Trump So Calm. Hasn’t Lost It.

It's time to invoke the 25th Amendment, folks.

There’s simply no escaping the obvious at this point: the President of the United States is deranged.

Accused of having a temper tantrum at the White House the day before, President Donald Trump did what anyone trying to prove their serenity would do: He put together a press conference during which he asked five aides to attest to his calmness.

On Thursday afternoon, Trump hosted a group of American farmers at the White House to tout his administration’s $16 billion aid plan for farmers afflicted by his ongoing trade war. But after singing their praises and promising relief to come, he quickly turned to the matter most clearly on his mind—reports that he’d lost his cool at a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the day before.

“Because I know they will always say that [I was angry]… I was so calm… I walked into the Cabinet Room, you had the group, Cryin’ Chuck, Crazy Nancy… She’s lost it,” the president insisted on Thursday. For good measure, he later reiterated that he was an “extremely stable genius.”

Over the course of several minutes, the president asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and two top communications hands—Mercedes Schlapp and Hogan Gidley—to relay to the gathered press that he was the picture of tranquility when he met Democratic congressional leaders day before.

“Very calm—I’ve seen both and this was definitely not angry or ranting [during Wednesday’s meeting],” Sanders said, right after Trump summoned her before the cameras. “Very calm, and straightforward, and clear that we have to actually get to work and do good things for the American people.”

The showcase was vintage Trump: the policy push of the day overwhelmed by internal insecurities and grievances with press coverage bursting into public view. And it underscored the degree to which his warfare with Nancy Pelosi has gone from political to psychological.

—The Daily Beast, “Trump Devotes Press Conference to Instructing Aides to Explain That He’s Definitely Not Mad

These are not the actions of an extremely stable man. The projection is just stunning. Pelosi is besting him in a political battle so she’s the crazy one. He’s even retweeting demonstrably faked videos of her to damage her reputation.

And while Pelosi has been the main target of late, she’s not alone.

President Trump on Thursday lashed out at Rex Tillerson after the former secretary of state reportedly told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared Trump for their first meeting in Germany.

Trump responded by calling Tillerson incompetent.

“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany,” he tweeted. “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

If Tillerson was “totally ill prepared and ill equipped” to be the nation’s top diplomat, Trump himself would be to blame: He appointed the former ExxonMobil CEO to be secretary of state shortly after his inauguration after interviewing multiple candidates, including now-Sen. Mitt Romney. Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate eight days later.

YahooNews, “Trump declares man he appointed secretary of state ‘totally ill prepared and ill equipped’ for the job

Tillerson was an abysmal Secretary of State. But he’s neither dumb nor incompetent. But you know who is totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped for their job?

This is sad an dangerous. It’s why the 25th Amendment provides procedures for ousting a President who’s demonstrably not up to the job. Instead of embarrassing themselves in public praising him, his top advisors need to seriously consider pulling the plug.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Twenty-Fifth Amendment, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. I agree with you.

    Unfortunately the Vice-President and Cabinet are unlikely to act.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Don’t focus on the nonsense…focus on the fact that he just borrowed $16B from China to pay off farmers who are losing money because of his unnecessary, and poorly thought out, trade war with China.

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  3. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I agree, but the nonsense is becoming pathological. I hesitate to offer a medical diagnosis because I am not a doctor and am basing my judgments on what I see on television but he’s behaving in a manner that suggests he isn’t entirely stable from a mental point of view at this point, If that’s true, then it becomes more important than any policy issue out there.

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  4. michael reynolds says:

    He’s mentally unstable and getting worse as we watch. Yes, it’s dangerous. No Pence and the rest of Trump’s toadies won’t do anything. The smarter ones are just praying they can hold things together until the voters eject the clown from office and the nation takes a long, hot shower to get the stink off them.

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  5. An Interested Party says:

    Even sadder than his derangement is how his flunkies demean and debase themselves to sing his praises…if they had any shame, they would be so embarrassed…Conway got into a tiff, claiming Pelosi treated her like a maid…as if anything Pelosi could do to her would be worse than what Trump has already done to her…

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  6. Kylopod says:

    I know these points have been made repeatedly, but they’re worth bearing in mind:

    1) The procedure outlined in the 25th Amendment was designed for a situation where a president is incapacitated, as in Woodrow Wilson after his stroke or a hypothetical Kennedy who survives the assassination attempt but in a vegetative state. I could see it potentially applying to a president who has an extreme mental breakdown, but that can be a dangerous slippery slope, as there’s a lot of subjectivity there.

    2) Let’s review what would need to happen for the 25th to be invoked. The way it works is that, if the president objects to being removed, then 2/3rds of both houses of Congress must vote to remove him. So it’s actually far more difficult than removing a president through impeachment, which only requires a simple majority in the House and then 2/3rds of the Senate. And even that’s a pipedream at this point. Barring a decline in his (physical) health, we’re stuck with the Mad King until at least Jan. 20, 2021.

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  7. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    The man has control of thousands of deliverable nuclear warheads. This isn’t just about policy, he’s a toddler holding an AK and we really, really should take the gun away from him.

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  8. Teve says:

    Over the course of several minutes, the president asked White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow, and two top communications hands—Mercedes Schlapp and Hogan Gidley—to relay to the gathered press that he was the picture of tranquility when he met Democratic congressional leaders day before.

    “Very calm—I’ve seen both and this was definitely not angry or ranting [during Wednesday’s meeting],” Sanders said, right after Trump summoned her before the cameras. “Very calm, and straightforward, and clear that we have to actually get to work and do good things for the American people.”

    what’s it called when you’ve been captured and you’re forced to make a video confessing your crimes and how wonderful your captors are, but you exhibit some kind of signal to indicate you’re under duress? Has anybody scanned the news footage of those people for those signs?

