Psychologists and medicos sometimes speak of a constellation of symptoms, but President Trump displays whole galaxies of malfunctions. No doubt this helps account for his self-destructive need to begin his day by tweeting lies and fantasies into the ether.
The surprise is how easy it is to show the imagined conspiracies he obsesses about are baseless and absurd. This suggests more than mere psychopathology is at work. You can be crazy without being ill-informed and gullible.
Trump boasted repeatedly when campaigning about how smart he was and how, like Miss Lonely in the Dylan song, he went to the finest schools. It seems likely the need to brag came from feeling inferior to his political foes — Hillary Clinton (Wellesley distinguished scholar, Yale Law), Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law and head of the Law Review).
Trump kept demanding to see Obama’s grades along with his Kenyan birth certificate, but maybe it is time to demand to see Trump’s grades. We know he went to an expensive prep school that he got the boot from. His daddy then sent him to a military school hoping he’d shape up.
He apparently adapted well to that bully-boy environment and got sufficiently adequate grades to get into Fordham for two years followed by two at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School where he got a bachelor’s in real estate studies. Since he’d been apprenticing in real estate studies since birth this seems like an easy putt.
One wonders how much money changed hands to secure his matriculation and graduation, something that often happens in the cases of the children of the well-fixed. His son-in-law Jared Kushner, for example, got an undergraduate Harvard degree in government and Harvard got a $2.5 million donation from his jailbird father. He followed that with a J.D and M.B.A from NYU which got a $3 million infusion from Kushner pere.
It seems clear Trump devoted little time to anything but his real estate studies since he emerged from college and fifty more years of living having failed to learn history, geography, English, civics, logic, manners, spelling and typing. His tweets have called Rubio a “chocker,” Lawrence O’Donnell one of the “dummer” people on TV, said it was an “honer” to win and promised he was not bought and “payed” for. Lately, of course, he accused Obama of having plotted to “tapp” his phone.
But spelling is only the tip of this not-so-nice berg. The real issue is the fact that Trump rarely reads anything weightier than a supermarket tabloid and seems incapable of acquiring information or discriminating between wheat and chaff.
Unfortunately, the office of the president requires the ability to do just that, sift huge amounts of raw data and reach reliable conclusions on issues domestic and foreign, on military threats, social problems, budgets and complicated legislation. He needs to be able to tell the difference between the useful and the useless, the verified and the speculative the actionable and the laughable.
Clearly he isn’t up to the job. Aside from his glaring flaws of temperament he has a primitive grasp of the world. What appeals to his prejudices or mood is true. What fails to do him any good, emotionally or financially, is not just untrue but part of a plot against him by enemies real and imagined.
Lacking what his base scorns as the uppity skills of literate elitists, Trump is a sucker for any ridiculous theory promulgated by sleazy con artists or lunatics like Rupert Murdock, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Steve Bannon, Breitbart and the rest of the alt-right loon squad. And when he falls for their nonsense, as in the case of the alleged Trump Tower wiretapps, instead of calling on the head of the FBI, CIA, NSA or DNI (who report to him) to verify the fantasy, he tweets merrily.
This forces the far too punctilious news media to chase the story, rather than dismiss it as childish. Eventually they locate an expert to patiently explain why Obama couldn’t have done such a thing unless he strapped on a tool belt and wired the tower personally.
Fear of Trump means the President’s staff must pretend the mind of the emperor is intact no matter how crazy his tweets, and fear of riling his equally deranged base means otherwise sane members of his party have to pretend the conspiracies he imagines are worthy of investigation. This is not how a great county is supposed to behave.
Ironically, the only people willing to call Trump’s dysfunction by its name are his favorite reading matter. So, the National Enquirer on display at your local supermarket has a screaming headline promising to share the results of Trump’s secret mental test. When the President reads that, will he be shocked at the results of the test he never took, or launch yet another splenetic tweet? Stay tuned. The psychodrama is just beginning.