The significance of today’s political “street theater”

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Three days ago, I argued that if Donald Trump were to occupy a significant post other than the one he currently occupies – surgeon, military commander, head of a private or public organization, airline pilot – he has already been dismissed from his post. A sample of the reader’s response:

The army would have responded. One reader writes:

I am a retired military officer and there is a significant part of his behavior that should generate an unparalleled change of command.

UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] is very clear about anyone in the chain of command who influences ongoing military law proceedings. If ANY military officer had done what this man did regarding Eddie Gallagher, he would have been removed from his post without hesitation. [JF note: Gallagher was the Navy SEAL who was tried for murder, on allegations he stabbed a captive prisoner to death. After he was acquitted, Trump publicly took credit for helping get him off. More here.]

My God, what have we done.


Also, school systems. Another reader adds:

He would be unemployable in every school district in America.

We elected a president who couldn’t even be a substitute teacher.


But maybe not in companies? From another reader:

In your August 22 post, you mentioned:

“The board of directors of a public company would have replaced him altogether or arranged for a discreet transfer of power. (Of course, he would never have gone this far in a large public company.) ”

I disagree with respect. One thing that is hardly ever discussed in the United States is the medieval level at which business management is carried out. It is a stronghold where the CEO is elected to do what he wants for as long as he can.

Trump has reportedly risen to the top of many companies looking for a “savior” (isn’t it what we call CEOs who will fix a struggling company?)

Many American CEOs are as incompetent as Trump. They do a better job of hiding it and they make sure their successors are blamed for their damage.

I will accept the reader’s argument that some corporate CEOs may not be more knowledgeable or knowledgeable than Trump, although I would like to hear a specific example. (Maybe Elizabeth Holmes, of Theranos? On the flip side, even today’s flawed corporate governance system has finally caught up with her.)

I do not agree that the board of directors of a public company would have endured what the world recently saw of such a leader, much like the GOP majority in the Senate – l functional equivalent of a company’s board of directors – supports Trump.


The new ‘Vol 93’ One reader refers to the popular right-wing concept that the 2016 presidential election was a civic version of United Flight 93, September 11, 2001. On this flight, passengers admitted that the plane had been taken over by terrorists, and they stormed the cockpit to bring the plane to the ground rather than let it become a flying bomb that exploded in Washington.

The idea that 2016 was the “Flight 93 election“Has become a shortcut for” by any means necessary! Donald Trump’s approach: Yes, he has his problems (just like crashing a plane on the ground has his problems), but the alternative is even worse.

The reader writes:

Whether on purpose or not, your play echoes and counterbalances Micheal Anton’s pernicious metaphor of The Flight 93 Election.

It was useful to remember that most institutions have procedures in place for the dismissal of a president who is unfit for work.


Speaking of the military, maybe ‘The Caine Mutiny’ is not the right model. In my article, I compared Donald Trump’s current attitude to that of Philip Queeg, in the famous 1950s Herman Wouk novel. Caine’s Mutiny and the next movie.

Several readers have written to note a complication with this comparison. In particular, while many people agreed with the similarities between Trump’s behavior and Queeg’s, several pointed out that the moral Herman Wouk seemed to take from his story went against what I was trying. to argue.

Here is a sample letter. For those unfamiliar with the book or all of the characters mentioned, the central point is that Wouk ended the book by being more sympathetic to his obviously disturbed main character, Captain Queeg, and critical of those who removed him from office. functions. The reader says:

I have a criticism of your literary analysis.

My father gave me a tattered copy of Caine’s Mutiny when I was in eighth grade. It’s a beautiful coming of age story. Like I’ve grown into a grizzled, indescribable adult like Willie Keith [one of the complicated protagonists] is described in the last few pages, I appreciate Keith’s story more and more.

But it seems to me that at the end of the book, the tale itself and the important characters in it (not just Keith but Greenwald and even Keggs) conclude that Queeg should NOT have been relieved.

Greenwald, from a position of moral authority, credits Queeg with doing what was necessary to protect the country from fascism while the others trained for war, and regrets what he sees as his own role ( necessary) in Queeg’s humiliation. Keith accepts and accepts the official reprimand from the Navy he receives for his role in relief.

Keggs, now a captain himself, wonders how they got on. The consensus view at the end of the book is that Keefer (and of course the fascists) were the real bad guys, and that the Navy that put Queeg in command of a DMS [destroyer mine sweeper] usually knows what he’s doing.