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  9. MarkedMan says:

    The 25th amendment really boils down to a case where the president is so ill or injured they are unconscious and deemed very unlikely to recover. I don’t see how it can be used for a president that is still walking and talking, especially one like Trump. The very collection of toadies, losers and grifters that would need to vote him out know they are totally dependent on him for their jobs and prestige and will be unemployed and unemployable the day he leaves office.

    From the amendment: “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

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  10. @Kylopod:

    I agree with you on both points

  11. gVOR08 says:

    Deranged or not, Trump is better at motivating their base than anyone else. He’s actually their best shot at holding the WH. Why depose him now? That gets them one year of Pence and almost no chance of holding the WH.

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  12. becca says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Could Trump be willing to play the fool to distract attention from his policy failures?

    I can see aides pushing this strategy, making sure he’s riled up before every event so he becomes the story. I’m sure they were aware of his hair-trigger temper before Pelosi made it clear to all others.

    I can’t see DT opening himself up to this humiliation for the good of the team, though, for all the oft stated reasons….narcissism being numerous uno.

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  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    January 20, 2021 just seems to get farther and farther away.

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  14. Moosebreath says:

    “Tillerson was an abysmal Secretary of State. But he’s neither dumb nor incompetent. But you know who is totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped for their job?”

    Somewhat OT, but I would love to see an ad run during the campaign next year of Trump proclaiming he only hires the best people, followed by a collection of clips of Trump denouncing the people he appointed to office.

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  15. gVOR08 says:

    If the GOP establishment wanted Trump gone, he’d be gone. You don’t think Koch and his henchmen own at least 20 GOP senators?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    via TPM:

    Per the New York Times, the dramatic escalation in their argument, starting with the dueling press conferences after a scuttled infrastructure meeting, was by Pelosi’s own design. She reportedly wanted to shift the national conversation off the impeachment debate roiling her caucus with an attack that would garner extensive media coverage.

    Her aggression towards Trump is also a tactic to help her not appear soft on the President while dissuading her caucus from going after impeachment, since she’s been arguing that Trump wants them to start proceedings so he can be exonerated by the Republican-led Senate.

    And our very stable genius president took the bait hook, line, and sinker.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:

    You don’t think Koch and his henchmen own at least 20 GOP senators?

    The problem is they don’t own the racist, gun toting, SocSec loving rabble that is the base. They grabbed that tiger by the tail and they daren’t let go.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @Kylopod: @MarkedMan: Oh, it’s very hard and should be. But it’s a different thing than impeachment. If the VP and a majority of the cabinet—all selected by Trump—were to declare Trump unfit, the House and Senate would surely go along. With impeachment, there’s much more of a rallying instinct by those in a President’s party.

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  19. Andrew says:

    Considering the video attacks on Pelosi trying to make her seem old, out of it, drugged, and/or has dementia…this would be the projection I would start looking for, to battle rumors regarding Trump around re-election.

    Basically, I agree with Dr. Joyner.

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  20. Kathy says:

    I’m confused. Why would Trump throw a temper tantrum to prove he didn’t throw a temper tantrum? Is this some kind of rich senile orange guy thing I don’t get?

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  21. @MarkedMan:

    The very collection of toadies, losers and grifters that would need to vote him out know they are totally dependent on him for their jobs and prestige and will be unemployed and unemployable the day he leaves office.

    Exactly.

    The 25th will not be invoked and the only real hope we have is his losing election in 2020.

    Impeachment is a legitimate pathway, but it will not end in removal.

    BTW: I do not think he is getting worse. I think he is as bad as he was in the campaign. I just think his preexisting incompetence and inability is just crashing on the waves of the reality of being in the office, which just further reveals his limitations.

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  22. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I do not think he is getting worse. I think he is as bad as he was in the campaign. I just think his preexisting incompetence and inability is just crashing on the waves of the reality of being in the office, which just further reveals his limitations.

    This is a strong possibility. Trump struck me as a loose cannon during the campaign, but seldom unhinged. But it was a much more controlled situation than governing.

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  23. MarkedMan says:

    While I agree that the election is the most likely way to finally take out the Trump Trash, I don’t rule out some kind of break down, physical or mental. There is a fair amount of evidence that Trump abuses prescription drugs, and he no longer has the ability to disappear and back off in order to clean up and calm down.

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  24. mattbernius says:

    @James Joyner:

    Trump struck me as a loose cannon during the campaign, but seldom unhinged. But it was a much more controlled situation than governing.

    Trump’s entire career has been in scenarios where there was little to no substantive public pushback against him. Sure there were bad articles and lawsuits, but generally speaking, no one ever told him “no” and in most cases his legal team shrewdly constructed deals (and interpreted contracts) in such a way that he came out on top.

    The last 3 years have marked the most sustained and organized resistance that he’s ever faced (and also marked the furthest he’s gotten from having primary control of his narrative). So I think to @Steven L. Taylor’s point we’re seeing the toll of those constraints on him.

    Even if there is no cognitive decline, I expect this is not going to get better.

    We all need to continue to hope that there is no major disaster/crisis between now and 2021 (not that anyone should ever hope for a crisis regardless of who is in the Whitehouse).

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  25. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    The VP and cabinet declare Trump unfit, then the House and Senate Republicans go along? This seems less plausible than POTUS being removed from office by lightning strike. These Republicans would all have to admit they’ve been blindly, loyally following and defending a nutcase for years. It’s not like this deranged behavior is new or even escalating noticeably from the beginnings of his term.

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  26. Pylon says:

    “I know exactly what he’d tell you, lies. He was no different from any other officer in the ward room, they were all disloyal. I tried to run the ship properly, by the book, but they fought me at every turn. The crew wanted to walk around with their shirt tails hanging out, that’s all right, let them. Take the tow line, defective equipment, no more, no less. But they encouraged the crew to go around scoffing at me, and spreading wild rumors about steaming in circles and then old yellow stain. I was to blame for Lt. Maryk’s incompetence and poor seamanship. Lt. Maryk was the perfect officer, but not Captain Queeg. Ah, 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 ward room icebox did exist, and I’ve had produced that key if they hadn’t pulled the Caine out of action. I, I know now they were only trying to protect some fellow officer. … Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory. If I left anything out, why, just ask me specific questions and I’ll be glad to answer them, one by one.”

