From the beginning circa 2009, when Donald Trump decided to task himself with verifying that Obama had been born in the US, we have seen glimpses of a problem with perception, a consistently inverted understanding of reality.
This man sees the country in crisis, when pre-election, things have been on the upswing in the economy, gas prices included, the health care initiative righting itself to the tune of 20 million people insured, Obama’s approval rating at its apogee. Yet Trump’s inaugural speech was as dark and seriocomic as anything ever badly written by his equally perception-challenged aides d’ camp.
About the time we got to the “empty factories litter the landscape like tombstones” line of that speech, poetic and dystopian to a fault, it was clear to many of us that within Donald J. Trump is a frightened, fundamentally pathologically lonely man–whose vision, overlaid upon the real, comes back to him as a nation enveloped in darkness, multiple crises, an entire kingdom that he alone, he has asserted, can save.
Where he sees a landslide electoral victory, others see a small electoral margin of around 75,000 voters, and a Clinton campaign ahead in double digits–until the very night before Comey fired off his mouth about more e-mails on a different laptop.
As Trumpsky, referred to a “useful object” by the Russians, a stool pigeon easy for Vladimir Putin to manipulate into illusory power (with the agenda of ‘cauterizing’ the Ukrainian situation in exchange for hacking the U.S. election to benefit Trump) is a legend in his own mind, it tormented him to confront the glaring fact that Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million.
Most recently, he has claimed that approximately 5 million people (“illegals”) voted unlawfully, to explain away the Clinton popular vote lead.
This same combination of perceptual dissonance and insecurity got his family to Washington so that his daughter and son in law are at his beck and call. Around him he has assembled a cast of true characters– a paranoid retired general, the white supremacist from Breitbart Steve Bannon, (who has fed Trump a daily diet of doom, and appointed himself to the National Security Council under Trump’s nose), a blonde spin doctor with a flimsy intellect, and a number of advisers with indeterminate roles who flank him in photo ops and are likely very unsure at this moment what they should be doing, and when.
Then came the flurry of executive orders, the inevitable daily storm of tweets, all of which, so very oddly for a man who is all about image, looking good, reveal all of his vulnerabilities and self-obsession. For two weeks we have all been on the Trump train, moving through various dust-ups with various leaders, a failed Yemenian mission resulting in an edict from that country banning U.S. ground operations there, and trumping all else, his unannounced travel ban that excluded no one, generated chaos and was entirely born of his intractable and perpetual belief that we are under threat from Islamic terrorists 24-7.
The edict was put into play so abruptly that the entire country nearly ground to a halt precisely because of this man’s belief that we live in a state of imminent and immanent endangerment.
Consider as well, that until recently Trump lived atop a skyscraper, insulated by layers of gold and money with a beautiful shell-shocked wife and young son, ferried through Manhattan in one of a fleet of limousines, having few true friends.
Imagine such a person taking the podium at a populist rally to loud acclaim. Imagine how intoxicating all that approval must have been to the man in love with uber-beautiful women and tall buildings, who likely had been purchasing social contacts and golf partners for decades.
The marginalized “populists” of America who stay in dead or dying communities, get hooked on pain killers or meth, or stubbornly cling to the hope that three generations of farming will bear fruit in 2017, are themselves stoned on despair. Trump was indeed their Messiah, a role he cherishes, but which has pulled him dangerously close to the edge.
What happens when a perceived threat that is not real spurs Trump into more unexamined, unvetted action? Does anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis, when JFK held his ground when his very generals were ready to go to war? Trump is not of JFK’s temperament, or Obama’s, who was one cool cat when he came down the hall to a podium to announce the take-down of Osama bin Laden.
All human beings have the ability to imbue an idea with so much feeling and thought that it seems real. Such is the mechanism of religion–of all belief systems. But Trump, whose overreach is currently under scrutiny in the appellate courts, who have said that they see no existential threat to give rise to such a radical and protectionist move as the travel ban, seems unable to tell the real from the fantastical. And this is what makes him a terrible threat to the rest of us.
Section 4 of the 25th Amendment of our Constitution provides for removal from office of someone who does not think he needs to be removed. We would all do well to get this under our belt and transmit our concerns to those who in theory at least, represent us in Washington.