Well, folks, it is not like we did not warn you. Well before the 2016 presidential election, Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans said then-candidate Donald Trump was a racist, xenophobic know-nothing and a liar. He would do great damage to the country, make Republicans into enablers and undermine our democratic institutions. Along came Michael Wolff to show in his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” that President Trump was not mentally competent to hold the job — and that his most trusted advisers knew it. Trump then proved Wolff’s account stunningly accurate this week.
On Tuesday came the roller-coaster ride through immigration reform and discussion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Trump would agree with a DACA-only proposal. Then immediately agree with a can’t-be-DACA-only proposal. And worst of all, he seemed not to understand that these were inconsistent or why people held different views.
Thursday, however, was a three-alarm fire for the White House and its effort to convince the country that Trump is capable of performing his job. Let’s review:
In the morning he attacked reauthorization of the FISA surveillance program — apparently based on what he heard on a “Fox & Friends” segment. (He tweeted, “This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”) He then reversed himself — or had an aide draft a tweet with a 180-degree reversal so as not to prevent reauthorization of a program he is supposed to support. (“With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!”) The House responsibly voted to reauthorize the program, having learned to disregard whatever the crazy uncle in the attic was saying.
Then came his boast that he had a great relationship with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong Un. “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.” Had he spoken with Kim? “I don’t want to comment on it. I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.” (Perhaps he couldn’t remember if he had.) This left us wondering whether the man with the nuclear code confused Kim with the democratically elected leader of South Korea, President Moon Jae-in.
Next came his assertion about immigrants. The Post reported:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.
This was a two-for — that is, a demonstration of utter ignorance and out-and-out racism. White, European country good! Black and brown countries bad! That’s the thinking of the president of the United States.
His White House lackeys and the ones on Fox and in the right-wing media will scramble to explain these blunders, blame the “fake media” and insist nothing is wrong. But of course something is very, very wrong. The American people invested tremendous power in someone whose mental, temperamental and ethical capacities are so far below what is required of the president that it now takes all the energy and spin the Trumpsters can muster simply to insist he is aware of his surroundings. (He greeted reporters to the “studio” when they came into the Cabinet room the day after the immigration get-together. He thereupon insisted he had gotten letters of praise from news anchors. He had not.)
You might as well have someone throwing darts at a board or flipping a coin in the Oval Office chair. It could not produce any more random and incoherent results than what we now have. It’s no excuse to say Congress and his staff have learned to work around him. Our system is premised on the idea that the man the country elected is not a crazy uncle in the attic who must be managed, concealed and cajoled to stay out of sight. We need a functional president worthy of the office. Instead we have, just as Wolff said, a “dope.” Actually, a racist dope.