    “Old Yellow Stain” has a different meaning this time around.

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  27. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    I’m confused. Why would Trump throw a temper tantrum to prove he didn’t throw a temper tantrum? Is this some kind of rich senile orange guy thing I don’t get?

    Because the man has so little self-awareness it goes a long way in explaining why so many of us used to think he was some kind of performance artist playing a character: we simply could not comprehend that any human being could be this transparently ridiculous unless it was some kind of act.

    There’s a certain point in almost everyone’s childhood where you realize that when someone accuses you of something, you’re not going to convince anyone to think otherwise just by loudly affirming the opposite: if someone calls you an “ugly stink-head,” you’re not likely to ward off the charges in other people’s minds by screaming that you’re a “wonderful-smelling beauty.”

    This is probably the most bizarre thing about Trump that gets surprisingly little attention because we’ve grown so used to it by now. Even when people call him a narcissist, a sociopath, a con artist, a bully, a racist–even those are all still relatively conventional categories that in their way make Trump sound more normal than he actually is. There’s something distinctly surreal about the Trump era that we risk losing sight of because we’re living through it. When the history books of this period are written, I think it’s going to leave a lot of people in the future scratching their heads in disbelief.

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  28. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Let’s reflect for a moment on the fact that about 30% of our population is willing to follow a crazy person over the cliff and take the rest of the country with it. The GOP and their culture wars have brought us to this pass and may every single member rot in hell for what they are doing now.

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” – some guy named Tom

    “A republic – if you can keep it.” – old geezer named Ben

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  29. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    The most meaningful project between now and the re-election is to put Trump’s deranged behaviors in the face of the public at every opportunity and pray that some measure of his supporters come to see him in the light described here so well by you and James.

    Trump has to lose and lose bigly, overcoming likely another round of Russian tampering, or I’m afraid Trump and his followers won’t concede.

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  30. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The 25th amendment really boils down to a case where the president is so ill or injured they are unconscious and deemed very unlikely to recover. I don’t see how it can be used for a president that is still walking and talking, especially one like Trump.

    That’s because mental health has not and continues to be treated as somehow completely separate then your physical health. We view mental health in terms of morality or strength of character instead of as the actual illnesses they can be. If you had presented a case study like Trump’s or even Reagan’s to the folks who wrote the 25th, you would have gotten stares because they would have flatly told you someone with *those* issues wouldn’t have been within 100 yrds of the WH, let alone occupying the Oval Office. The idea of a visibly mentally ill President would have been considered bad fiction back then and most would have agreed it would have been dealt with in some fashion long before we needed to drag the Constitution into it. The Founders would have likely considered *you* to be mentally ill for bringing the possibility up in the first place.

    Hell, the 25th doesn’t even allow the VP to take over when the President goes under anesthesia unless a specific document is signed – it’s clearly not the most thorough or well-thought through document. But it’s a start. It’s not a slippery slope to acknowledge that something that drastically and negatively affects your mental capabilities can be lifelong, debilitating and gets worse over time, preventing your from doing your duty. You don’t get better from dementia or personality disorders and at Trump’s age and health, it’s all downhill from here. He is clearly and rapidly degenerating in a way that would alarming to the average person if this was their family member. What’s going to end up happening is his staff is going to start circumventing him to prevent issues (raising Constitutional issues), he’s going to keep provoking crisis by ignoring norms and doing WTF he wants (raising Constitutional issues) or he’s finally going to do / say something on camera that’s so undeniably batsh^t demented that even his people can’t lie about it anymore (raising Constitutional issues). It all ends the same way so it’s pick the Constitutional issue hill you want to die on at this point.

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  31. michael reynolds says:

    I am not a doctor and I don’t know if it’s cognitive decline. It may just be fear. You know, the mind-killer, the little-death that brings total obliteration? Trump’s an idiot but even a bad conman knows he’s running a con. He knows the truth about his finances, he knows he’s been living on bullshit and Russian mob money and he is unmistakably terrified that the world will witness an Emperor’s New Clothes moment of revelation.

    Fear does bad things to people, especially over time, especially when you start with a person who managed to reach an advanced age without ever having to cope with any sort of adversity. Dumb, old, in way over his head and scared, that’s not a formula for stability.

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  32. KM says:

    @Kylopod:

    There’s something distinctly surreal about the Trump era that we risk losing sight of because we’re living through it. When the history books of this period are written, I think it’s going to leave a lot of people in the future scratching their heads in disbelief.

    People refuse to believe how deviant some folks can be and by that I mean the sheer depths of degree in which they are off the norm. I had a client once who suffered from what is best described as “terminal lack of give a f^ck”. They were in adult diapers in their 40’s simply because they couldn’t be bothered to get up and walk to the bathroom… and the diapers were worn *only* if you insisted on it. Otherwise, they’d urinate all over the furniture and just keep sitting there in it for *hours*. No, it wasn’t depression, bipolar or any other disorder biological or not – they just didn’t care about hygiene standards and felt getting up when they were watching TV was a waste of time. The bathroom was far, what they want to do is right here and cleaning products are a thing. Just wash the couch and it will be fine right? This behavior was not limited to the home. So you would think their family members, having had some furniture desecrated before would remember and plan, right? Nope! Each and every $^#&#^* time, they’d be SHOCKED and then angry that this person had done this even though it may have been as little a week between visits. And yet, they never refused a visit or prevented this in any way – just bemoaned the cleanup afterwards.

