability to concentrate on detailed national security information and many other incidents that have been widely reported since Trump became the nominal president.
The real concern here is how these personality traits, that Trump is apparently helpless to control, may manifest in a true emergency situation. One example among many is an apparent military conflict at some overseas location where the facts may be unclear, decision time is short and the stakes are high. If Trump “decides” that he knows more than his senior military advisors and, for example, does not trust our allies to provide reliable intelligence, how might he react? Will his demonstrated propensity to threaten and bully lead him to order irresponsible, highly risky and irreversible military action? If so, the conduct of the senior White House advisors suggests they will simply do what they are told, regardless of the potential consequences to the country and the world. The incompetents and grifters that typify most of Trump’s appointments would rather keep his favor and their White House employment than do what responsible citizens should do when the “boss” is engaged in blatantly unlawful or irrational behavior that threatens existential harm to millions.
This is the stunning point of potential no return at which we have arrived. A man who was “made” by money provided by his father, with a history of graft and corruption, a demonstrated inability and unwillingness to educate himself and who is accustomed to just issuing orders and having them obeyed without hesitation or question is in charge of the nuclear arsenal of the most powerful military force in the world. This is not a child playing with firecrackers. It is a man-child playing with forces capable of triggering nuclear winter.
The solution, if there is one, is to initiate the process that could lead to the earliest possible termination of Trump’s presidency using the impeachment process established by the U.S. Constitution. I recognize the counterargument that if threatened with removal, Trump may declare some kind of fake national emergency, maybe even start a war, or, maybe just declare the Constitution suspended, essentially decreeing for himself the powers of the dictatorship that the Constitution was ratified to prevent.
There are likely other scenarios with similar consequences. It is, I suggest, pointless to speculate about Trump’s behavior. He may do the very same thing if the 2020 vote is held in the normal course and his effort to win a second term is rejected by the voters. There is, in other words, no escape from the implications of Trump’s mania. He is a danger to the country. Ignorant while claiming to be a genius. Delusional about his negotiating skills. Unable to distinguish truth from falsity, illusion from reality. There is no reason to think any of that will change. In fact, it is likely to worsen as the pressure of declining popularity into 2020 becomes more apparent to him.
The time for equivocation is past. It is time to act before it is too late.