Pressed By Impeachment, Trump Is Clearly Losing It
The past week has demonstrated more notably than any other that this President is not well.
Notwithstanding his claim to be a “stable genius,” Donald Trump has demonstrated publicly several times that he is neither to such an extent that the title has become something of a joke on social media. Yesterday, though, things truly went off the rails. It happened at a joint press conference with the President of Finland, who no doubt was quite uncomfortable to just be standing there while the so-called leader of the free world basically lost his mind on live television:
“Are you talking to me?” President Trump asked, his brow creased in disgust.
He was staring at Jeff Mason, a Reuters reporter whom Mr. Trump had called on moments earlier during an East Room news conference with the president of Finland.
Such events, with the American president joined by a fellow head of state, are usually formal affairs. But Mr. Trump seemed to be in a stormy mood on Wednesday, lashing out on Twitter and in person at his enemies, real and perceived, as House Democrats pursue a formal impeachment inquiry against him.
One regular Trump boogeyman — the American news media — has come in for particular ire of late. Mr. Trump has tweaked his usual “fake news” sobriquet, now preferring the term “corrupt news.” Earlier on Wednesday, in the Oval Office, he attacked the credibility of The Washington Post over an article that outlined his interest in constructing an alligator- and snake-filled moat along the southern border. Mr. Trump appeared unaware that the article had been published by The New York Times.
Then came the exchange with Mr. Mason, which was emblematic of the president’s escalating attacks on the press.
Mr. Mason, a veteran White House correspondent, had posed a straightforward question: What did the president hope to achieve when he asked the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, about the Biden family’s dealings in his country?
Mr. Trump’s discursive reply ranged from his gripes about financial support for Europe to a shout-out to Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and included a comparison of Ukraine to “a wall between Russia and Europe — a big, wide, beautiful wall.” The substance of Mr. Mason’s question went unanswered, so the Reuters reporter tried again.
“The question, sir,” Mr. Mason said, “was what did you want President Zelensky to do about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter?”
Polite but persistent follow-ups are a White House correspondent’s stock in trade. But Mr. Trump expressed deep offense, interrupting Mr. Mason and instructing him to ask the Finnish president a question instead.
“Did you hear me? Did you hear me?” Mr. Trump said from his lectern. “Ask him a question. I’ve given you a long answer. Ask this gentleman a question. Don’t be rude.”
“I don’t want to be rude,” Mr. Mason replied. “I just wanted you to have a chance to answer the question that I asked you.”
Again, Mr. Trump deflected — this time with a verbal fusillade against journalists. “I’ve answered everything,” the president said. (He hadn’t.) “It’s a whole hoax, and you know who’s playing into the hoax? People like you and the fake news media that we have in this country — and, I say in many cases, the corrupt media, because you’re corrupt. Much of the media in this country is not just fake, it’s corrupt.”
Even after he moved on from Mr. Mason, Mr. Trump returned to his acid commentary on the press. “If the press were straight and honest and forthright and tough, we would be a far greater nation,” he said in closing.
Mr. Trump’s slashing criticism of the media has been denounced by news outlets and press advocates, in particular for the ways that autocrats around the world have invoked his remarks to justify cracking down on independent journalists. Almost uniformly before Mr. Trump, American presidents publicly promoted the role of journalism in a democracy, even if they groused over tough coverage.
Here’s the video:
This is just the latest in a string of bizarre behavior we’ve seen from the President since the cloud of impeachment has overcome his White House:
On Sunday, he tweeted nearly two dozen times about one “Fox & Friends” interview in which he took exception to interviewer Ed Henry’s questioning of conservative radio host Mark Levin. The tweetstorm included 19 retweets of sometimes-random users, including one account devoted to inserting the word “shark” into tweets.
The same day, Trump paraphrased a quote from pastor Robert Jeffress that suggested a “Civil War like fracture” could be coming if Trump is removed from office.
On Monday, Trump suggested House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) should be “Arrest[ed] for Treason” and then made a baseless claim suggesting the whistleblower complaint form had been changed to allow the complaint against him.