    The violation here was a cultural norm as well as common sense (cleanliness and appropriateness) but the family just kept thinking that the person would adhere to the norm the next time because “OMG that’s what you do!!”. Denial is a remarkable thing and people don’t want to accept that someone can be so far outside the parameters of normal. You don’t pee on other people’s furniture. They’ll change. It must have been an accident. They’ll stop. They HAVE to – this can’t go on like this. Maybe they’re sick. It’s not going to happen again. They’ll get better. They’ll learn. They HAVE to….

    and the furniture peeing continues apace and nothing changes but the smell in the room. Trump’s peeing all over the furniture and America’s sitting here like, “OMG but he won’t do it again, people don’t DO that!” Yes, they DO that and ARE doing that. The longer we keep pretending norms matter and will somehow magically save us, the more furniture we’re going to need deep-cleaned.

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  33. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If that’s true, then it becomes more important than any policy issue out there.

    True…but nothing is going to ever happen regarding his fitness for office.
    He has the AG and the Senate Majority Leader in his pocket.
    But he is pursuing dangerous policy…including the latest; allowing Baghdad Barr a free-hand to declassify (cherry-pick) classified information.

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  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    really should take the gun away from him.

    I agree. 100%.
    So now tell me how that happens in the real world?

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  35. dazedandconfused says:

    Is he deranged or a desperate buffoon? That is a question for mental health professionals, I’m not qualified to judge, but I will say neither diagnosis would surprise. If we are talking removing him from office the question which needs addressing is what kind of POTUS Pence would be.

    Trump’s one saving grace, in my eyes, is his fairly constant checking of Bolton’s and Pompeo’s attempts to drum up a war with Iran. He’s a businessman and still appears capable of identifying an expensive undertaking which has no apparent profit potential. IMHO, Pence, the ultimate turbo-Christian and stuffed shirt, will be even easier than Bush was to manipulate in this area.

    They merely have to tell him Israel wishes it, and they will.

    Which guy is more dangerous? Let’s not beg that question.

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  36. mattbernius says:

    Also, we need to admit, that this type of behavior continues to be a feature, not a bug, for Trump’s supporters.

    And likely nothing short of causing a war or a recession is likely to change that — and honestly, it’s just causing a recession that will probably be the only thing that changes that (as most would be more than happy to support a war if it meant they would get another tax cut or the stock market continues to be strong).

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  37. @James Joyner:

    Trump struck me as a loose cannon during the campaign, but seldom unhinged.

    It is all subjective to be sure. I just didn’t find the incident you note in the post to be especially more bizarre than previous behavior. Remember: he did something similar early in his admin when he went around the table to have the cabinet praise him for the cameras.

    He is an extremely insecure man who craves praise and is used to people kissing up to him.

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  38. @michael reynolds:

    It may just be fear.

    Agreed. That and fear’s cousins: insecurity. In my experience, insecure people in positions of power/authority often cause huge problems.

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  39. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Damned if I know, my friend, I’m just writing the prescription, how or whether it’s filled is a different matter.

  40. Kylopod says:

    @KM:

    That’s because mental health has not and continues to be treated as somehow completely separate then your physical health.

    I agree that that’s a real problem in our culture–but I think that’s also why the whole premise of viewing Trump’s unfitness as a mental-health issue is flawed. I think it’s possible he’s suffering from early dementia. His vocabulary is less than it used to be (look at some older interviews), there have been several incidents of him starting to wander off or be unsure where he is, and then there are his bizarre misspellings (hamberders, achomlishments, smocking gun), pronunciations (God blesh the United Shtates), and other verbal gaffes (oranges of the investigation). Everyone has moments like these on occasion, but with him it seems to be chronic–and to have increased in just the past few years.

    That said, all this constitutes a tiny fraction of why he’s unfit for the office. You could imagine just about anyone having these problems (say, an 80-year-old FDR), and while it might be a good reason they no longer belong in the job, it doesn’t really scratch the surface of why anyone is talking about the 25th Amendment. The problems they’re outlining there–his delusional narcissism, his vindictiveness, his incompetence at the job–all boil down the fact that he’s a steaming turd of a human being, which has always been true. Ascribing these problems to mental health is just trying to slap a label onto what is little more than a defective personality.

    As I said, I can imagine extreme scenarios where a decline in mental health might be a good reason to invoke the 25th Amendment: for instance, a president in a catatonic state. That’s the sort of situation where mental illness could indeed become comparable to extreme physical impairment such as a coma. The question is where you draw the line. Schizophrenic delusions and hallucinations? Alzheimer’s where the president no longer recognizes his own family? Maybe. But what about lesser symptoms of those disorders? What about milder mental illnesses such as depression (which past political leaders such as Lincoln and Churchill may have suffered from) or OCD? What about Nixon-level paranoia?

    One problem is a tendency among the general public to ascribe all bad behavior to mental problems. To some extent this attitude is baked into the language: words like crazy, deranged, maniac, lunatic, insane are all applied thoughtlessly to anything people consider abnormal or threatening. You can even see it in the recent commentary on the Game of Thrones finale in which a certain character is said to have “gone mad” when it was clearly a calculated act. In particular, people seem to have a perpetual confusion between a person’s morality and their connection with reality. That’s why, among other things, people colloquially use the words psychotic and psychopathic interchangeably, even though those are in fact two completely different things.

    It ends up being tremendously insulting to the mentally ill themselves (most of whom are not violent or immoral) while in effect letting bad people off the hook for being bad people: if it’s just a mental condition, who can blame them? At bottom it’s a category error in which anyone who acts outside the range of what we consider proper conduct is both despised and treated as a freak who should just be cast out of sight.

