A president's mental disorder: Last Friday morning, Donald Trump issued one of his most famous tweets.
Truth to tell, the famous tweet took the form of a pretty good joke:
"I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director! Witch hunt."
If we assume that Trump was referring to Rod Rosenstein, that can be read as a comedian's fairly good joke. In all honesty, that was the first way it struck us. On a comedy stage, we thought, that's a darn good joke.
That said, a chase is currently underway, a chase after Donald J. Trump. In part for that reason, pundits have widely interpreted that tweet in the following way:
Donald J. Trump was confirming the fact that's he's under investigation! Just like the Washington Post had reported!
(Note: How would Trump know he was under investigation? Have you see one pundit ask?)
Did Trump really intend to confirm the fact that he was under investigation? Aside from the widespread desire to lock him up, we think it's silly to draw that conclusion.
This is Donald J. Trump, after all. Among other things, he seems to be badly disordered. (Plus, he tends to speak in ironic jokes.)
Donald J. Trump seems to be badly disordered. He contradicts himself in much the way other people breathe. He rarely seems to have any idea what he's talking about.
You can't believe a thing he says. He rarely seems to give much though to the ways his statements will be taken.
Trump seems to have a disordered mind. It seems to us that the press corps has been slow to come to terms with the implications of that fact. Consider his alleged confession of motive to Lester Holt last month.
On May 9, Donald J. Trump fired Comey the God. Two days later, he discussed the firing with Holt. The remarks we've highlighted below have been widely cited, in part because they seem to incriminate Trump.
That doesn't mean they're accurate, even though they came from Trump's mouth:
TRUMP (5/11/17): Look, [Comey's] a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil—less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that.The highlighted statements have been widely quoted, in part because they seem to support the idea that Trump has committed an obstruction of justice.
HOLT: Monday, you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Did you ask for a recommendation?
TRUMP: What I did is— I was going to fire Comey. My decision. It was not—
HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room?
TRUMP: I, I— I was going to fire Comey.
TRUMP: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, "You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story." It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election, that they should have won...
That said, in the rest of his conversation with Holt, Trump made an array of statements about the firing. These statements cut in several different directions. In part, the highlighted statements have been stressed because they serve the aims of the chase.
Why did Trump fire Comey? We can't answer that question, nor are we sure Trump can.
Nor is there any particular reason to believe anything Trump ever says. We can easily imagine that Trump decided to fire Comey for a different reason altogether—because Comey's "a showboat, a grandstander" (see Trump's statement above), as Comey had proven with a statement to a Senate committee six days before he was fired.
Comey was discussing the possible effects of his procedurally irregular attacks against Candidate Clinton last year. In remarks which were widely discussed, the showboating fellow said this about the meaningless cache of emails he discussed in public in late October 2016, helping send Trump to the White House:
COMEY (5/3/17): Look, this is terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.James B. Comey was showboating hard. Is it possible that those grandstanding remarks are what got him fired?
Ideally, you were supposed to think that Comey the God meant this by what he said:
I hate the idea that my morally upright work at the FBI might have affected some votes in a White House election.That's what you were supposed to think the great man meant by his statement. Trust us, though—this is what Donald J. Trump thought the great man had said:
It makes me nauseous to think that my conduct helped elect Donald J. Trump!As always, Comey was showboating in service to his desire to be seen as a moral paragon. Given Trump's absurd reactions to matters like this, are you sure it wasn't that widely-cited bit of grandstanding, all by itself, which caused the great man to be fired?
Trump said many things to Holt on May 11. In part because a chase is on, a few of those remarks have been singled out.
That said, Donald J. Trump seems to have a disordered mind. There's no reason to assume that anything he ever says is the actual truth.
We doubt that Trump was trying to confirm a fact with last Friday's tweet. (For one thing, how would he have known?) Nor do we think it's obvious why he fired Comey the God, though it certainly may have been an attempt to undermine the Russia probe, as has been widely asserted.
That said, our sitting president seems to be badly disordered. It seems to us that our somewhat less disordered press corps has been slow to come to terms with the implications of that dangerous fact.