On Tuesday, Trump congratulated the communist Chinese government on its 70th anniversary as pretty much everyone else in U.S. politics was labeling the date a somber occasion. By the evening, he had labeled the effort against him a “COUP.”
And then came Wednesday.
Trump began by tweeting that the impeachment effort was “BULLSHIT,” which was the second time he has tweeted such a vulgarity as president. (The first came the day after the Mueller report was released.)
Then came an informal Q&A before he met with the president of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, at which Trump positively went off. He suggested the whistleblower wasn’t worthy of the protections that Republicans said the person was entitled to under the law.
“I don’t care,” Trump said, specifying: “I think a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower is legitimate.”
He said Schiff couldn’t carry Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s “blank strap” — apparently he meant “jock strap” — and also repeated the treason allegation.
Trump attacked a story that said he wanted a moat along the border wall with alligators and snakes by saying The Washington Post publishes only fake news. Except the story was from the New York Times.
Trump explained at length that he was now calling the “fake news” the “corrupt news” because “fake” wasn’t harsh enough. As reporters were leaving the room, he implored them to “go write a Schiff-like story.”
Then came Trump’s news conference at the White House after his meeting with the Finnish leader, which would also end on an angry note.
After John Roberts of Fox News tried to ask a second question of Trump, the president repeatedly told him he needed to move on and ask Niinisto a question. Roberts told Trump that he would like the question, and eventually Trump relented. It turned out Trump did like it — it was about a New York Times report that Schiff received an early account of what the whistleblower was alleging. But then Trump Trump-ified it.
“I’ll go a step further; I think he probably helped write it,” Trump said of Schiff. There is absolutely no evidence for this, and Trump even seemed unfamiliar with the Times report when it was first brought up.
It was after this that the attack on Mason, a veteran reporter currently working for Reuters, took place. Even more bizarre was the fact that when Mason did ask the Finnish President, who at this point looked decidedly uncomfortable as the President continued his meltdown (one person on Twitter quipped that he was quietly standing there wondering if he could book an Uber and get the heck out of there). Even then, though, Trump took over the conversation. Mason tried to ask President Niinisto a question about a recent ruling in favor of the United States by the World Trade Organization regarding a long-standing dispute over subsidies to Airbus, but Trump decided to answer it himself:
Trump, who had just implored Mason to ask the other president a question, quickly cut in. “That was a big win for the United States, right?” Trump said, pretty visibly angry and gesturing at Mason and the media. “You never had wins with other presidents, did you?”
Trump later ended the news conference by decrying “the CNNs of the world, who are corrupt people,” and quickly and abruptly walking off.
To say that the President is losing it is putting it mildly. There have been plenty of reports from leaks from inside the White House about Trump raging at junior and senior staff members about what thing or another, but this week has been unique in part because it’s the first time we’ve really seen him act this way in public. Given the fact that we’re just one week into a process that will likely last until the end of the year at least, I’m sure it will only get worse. As I’ve said before, I am not a mental health professional and am reluctant to diagnose someone from a distance, but it’s clear that this man isn’t well.
“Are you talking to me? … Are you talking to me?”
Holeee shit! He’s gone full Taxi Driver on the USA.
Could there be a President Pelosi in our future?
Who’s crazier? The insane, raving lunatic, or those who believe his ravings and defend them?
Perhaps we should be taking bets on how long it takes him to descend into total gibbering lunacy.
If this continues, which it probably will, maybe he won’t even have to be impeached…his lunacy alone will do him in…
What rhymes with decompensation?
I have to admit, I am indeed tired of all of this winning.
Which infrastructure week are we on now?
A quick reminder that Trump’s supporters were the ones telling us that Obama was embarrassing us on the world stage.
Yet, every dang day, Trump does something more embarrassing than the last. He needs to be sedated, and perhaps some time relaxing. This work is clearly too stressful for him.
@Teve: Well played, sir or ma’am. Well played.
He just did it again. On camera. Asked China to investigate Hunter Biden.