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  41. michael reynolds says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    The problem is that it may not be up to Trump. Bolton is sending B-52’s to the region, along with additional assault troops and an assault ship, on top of a carrier task force. It’s the Tonkin Gulf playbook. One mistake, one Iranian gunboat gets trigger happy, or we shoot a passenger plane out of the sky mistaking it for a military jet, and we could be on the knife’s edge of a war. At that point Trump will either escalate or fold, neither being a clever idea.

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  42. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Trump’s recall and his ability to stay on track, roughly approximates where I am after numerous (medicinal) vape hits, eight ounces of whiskey and just about to fall asleep. But only if I’m not trying and my wife is the only audience.

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  43. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:
    Also, you are dead right about conflating mental illness and assholery. It doesn’t help people with a real mental illness and it excuses the assholes.

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  44. gVOR08 says:

    The 25th amendment was written around serious physical or mental impairment. Barring impairment obvious to al, including the public, it’s just as political as impeachment. And just like impeachment, it requires 2/3 of a majority Republican senate.

    I thought he’d resign when the going got tough. But now he faces immediate indictment if he resigns. He’s desperate for reelection. And this time Koch and the rest of the Billionaire Boys Club seem willing to back him. Along with large parts of the “deep state”.

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  45. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “The smarter ones are just praying they can hold things together until the voters eject the clown from office and the nation takes a long, hot shower to get the stink off them.”

    “Praying.” Is that the new term for looting everything that isn’t nailed down?

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  46. Sleeping Dog says:

    The only way Tiny’s sycophants will invoke the 25th A is under the cover of a temporarily disabling medical condition that a person of his age would likely recover from in 60-90 days. It provides an excuse to do what they don’t have the courage to do now.

  47. Blue Galangal says:

    @mattbernius:

    Even if there is no cognitive decline, I expect this is not going to get better.

    Achomlishments.

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  48. James Joyner says:

    @Scott F.:

    The VP and cabinet declare Trump unfit, then the House and Senate Republicans go along? This seems less plausible than POTUS being removed from office by lightning strike. These Republicans would all have to admit they’ve been blindly, loyally following and defending a nutcase for years.

    I’m not arguing that it’s likely to happen; I agree that it’s not. I’m merely pointing out their duty.

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  49. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:
    You said in the comment it would be very hard, so I realize that you weren’t suggesting likelihood.

    I’m just trying to redirect attention to where I believe it needs to be when we are discussing the current state of affairs in US politics.

    Trump is as Trump is. He is no more unfit today than when he rode down that escalator in 2015. Anybody paying attention saw this. Hell, during the campaign, establishment Republicans saw this and said as much. But, he kept winning primaries on the shoulders of his xenophobic base. The party could have called him out and rejected the “deplorables” that supported him in favor a more tempered immigration stance, but they fell in line. Opportunity to do their duty failure #1.

    Then, when the Russian interference and Trump’s eager acceptance of the same came to light, the Republicans could have given full-throated support to an unbiased full investigation by Mueller followed by a transparent sharing of the facts. Instead, they threw shade on the reputation of Mueller and his team, they accused their own DOJ with bias, and they echoed the “witch hunt” and “hoax” memes. Opportunity to do their duty failure #2.

    Now, the Republicans are abetting the total obstruction of congressional oversight and they’re not going to raise as much as a whisper of discomfort with the declassification of FBI sources Trump has now empowered Barr to do in the service of further delegitimizing the Mueller findings and placating POTUS. Opportunity to do their duty failure #3.

    We can call on the Republicans to do their duty, and please continue to do so, but we shouldn’t expect anything to come of it. In my opinion, the people in power in the Republican Party are further away from being duty-bound than Trump is from being presidential. And that’s saying something!!

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  50. @James Joyner: I might be in the minority here, but he seems worse to me. I thought he was stupid and unstable during the 2016 campaign, but he just seems worse now.

    And yes, every time he makes an accusation, it’s a confession. Calling Pelosi, crazy? Give me a break.

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  51. JKB says:

    This is amusing but ultimately a failed attempt. The granting of declassification authority to Barr obviously had James’ crowd scared. It means they can’t impede with cries of classified or slow walk declassification. Accountability is coming.

    And then Nancy tried to set the news cycle with her “cover up” claim. It’s amusing how Democrats/media have taken this up. But Trump didn’t play, he yanked it out of her hands. The media latched on to the “one lane” theme, but that Rose Garden speech laid out the witch hunt in fine form. Now the denizens cry “unstable” but DC is evacuating for the summer vacay season leaving Trump to continue to run the news cycle. Congress is gone for a week or more. This latest “unstable” won’t withstand the day in, day out public acts Trump will be doing for the next 100 days.

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  52. @JKB: You are just another sycophant. The declassification is reckless. It also underscores that Trump will pull out the stops if he is trying to defend himself. Where is this kind of energy in looking into Russian interference in our elections?

    But Trump didn’t play, he yanked it out of her hands.

    This is delusional. He went on to throw a public tantrum. Plus, the whole thing was staged by Trump in the first place, or do you think that sign on the podium just spontaneously appeared?

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  53. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Remember: he did something similar early in his admin when he went around the table to have the cabinet praise him for the cameras.

    I had forgotten about this. The amount of sucking up he requires is astounding. I remember early in his administration that Stephen Mill went on multiple shows one weekend and played to an audience of one. He said the most obsequious things I’ve ever heard.

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  54. @Robert Prather: That should be Miller.

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  55. Lounsbury says:

    @JKB: I used to in the old Sov days think that the habit of Double Think and craven bootlicking affirming Night-is-Day party-support was not something that could sustain itself in the Western world

    That is being proven painfully, obviously wrong.

    On the other hand it does show that the JKB ilk are indeed Bolsheviks of the Right, who have hijacked the classic old Angloworld conservatism and turned it into a caricature of itself rather like the Bolsheviks turned socialist Leftism into a self-caricature in the end.

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  56. MarkedMan says:

    @KM: Wow. What do you do for a living that gives you clients like this?