I loved everything else in the article. But let’s not let Trump get away with it like Herman Wouk let Queeg get away with it.

Several other readers have suggested a better (albeit less famous) comparison: the 1995 film Crimson Tide, installed aboard a missile submarine, in which an executive officer played by Denzel Washington stands up to a captain played by Gene Hackman and finally (and correctly) relieves him of his command.


Is naming a problem important? I explained in my original post why I had long resisted the “medicalization” of Trump’s aberrant behavior, that is, tying his excesses to a possible underlying disorder, rather than simply tying them up. note by themselves. A mental health professional writes to disagree:

I don’t agree with your belief that it wouldn’t matter to anyone what their diagnosis is.

Here we have a unique situation where his most likely diagnosis would upset many if they really understood what the term really means and how we can draw a reasonable conclusion that we know his tentative diagnosis without ever seeing it.

As a psychiatric social worker who has worked in forensic mental health, I know it is well established that at least 1% of the population does not develop consciousness. They don’t get angry or stop caring, they just don’t have the capacity to feel guilt, empathy, or grief. In many cases, this seems to be related to brain abnormalities….

There are different terms and models for evaluating such a person. Malignant narcissism has been openly mentioned. The narcissistic sociopath is common in pop culture. I prefer the term psychopathy which is the model I know the most.

By definition, such a person is unfit for a position (even if he does not have the traits of the small subsection that becomes serial killers). I have to believe that the majority of Republicans in Congress would care to understand that they allow a psychopath and the danger this poses to our country.

As a social worker, I am aware that there are times when community safety and our duty to humanity trumps the so-called
“Goldwater rule” [JF note: this is the informal bar on commenting on people a mental-health professional has not examined personally]. This is stated in our NASW Code of Ethics and is the rationale for the Tarasoff ruling and suspected child abuse reporting laws. [JF note: the Tarasoff case involved professionals’ responsibility to warn people who might be victims of a mentally ill patient’s behavior].

Imagine a specially trained professional who has spent time familiarizing himself with the data on Trump trying to defend his decision to remain silent ten years from now. “Well, I knew Trump might be a psychopath, but you know, professional ethics.”…

FBI agents are trained in the many ways in which such a person betrays himself, but even a well-educated layman can recognize that we have a deeply deranged man in the White House.


Learn more about the importance of a diagnosis. From another reader:

One of the characteristics of the NPD [narcissistic personality disorder, whose list of symptoms closely resembles daily reports from the Trump White House] it is that when one encounters obstacles to the patient’s narcissism, there is a progression from the attempt to charm, to intimidation, to outright paranoia; as you notice, we see this progression.

I recognize that the medicalization of our observations has no particular effect. Suffice to say that our President decompensates, becomes more and more crazy.


We thought democracy would spare us. From another reader:

Towards the end of today’s article, you write:

“There are two exceptions. One is a purely family-owned business, like the cabinet Trump spent his entire previous career in. And the other is the US presidency, where he will remain, despite increasingly manifest incapacity. to Queeg., as long as the GOP Senate stands with it. “

I can’t help but think of the long history of hereditary monarchs and popes who were not only totally unfit to rule, but were in a way that was clearly visible to everyone around them. Some of them were just toddlers when they came to the throne.

I think in the United States, after we got rid of one of those monarchs, we convinced ourselves that our system just wouldn’t allow that to happen. We love democracy so much that we cannot conceive of the idea that a quarter of our country would willingly make the effort to walk into a polling station and cede power to someone like this, and that enough of us didn’t see this as such a serious emergency that we wouldn’t bother to vote against it.

It feels like a step backwards not only for the Presidency (which has seen its fair share of xenophobic, incompetent and corrupt occupiers), but for a world in general that seemed to have moved on from a blatantly flawed method of giving people power. .


Thanks to the readers, and one last point that I can’t do often enough.

If a renegade CEO jeopardized the future of a public company, the board would finally act.

If a renegade pilot threatened the safety of passengers, an airline’s management – or FAA regulators – would feel legally obligated to act.

Ditto for a renegade doctor, or a teacher, or most of the other officials. The scandal of some police services and some Catholic hierarchies (and others) is their inability to act as the evidence accumulates.

The body that could act in the public interest in this matter is the United States Senate. As explained in the original article, any effort to curb Trump, or to remove him from his command, ultimately hinges on the support of the 45 men and 8 women who make up the current Republican majority in the Senate. Unlike the other 330 million Americans, these 53 people – the people whose names are listed here – could do something directly. And they won’t.


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