This fool just re-committed the same offense that he’s being investigated for to compel impeachment, and he did it on live TV.
I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this is unreal.
But Queeg was given a stirring defense in the end by the lawyer who had destroyed him on the stand. While all those junior officers had been enjoying the comforts of civilian life, Queeg and many like him at were manning the guns, defending the country:
No such defense could ever be mounted for Cadet Bone Spurs.
@Jon:..@Teve: Well played, sir or ma’am. Well played.
“sir or ma’am” clumsy construction or all inclusive?
How about “OTB Commenter” “blog poster” or maybe “y’all”
538 is now tracking Impeachment Polls.
Do note the inversion right at the end of September.
I would love it if we unanimously adopted “ya’ll” as the proper non-gendered third person pronoun (singular and plural).
“My name is Neil, and my preferred pronouns are youse, ya’ll, and y’uns.
@Jen: This a measure of his disintegration.
“My name is Neil, and my preferred pronouns are youse, ya’ll, and y’uns.”
No love for Western Pennsylvania’s yinz?
My sense of him is that he is dysregulated. This might be due to mental illness, he certainly appears to have narcissistic personality disorder. But it might just be due to pressure. He seems to have very poor skills – I know people who are bipolar and who have anxiety disorder who are better at regulating – and resent it and resist it when people around him try to assist him in regulating.
This, of course, was apparent long ago, and why we didn’t think he had the temperament for the job.
Mental illness, per se, is not a determining factor in someone’s functioning. Describing Trump as mentally ill is in some sense excusing him for the behavior, and insulting people who really are mentally ill, and work hard to gain skills that will let them function better.
Why not both? And I’m down with “y’all”.
“You all” works fine as second person plural. But is the contracted possessive y’all’s or y’alls’?
@Jen: It’s less dumb than it looks. Trump understands that he will never be prosecuted in a normal court for these acts – the only possibility is an impeachment proceeding, which is political.
By doing this, he’s dramatizing the idea that “this is normal behavior, everyone does this”. I expect he thinks that his base will go with that idea. And with the support of his base, he’s unlikely to face the wrath of Republican Senators.
I made the mistake of underestimating his political skills once. I’m not doing that again. On the other hand, I think my first assessment of his temperament was spot on.
I think it would have to be “y’all’s,” unless you are proposing that “y’alls” is a word too, in which case the possessive would be “y’alls’.”
But, c’mon, that’d be ridiculous.
@Teve: “Y’all’s”. That way the apostrophes are balanced and my OCD is satisfied.
@Mister Bluster: When I briefly lived outside Dallas around 1970 “y’all” seemed to generally be singular, the plural being “all y’all”.
I’m wondering is Trump is clinically paranoid. It’s one thing to make a claim, against evidence, that there was no Russian interference in the 2016 election, because it’s politically convenient and his base is largely ignorant of the details and nuances. And a very different one to see all the evidence and think, “this is all made up by my enemies.”
I also wonder if he suffers from schizophrenia. Perhaps the “some people” and “many people” he keeps referencing on the many occasions when he lies, are the voices in his head.
Agreed – I’ve always heard it pluralized to “all y’all”, usually with some sort of invective or swear immediately following it 🙂
@Jon: Frightening how well that fits. We may be in for a rough fourteen months.
@Neil Hudelson: I prefer y’all to singular they, but only barely.
Up until a few years ago, singular they was used for some abstract person where you don’t know the gender, and it just seems disrespectful for someone who you do know the gender of. “Non-binary? I don’t know what the hell that is…”
And then there is the distancing power of separating people into “us” and “them” — non-binary folks are forever put into the camp of them. It has shades of calling non-binary folks “those people.”
Y’all fixes some of that, but has a Southern problem that might be worse.
Sure, language changes, but I’m old. I’ll use someone’s preferred pronouns (or try to), but nothing will ever convince me that singular they isn’t a stupid pronoun to prefer. And I only harp on it when the subject of what-are-the-best-pronouns comes up, rather than every time I have to use it.