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  57. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: “Wow. What do you do for a living that gives you clients like this?:

    My guess: MAGA-wear salesman.

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  58. Monala says:

    @michael reynolds: Andy Borowitz of the New Yorker wrote a satiric column in which Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer used Trump’s temper tantrum walkout as an opportunity to hide the nuclear codes.

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  59. Jen says:

    Trump’s supporters clearly live in an alternate reality. It is absolutely astonishing the amount of praise he needs, and it is unhealthy. He is unhealthy. If not mentally, certainly physically.

    He clearly has issues with women, and anyone smarter than him.

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  60. just nutha says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: It may be all the way out to 2025 by now. Currently, there’s no reason to suspect that the nation’s voters are any smarter or wiser than they were in 2016.

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  61. KM says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Back then? Counselor. Believe it or not, this client wasn’t there for that reason – it just came up day one because my furniture was not immune and I was warned ahead of time. I didn’t listen and I deeply regretted it. For the record, group counseling sessions SUCK so if you ever end up in one (court-ordered or not), *please* be nice to the counselor – you won’t *believe* some of the things we’ve seen.

    Praise the Lord that job’s in the review mirror. I’ve moved on to bigger and far less stressful things. I no longer need to worry about being attacked at work or random urine stains to scrub out.

    @wr:
    No but it was in what’s now MAGA territory. I would not surprise me in the slightest to go back there and find out they went full MAGAt, though…..

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  62. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:
    I’m quite happy to have Barr investigate this. Here’s the (Spoiler!) result: he’ll have to cover up his own findings because what he finds will make Trump look even worse. And since he’ll have helpfully declassified everything it’ll be that much easier for the House to call in the agents involved to answer whatever pitiful lies Barr produces for the bootlicks like you.

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  63. Kathy says:

    @Lounsbury:

    On the other hand it does show that the JKB ilk are indeed Bolsheviks of the Right, who have hijacked the classic old Angloworld conservatism and turned it into a caricature of itself rather like the Bolsheviks turned socialist Leftism into a self-caricature in the end.

    The big difference is that in the USSR it was the Party and government that suppressed dissent from the people. The modern GOP party and government are suppressed by a minority of the people who make up the new Bolshies.

    The good news is the modern Bolshies have no coercive power over other people, just the GOP. So they can still be defeated in an election, as they were in the 2018 midterms.

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  64. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The problem is that it may not be up to Trump. Bolton is sending B-52’s to the region, along with additional assault troops and an assault ship, on top of a carrier task force. It’s the Tonkin Gulf playbook. One mistake, one Iranian gunboat gets trigger happy, or we shoot a passenger plane out of the sky mistaking it for a military jet, and we could be on the knife’s edge of a war. At that point Trump will either escalate or fold, neither being a clever idea.

    The difference is Gulf of Tonkin was cleared by the POTUS at the time. Bolton has a big problem, the military won’t do anything unless the POTUS clears it. IMO Pence is significantly more likely to clear such an op, and far more likely to use an incident with some gunboats to launch a full scale war.

    The reasoning is based on Trump knowing from his twitter feed that war with Iran is very unpopular with much of his base. Religious fanatics such as Pence don’t care about public opinion in such matters…at least not to anywhere near the same degree.

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  65. michael reynolds says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    It’ll be interesting. Is Trump weak enough to let himself be led into a war? Will he be willing to take the scorn if he runs? Bolton has set the table and so far Trump seems to be going along, though to be fair I don’ think we know whether Trump has pushed back against an even more forward deployment.

  66. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’ll be interesting. Is Trump weak enough to let himself be led into a war?

    Without a doubt.

    Wars are very popular at the outset. Launch a war in 2020 in the midst of the election campaign, and Dennison will be sure he’ll be reelected. No one would dare vote against him, the pretend-commander in chief, right?

    BTW, if Trump hasn’t lost it, it’s only because he never had it.

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  67. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Fear does bad things to people, especially over time, especially when you start with a person who managed to reach an advanced age without ever having to cope with any sort of adversity. Dumb, old, in way over his head and scared, that’s not a formula for stability.

    Old isn’t really needed for this.

    I was one of those kids that could coast through school without doing any work, and who was generally protected from everything — I never had had to learn to try hard, or to deal with failure. I then went to one of the toughest engineering schools in the country and… failed out after two and a half years. Two and a half years where I was a bitter, angry, frustrated, mood-swinging asshole who just couldn’t understand why things suddenly stopped going my way. (I was a slow learner.)

    I look at Trump, and statements like “who could have known health care would be so hard” and I see my 19 year old self. I don’t much like my 19 year old self.

    Unfortunately, you can’t fail out of the presidency in just two and a half years, and Donald Trump shows no signs of learning any lessons.

    Failing out of college made me a much better person — I learned lessons that I probably should have learned a lot sooner, but at least I learned them.

    His failing presidency has done nothing for Donald Trump though. And the rest of us have to suffer with it.

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  68. Mikey says:

    @JKB:

    The granting of declassification authority to Barr obviously had James’ crowd scared.

    You craven, cultist lickspittle. How many intel sources and methods are you willing to compromise to serve your authoritarian master?

    Fortunately, unlike you, DNI Coats still serves America rather than Trump. He has issued a statement that clearly indicates he will protect sources and methods rather than burn them at the demand of an Attorney General who is quite obviously working to protect Trump rather than uphold the rule of law.

    But Trump didn’t play, he yanked it out of her hands.

    This is full-on “2 + 2 = 5 and the sky is plaid” territory right here. You are delusional.

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  69. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    or do you think that sign on the podium just spontaneously appeared?

    Don’t forget the handouts and the reporters already there when the prez was supposed to be in the meeting.

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  70. Kylopod says:

    @Gustopher:

    I look at Trump, and statements like “who could have known health care would be so hard” and I see my 19 year old self.

