Every parent has warily confronted the hypothetical question: What would you do if you suspected your child was unwell?
Not physically, but emotionally unwell, or mentally unstable? Imagine learning your teenager, for example, had been yelling demeaning slurs at the girls in his class, harassing them and calling them names.
And that he’d been secretly using his social media accounts to go on late-night rants against perceived enemies, attacking their looks, and again, calling them names in unending, seething, rambling posts.
Or that he’d been increasingly susceptible to bizarre and otherwise implausible conspiracy theories and was spreading them unprompted to anyone who would listen.
Presumably, you’d be very, very concerned. These aren’t normal behaviors, nor are they signs of a well-adjusted, healthy and happy person. They are, rather, signs of a person who has lost the ability to manage his or her emotions.
If this were your child, you’d intervene as quickly as you could, getting him or her the help that is clearly needed.
Likewise, if this were your friend, you might suggest he or she see a therapist to work through anger issues. If this were your co-worker, you’d probably alert someone in human resources.
And what if this were the president of the United States?
Not only are these behaviors the norm for President Donald Trump, but they also seem to have worsened at one of the most precarious and critical times for our country, as we face a global pandemic that has killed nearly 70,000 Americans.
Less than two weeks after unimaginably suggesting injecting disinfectants might help kill off the coronavirus, the past few days have seen him spiral out of control, proving utterly incapable of staying focused on the biggest crisis a president can face. Instead, he has:
- Spread unfounded conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus, about former President Barack Obama and about an MSNBC cable-news host.
- Made statements that can only be described as delusional, like comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, inventing a non-existent letter of apology from Joe Biden, and spewing non-science about his favorite drug, hydroxychloroquine.
- Attacked two female reporters for doing their jobs, lamenting that they didn’t behave like Donna Reed, an actress synonymous with the gender role-abiding, kitchen-dwelling 1950s housewife she played on television more than 60 years ago.
- Attacked another female cable-news host, calling her a “3rd rate lapdog.”
- Gone on a 234-word rant on Twitter, complaining about an ad released by a Republican anti-Trump group whose leaders include George Conway, husband of his staffer Kellyanne, in which he used words like “deranged loser of a husband,” and “Moonface” to describe him.
It’s a frightening commentary on the slow normalization of this completely abnormal behavior that we can greet the undeniable deterioration of the president of the United States with mere shrugs. And the only concerns from his inner circle seem not to be about the mental instability itself, but the political ramifications of it being exposed in daily press briefings.
“Advisers have argued ... they could be alienating some viewers, including senior citizens worried about their health,” an Associated Press report says, and, “Officials at Trump’s re-election campaign have also noted a slip in Trump’s support in some battleground states and have expressed concerns that the briefings, which often contain inaccurate information, may be playing a role.”
The giant orange elephant in the room isn’t that Trump’s impaired judgment might cost him the election; it’s that it may well have already cost American lives.
Waiting until November to get Trump out of harm’s way is the only real option we have. The Constitution’s 25th Amendment, designed to remove a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” is inarguably applicable but politically impossible.
So, like worried parents, we’ll just wait anxiously, hope the worst doesn’t happen and that there’s a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Until then, who knows what our very sick president will do next?
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