(This, by the way, is a fine example of tolerance — respect the person and let them live their life with their stupid choices that I don’t agree with, but, hey, whatever man*. Some of my best friends make amazingly stupid choices that I don’t agree with.
I wish the Twitterverse and the Left Wing Purity Police used tolerance as a standard rather than “you’re being X-phobic” for various definitions of X. It would be far easier to sell to the rest of the country. Place value not on expunging every wrong-judgement and bias, but on ignoring that judgement and letting people live their lives. “You want a wedding cake with two dudes on it? Hey, whatever, man, here’s the price….”)
*: Is there a gender inclusive version of “hey, whatever, man”?
Yes, yes, Trump is crazy. I’m bored with his crazy.
@Teve: pronouns tend not no have a possessive apostrophe — his hat, her hat, its hat, their hat(s).
I don’t know if it’s a hard and fast rule from somewhere, but I’d expect y’all to follow suit — y’alls big ol’ cowboy hat, all y’alls big ol’ cowboy hats.
This just highlights the futility of thinking that there is some “Republican Party” that will realize that Trump is harming the Party as a whole and take action. There are only individual Republicans making their individual decisions. This is exactly like an ultra rich 11 year old having a total temper tantrum meltdown in a crowded public space, while the nanny, the butler, the maids, the driver all try to shrink down upon themselves and hope nobody looks to them to contain the brat. They know if they say the slightest word he will turn on them and berate, humiliate and fire them and ensure they will never work again. Could one of them try to intervene? Not at this point, as anyone with a spine or even some self respect was gone years ago.
@Kathy: I’ve thought for a while that views on impeachment are to a large degree a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as Dems (and Dem-leaning indies) have believed that impeachment wasn’t a good idea, it’s driven down the overall public opinion, while Republicans (and Repub-leaning indies) mostly oppose it of course. As Dems have warmed to the idea, it’s made it more popular. Dems need to strike from their mind the mythical notion that there’s a large middle of disaffected “independents” who are ready to punish Dems for overreach. Dems all too often are afraid of their own shadow.
Captain Queeg: Ahh, but the strawberries that’s… that’s where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with… geometric logic… that a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox DID exist, and I’d have produced that key if they hadn’t of pulled the Caine out of action. I, I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officers…
Captain Trump: We’re going to launch an investigation to find out [about three to five million illegal votes]. …and I will say this, of those votes cast, none of them come to me, none of them come to me. They would all be for the other side. None of them come to me. But when you look at the people that are registered, dead, illegal, and two states, in some cases, maybe three states. We have a lot to look into.
@Kathy: I have read that Nixon may have had Paranoid Personality Disorder. He certainly was paranoid to a ludicrous degree: perhaps the most well-known example was his attempt to purge the BLS of Jews after an unemployment report he didn’t like. He wasn’t just an anti-Semite, he was convinced Jews were plotting against him.
But it’s a real stretch to suggest Trump has schizophrenia. I’ve known and been personally close to schizophrenics, I’ve read a great deal about the disorder, and my grandfather was a psychiatrist who treated them. Schizophrenia is usually something that strikes in early adulthood and then declines as a person gets older. One of its symptoms is a tendency to withdraw from the world. And the delusions tend to be not just extreme, but bizarre: for instance, John Nash once turned down a prestigious academic position on the grounds that he’d been appointed emperor of Antarctica.
Besides, Trump is such a pathological liar that the default assumption when he says something ridiculous is that he’s simply lying. If he ever said he’d been visited by little green men in a flying saucer, I’d think he just made the story up.
Obvious signs of syphilitic behavior. How many ho’s has he recycled through?
His brain is turning to mush.
This is a Bombshell, the Beginning of the End, The Tripping point, The walls are closing in, It is over for Trump.
Singular ‘they’ is a lot older than you are, though. It is ancient and venerable, widely used by the most educated and venerated authors of the past. For example, Shakespeare and Jane Austen used it all the time. The rule that we were all taught, that ‘he’ and ‘his’ should be used when gender is unknown or unspecified, can be traced to a specific 19th-century style guide writer whose qualifications to prescribe usage were questionable at best.