    That’s actually a perfect example of the subtle normalization of Trump I described before. He didn’t say “who could have known health care would be so hard.” I’ve constantly seen it quoted in that form, but it’s not the way he said it. What he said was: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” A statement, not a question (rhetorical or otherwise).

    It is hard to convey just how totally bizarre the statement is. He isn’t just expressing bafflement at the complexity of health care. He is, literally, claiming to be the first human being in all of world history to have discovered the complexity of health care. I’m not exaggerating. That’s literally what he said. People have this habit of trying to force-fit his remarks into a more rational form, because they simply find it hard to believe that anyone could be so mindbogglingly idiotic. He’s not just being arrogant in the manner you describe your 19-year-old self. He’s saying something so self-evidently ludicrous it really does raise questions about his sanity.

    He may not actually believe what he’s saying. It’s part of his pattern of always talking in superlatives about himself–nobody knows more about X than I do, nobody’s ever accomplished more than me, nobody’s more respectful to women, nobody’s more transparent, etc. He says these lines almost like a magical incantation against exposing the obvious truth that he’s a pile of human garbage–a deeply stupid, incompetent, and wicked man. He’s speaking from a sense of profound insecurity, not genuine belief in his own greatness. What’s bizarre is that he thinks it’s effective. He desperately wants people to think he’s as awesome as he claims, but he always ends up simply calling attention to how pathetically lacking he actually is. That’s not about his being young or old, it’s just something peculiar to his character.

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  71. gVOR08 says:

    I think Atrios has a good plan,

    There should be a few Democrats who go on cable news every day and say things like “Donald Trump has brain worms from syphilis and his dick is about to fall off.” Bully the bully.

    As, well, nearly everyone has observed,we can believe Trump is a functioning adult when his close associates stop treating him like an infant.

    In his Brexit post Doug linked to a Guardian article on the contenders to replace Theresa May. Of one Matt Hancock, at 33:1 odds, they say, “he gains ground for the seemingly basic virtues of being apparently competent and broadly similar to a normal human being”. Beats our prez.

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  72. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod:

    It is hard to convey just how totally bizarre the statement is. He isn’t just expressing bafflement at the complexity of health care. He is, literally, claiming to be the first human being in all of world history to have discovered the complexity of health care. I’m not exaggerating. That’s literally what he said.

    I’ve noticed that, and on other matters, too.

    It’s like a mixture of solipsism and narcissism. As if only his judgment, knowledge (if any), or feelings can possibly matter. Everyone else is either wrong or irrelevant, unless they agree with him. That’s why he can claim Clinton got more votes because undocumented immigrants were allowed to vote. For him, there’s no other possible explanation.

    I’ve noticed this trait more on people on the right politically, but not exclusively. Someone who operated more or less like this was Robert Heinlein. But Heinlein was smart, widely read, and did know things. He just couldn’t tell when his knowledge fell short, because he assumed what he knew was enough, or all that mattered.

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  73. Teve says:

    @Kathy: when I was a young healthy well-educated white boy libertarian, I thought Heinlein was the bee’s knees.

    Like most reasonablly intelligent people do, I grew out of it. 🙂

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  74. Gustopher says:

    If Obama was behaving like this, would Republicans be talking about 25th Amendment solutions, or 2nd Amendment solutions?

    As the Republicans have embraced spite, and troll culture, putting “pissing off libs” as a goal worthy of pursuit on its own, I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been more of a random violent backlash. Piss people off, and they react. It’s not like there aren’t crazy liberals out there, or that guns are hard to get. We had left wing terrorists in the 1970s, and there was the guy who shot up the Republican baseball game, so it wouldn’t even be unprecedented.

    But the craziest lefty people I know of are talking about bike lanes, and how we should replace all the “public storage for private vehicles along our streets” with bike lanes, and posting GoPro videos on twitter of people trying to pass them when they “take the lane” complaining that cars are either using the center turn lane illegally, or passing too close. God, those people are insufferable.

    I mean, I’m glad we don’t have more political violence in this country, but I’m surprised.

    Also, those bike people… ugh.

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  75. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    Some of his works hold up pretty well even today. His best, IMO, was “Friday.” Maybe because the protagonist, Marjorie Friday, was so unlike Heinlein.

    Another one I love, and I re-read not too long ago, is “The Door Into Summer.”

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  76. grumpy realist says:

    @Teve: I like a lot of Heinlein’s juveniles. A lot of his non-juveniles unfortunately went over the deep end. (One of my friends says that Heinlein used to write it all out and then take out the sex. Unfortunately, he stopped doing that in his later works.)

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  77. Guarneri says:

    I had heard that magic mushrooms had been legalized. I guess its true.

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  78. Teve says:

    Barry R McCaffrey
    @mccaffreyr3
    ·
    22h
    Our Republic is skating on thin ice. Something is seriously unsettled about our poor erratic President. “I’m an extremely stable genius.” What would prompt a person to embarrass himself with that kind nonsensical boasting?

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  79. Teve says:

    @Kathy: oh I still like some of his stuff I just have a more realistic view of them now.

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  80. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Not good with primary sources?

    If you had read the letter from Trump, even listened to Trump’s statement, you would know that all that has happened is the William Barr, Attorney General, has been given declassifying authority over any and all classified material that is deemed to pertain to the investigation into the predicates of the Russia Collusion/Trump admin investigation. All department and agency heads have been directed to give their full cooperation and surrender all classified material requested. AG Barr has been also authorized to declassify any material he deems, with advice from the originating agency head, should be declassified.

    We may or may not see things declassified and made public. But what has happened is that no agency or department may obstruct the investigation by claiming classified material or slow walking the declassifying process in their agency. This is distressing the DC denizens as access and control of secret information is a status symbol and how they hide their bad behavior.

