The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump is declassifying things with his mind — and he can’t stop!

As long as you knew what you were trying not to think about it, it was hopeless. (Gaelen Morse/Reuters)

It was horrible. He wished he had never known about it. He had thought that it would be a great blessing, but it was just awful. All he had to do was think about something, and it was declassified. He sat at Mar-a-Lago with a thick Turkish towel wrapped around his head, eyes squeezed shut, willing the thoughts to stop.

He remembered years ago when he had been a little boy and somebody had told him that the best way to get somebody to think about elephants was to tell them, “Don’t think about elephants.” He had tried not to, to see if it was right, and an elephant sprang unbidden into his mind and sat there, and he could not get it out. For almost a week, all he had done was think about elephants.

Simply by trying not to think about them, he had summoned a whole herd; his mind would try to rush past them to rhinos or skip away from them toward mice, but it only made him more aware of the elephant he was avoiding. As long as you knew what you were trying not to think about it, it was hopeless. The elephant always won in the end.

Now he got up and turned on the TV. Usually having the TV on very loud helped him not think. He had made it through large chunks of his life not thinking very hard. Indeed, sometimes he had gone years without having anything that rose to the level of a thought — some gut feelings, numerous prejudices, but nothing that could be considered actively thinking. But now all he was doing was thinking. He hated it. It was an awful process, very unpleasant to do, and he could see why it had made his uncle at MIT so unhappy and caused him to look so upset all the time.

Cartoon by Michael de Adder: It’s all in the mind

What a mistake it had been, to try to declassify things that way. He had thought it would be a good power for the president to have. Much more convenient than the old process, which involved a lot of paperwork and talking. This way, no sooner would he think a thing than it would no longer be a secret. Everyone could know about it, and you could take it out of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility and walk around with it and let it see Florida sunshine for a first time, then a Florida storage room and some copies of Time magazine, also in Florida.

Follow Alexandra Petri's opinionsFollow

And it had seemed fine, for a time. He was proud of his new power. He brought friends to Mar-a-Lago and showed them how he could declassify documents with a single thought. Whole boxes of documents were suddenly fine for anyone to look at and carry anywhere! All the savory characters he gathered around himself were very impressed.

Then a hush had fallen.

“But Donald,” one of them said, very hesitantly, “suppose you don’t want to declassify something, but you have to think about it?”

This thought had not occurred to him, although when it did, it was instantly declassified.

“And suppose you want to make sure something stays classified?” somebody else asked. “Could you even think about it then?”

“Or what if you think about something, but it’s a thing that proves that what you are saying is untrue?”

He tried not to think about the answer to that question. But the more he tried not to think about it, the worse it got. He excused himself from dinner early and went upstairs, protesting that if he were a weaker kind of man, he would have a headache, but that he wasn’t, so he didn’t.

Now he sat there with his eyes squeezed shut. No, that was worse. Turn on the television! Turn it on! Turn on Fox News! They were talking about the FBI, the documents — no, he was thinking about them now! His lawyer had said it was important that the documents remain in a kind of limbo where he was both thinking about them and not thinking about them for their legal strategy to work.

He was not going to think about the documents! He was not going to think about any state secrets! He was certainly not going to think about the nuclear codes, or anything to do with France, or — no, it was just getting worse! He thought about his family, but that just made him think about their business dealings, and — no, better not. Why, there were things that could damage him, if they were not kept absolutely secret! If people were to find out about them — MIND BLANK! THOUGHTS EMPTY!

He tried and tried. But for once in his life, the thoughts would not stop. He could feel it happening. Everywhere around him huge boxes of papers were getting declassified. State secrets were flying around everywhere!

He began to scream. Soon there would be no more secrets! If he could only forget! But he could not forget. For the first time in his life, he was thinking about everything. The elephant was winning.