It’s hard to find an argument against singular ‘they’ that wouldn’t work just as well as an argument against singular ‘you’. And yet neither our language nor our society has crumbled over the loss of the you/ye distinction.
Kylopod, I’m in agreement with you here, Tiny definitely evidences narcissistic personality disorder and likely a secondary diagnosis of anti-social PD, but not schizophrenia. Paranoid ideation is found in several psychiatric diagnosis and in both, IIRC, narcissism and anti-social.
I don’t know if Shakespeare used it all the time, but I found a quote:
“There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me
As if I were their well-acquainted friend”
The Comedy of Errors, Act 4, Scene III
You’ve been reading George Conway.
And if not, it is a piece worth reading.
If you think this isn’t a problem and that there’s nothing wrong with him you are as deranged as he is…
@Kathy: Excellent piece.
I went to a talk last night by Andrew Sullivan on Trump and Democracy. It was quite as he pointed out many of the historical parallels that have led to Trump. One thing he did say: he does not think Trump will leave office voluntarily, either after impeachment or an election and maybe not even after his second term ends. Trump is a malignant narcissist. It never even occurs to him to think about anyone other than himself and he sees everything in relation to himself. Bush and Obama, in their blundering ways, tried to be the President of everyone. Trump only tries to be President of people who are loyal to him.
As someone smarter than me (Kevin Drum?) once said, “If your theory calls for a politician playing n-dimensional chess, it’s wrong”. But… this is only two dimensional. And it involves Lindsay Graham. Here goes.
Lindsay Graham turned so quickly to all in Trump defense that many speculate Trump has something on him. I think there is a good chance of that. But I was listening to the Trump diatribe in front of the Finnish President again, the part where he talks about what a perfect call he had with the Ukranian President (keep up people) and realized that for about the 5th time he invoked the name of Lindsay Graham. “Lindsay Graham said it was a beautiful call, and that he didn’t realize I could be so nice.” What if Lindsay is playing the double agent? Trump has the goat pictures and so Graham is forced to loudly defend him. But Mitch has the goat pictures too, and is using Lindsay to goad Trump into ever more public displays of criminality. Then, along comes a bill of censure or something similar from the Senate Dems and Mitch tells his whole flock of sheep its time to send a message. Not a single Republican utters a word other than “Yea” and it passes 100 to 0. Mitch then goes to Donald and tells him the jig is up. He can have a pardon from Pence and keep his business or be impeached and lose it all.
One can only dream…
@DrDaveT: Recently in a rant against the use of they for trans people, Ben Shapiro claimed that a plural pronoun has never been used as a singular in “all of human history.” This comment lit up the progressive Internet, which not only pointed out the long history of singular they, but dug up a string of tweets in which Shapiro himself used it that way (as do all English speakers colloquially, of course).
I find it deeply weird to refer to a known person as if their gender is unknown. Male, female and non-binary are all perfectly knowable genders.
It’s a different usage than the traditional, colloquial singular-they, as I used it in the preceding paragraph where the person is unknown.
Even @Kathy’s example has an unknown person (although with an ostensibly known gender, although “man” might mean person in that quote).
I would also point out that we don’t speak in Iambic pentameter, and that we don’t say “Zounds!” or make common mention of “country matters”, so not all of Shakespeare’s language choices survive into the modern language. It’s like pulling out a pronoun from Middle English and saying it was used in Beowulf, so it’s fine now.
If I wanted to show that this usage of singular-they had precedent, I’d stick to examples after people stopped referring to “horseless carriages” and probably even “colored people”, and I’d want to show it was commonly used.
@Kylopod: Ben Shapiro is a moron who would like to solve a minor linguistic issue with pronouns by simply getting rid of anyone who doesn’t agree with his definitions of male or female.
That said, the claims that everyone uses singular-they in this same manner are widely overblown.