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  81. dazedandconfused says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’ll be interesting. Is Trump weak enough to let himself be led into a war? Will he be willing to take the scorn if he runs? Bolton has set the table and so far Trump seems to be going along, though to be fair I don’ think we know whether Trump has pushed back against an even more forward deployment.

    It’s impossible to tell, but Trump considers all his people flunkies, not officials, and thinks nothing of yanking the carpet from under any of them…and is addicted to his “ratings”.

    It’s almost a case of “from children come such wisdom”, and Trump is a child. It’s the apparently sane, sober, and rational adults who lead nations on crusades. Not that a child wouldn’t, but children lack the credibility.

    There is a lot more at stake than Iran, but on that one issue Pence scares the crap out of me.

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  82. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: There’s a joke about bike people: To bike people, “share the road” means “you can have a turn using the road when I’m finished with mine.”

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  83. DrDaveT says:

    @Kathy: Um, both Friday and The Door Into Summer have some very squicky #metoo bits.

    That said, I will always love The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”.

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  84. Very Stable Genius says:

    @gVOR08: I think the 63 million voters who voted for Trump will have something to say about that. I doubt that the Koch brothers control them.

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  85. WALTER ADAMS says:

    I voted for Trump and will do so again, which of course makes me xenophobic, racist, low IQ, gun toting, knuckle dragging, inarticulate, misogynistic, and – – – well just fill in the rest, I’ve forgotten the full screed.
    If you can’t imagine how anyone could vote for a vile, evil – – again, fill in the blanks, I will attempt to explain it in terms suitable to the meanest understanding;
    The full depth of the absolute loathing the “Ruling Class” – the eternal family clans of federal “Salaried sons-o-bitches” who move from one post, one regime to the next, is held by the sweating class in this country has never been fully articulated by anyone. They never miss a payday; we never pocket a dime that isn’t covered by our own sweat.
    “Trump is too crude and hasn’t the right tone!”
    He’s a junk yard dog who eats rats. May his tribe increase.

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  86. Allen says:

    @Kylopod: until January, 2025.

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  87. @Joe F: This video, which is still on his Twitter feed, is, quite clearly, edited. The edits are rather easy to see: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1131728912835383300

    It edited to highlight place she misspoke or stumbled over words.

    Also: empirically, saying that Trump has engaged in cover-ups is true. The Stormy Daniels payment was a cover-up, by definition. He is currently trying to keep his taxes secret. That is a cover-up. And so forth.

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  88. Dave's Not Here says:

    @Andrew: You do know this is fake news, right? There is a doctored video, but it’s not the one Trump tweeted.

  89. @Very Stable Genius:

    I’ll see your 62,984,828, the number of popular votes Trump actually received, and raise you 10,699,920 (bringing the total to 73,684,448). That’s the number of people who didn’t vote for Trump.

    And yes, I know that Trump won the Electoral College (by one of the narrowest margins in history) but you’re the one who brought up numbers.

  90. Kylopod says:

    @Dave’s Not Here: @deepelemblues: Here is the tweet where Trump shares one of the misleadingly edited videos of Pelosi:

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1131728912835383300

  91. @deepelemblues: It would seem that it is time to invite you to leave the site as you do not appear to be interested in anything other than insults.

    Adios.

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  92. Mikey says:

    What right-wing dipshit factory did this post get linked from? No comments for almost 12 hours and then suddenly a whole raft of imbeciles shows up to fling poo and drool all over everything.

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  93. @Mikey: Clearly this, and another post, was linked somewhere that has a rather specific POV.

    We certainly welcome reasoned engagement, even if spirited, but not attacks and insults.

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  94. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Some of it is so boilerplate I wonder if it’s human or bot-generated.

    To wit: @Kristen McFarland

  95. MartynW says:

    “Will no one rid us of this turbulent president?” That’s the undertone here, isn’t it? And I’m sure everyone here will be so terribly shocked when something happens.

  96. gVOR08 says:

    @Mikey:

    Some of it is so boilerplate I wonder if it’s human or bot-generated.

    Sort of a Turing Test. Can you tell the difference between simple code that cuts and pastes text and a real Republican commenter?

    Apparently I somewhere accidentally checked the box to email me follow up comments. Boy did I pick the wrong thread to do that on.

  97. michael reynolds says:

    @WALTER ADAMS:
    You’re just a mark, dude, a sucker. You bought the vinyl siding. You paid for the undercoating. You got played by a two-bit conman and now you’re either too slow or too weak to admit it.

    Angry at the system, are you? Why? Because you lost? And you’re so upset at losing the game you’re going to knock the chessboard to the floor? Silly man. Trump won’t save you if you’re a loser, he doesn’t care about you, he despises you. Contempt is the necessary emotional condition of any conman. To Trump guys like you are the weak herd animals, the limping Wildebeest, the one it’s easiest to separate out and eat. You have ‘sucker’ tattooed on your fevered brow.

    Simple question: when Trump lies, who believes him? You? Or me? None of us over here in reality believe a word the pathological liar says, but you? You either believe the b.s. or you pretend to, it doesn’t matter, both are fine outcomes for the conman.

    So if you believe the lies, and we don’t, who exactly is Trump lying to? Who is being conned? It ain’t us. You know the old saw about poker? If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.

    This is why it’s so hard to bust conmen: the suckers protect them rather than admit they got played.

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  98. Mister Bluster says:

    @WALTER ADAMS: He’s a junk yard dog who eats rats. May his tribe increase.

    And may Pud and his toadies be afflicted with all the diseases that can be contracted by feasting on rodent pie.
    campylobacteriosi
    giardiasis
    lymphocytic choriomeningitis
    pasteurellosis
    rat bite fever
    ringworm
    salmonella

    To name a few.

  99. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08:

    Sort of a Turing Test. Can you tell the difference between simple code that cuts and pastes text and a real Republican commenter?

    Most Republican commenters don’t themselves progress beyond simply cutting and pasting, which makes it difficult to tell the difference.