Singular-they is commonly used when you don’t know the gender (“when a driver reaches a stop sign, they are supposed to stop”), sporadically when the person is unknown but the gender is (“they exposed their penis before fleeing”), but very seldom when the person and gender is known (“Mary drank their coffee”)
In short, non-binary is a perfectly knowable gender, and I don’t like bundling it into unknown gender.
Get to it, enbies, figure out a better pronoun.
And this is how bored I am with Trump’s rage tweets — I’d rather go on about singular-they than consider the bloated orange man’s temper tantrums.
Who exactly are you arguing with? To the best of my knowledge nobody has claimed they can be used as a singular in any circumstance. Indeed, part of the point is that what the traditionalists call “bad grammar” isn’t some anything-goes free-for-all; it follows systematic rules even though native speakers never have to study any of them in school. They’re processed intuitively. When you said “Billy and me are going to the store,” your mom corrected you by asking “Would you say ‘Me is going to the store’?” Of course you wouldn’t–and that’s just the point. You only use “me” that way when it’s part of a list; when it’s the entire subject you don’t. Nobody had to teach you that, but you knew it anyway. Colloquial speech has its own set of rules that may differ from schoolroom grammar but are generally used consistently; they aren’t a chaotic mess as the traditionalists like to think.
It’s that it’s unknowable, but rather that it’s irrelevant to the language. I’ve been using they/them to refer to people professionally for years before trans folks brought it to the forefront. English is rather blessed in that we don’t gender every damn word and make small children ponder what it is that makes a table masculine but a chair feminine. The only reason you actually need to use a pronoun to indicate a gender is to convey the gender of that person…. which naturally leads to the question of why would that information be important enough to convey? Does it matter to the sentence, the conversation? Are you using it to differentiate between the speakers instead of younger /older, blonde /brunette, etc? Are you using it to bias, implicitly or not, certain statements? In short, why exactly does it need to be brought up? You’d be amazed at how long you can go before you have to use he/she and in what limited circumstances actually call for it.
Think of pronouns like your name – you have one but really, how often does someone go about calling you by your name? Usually to get your attention or emphasize something. Thinking back over today, not a single person used my name at home or work but I didn’t consider it deeply weird. Doesn’t mean I don’t have one or it doesn’t matter, it’s just the way our language is – I’m not going to hear it every five seconds. If I went the whole day hearing “they” instead of “she”, it would be the same thing – not used because not needed.
@Hal_10000: I think I found that talk on youtube.
Yes, that’s the one.
OK, fair enough. I find it deeply weird to need to always specify a gender even when gender is irrelevant to what I’m saying — every bit as weird as (in French) needing to explicitly identify the table as feminine and the sun as masculine every time I refer to them*.
Ah, I was misinterpreting you as objecting to singular they in general, in part on grounds that it is untraditional. I was pointing out that it is, in fact, traditional, in the usage you note here.
If Will had wanted to leave it ambiguous, he could easily have said “every one” instead of “every man” in that bit of dialog, and it would have scanned the same.
Well, except for the fact that we still use it every day. As noted above, I picked Will and Jane to show that this usage is venerable; I could have picked any of a thousand different authors to show that it has been in continuous literate use up to the present day. It’s not archaic; it’s how English is actually spoken, and has been for centuries.
But, again, I missed the point that you were objecting specifically to its use for non-binary persons. In that context, the usage is certainly new, since the concept is too.
There have been many attempts to coin new pronouns to fill the necessary usage niche. None of them have even come close to widespread adoption; language users are extremely conservative when it comes to pronouns. The most recent innovation that caught on in English was the introduction of ‘she’ in the 12th century. Mostly what we get is collapse of multiple pronouns into one, as with ye/you becoming just you. Gendered pronouns are the last holdout of the old case system of Anglo-Saxon, along with the apostrophe-s that indicates a possessive.
*Even the French don’t insist on stating the gender of the owner of an object; if you want to label your towels ‘his’ and ‘hers’ in French, you have to say “to him” and “to her”. Otherwise, the feminine pronoun in <<sa serviette>> informs you that the towel is feminine…
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