Jennifer Senior gets it right!


Chait's report disappears: In her column in this morning's New York Times, Jennifer Senior gets it right—again. Here's an early chunk of her column:

SENIOR (1/11/20): Our president has always been out there. But on Jan. 6, 2021, he clearly reached escape velocity and hurtled into space.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The president’s flight into the ozone of crazy was as inevitable as the country’s descent into anarchy—and almost certainly intertwined. Trump, as I and many others have noted, impeccably meets the criteria of a malignant narcissist, and he has a defect in moral conscience that is emblematic of psychopaths. People like this do not react well to being fired, divorced or kicked out of any club. They’re ego hemophiliacs. Their self-esteem cannot self-repair. And so the president is now doing exactly what all pathological narcissists of the malignant, conscience-free variety do when they’ve been given the boot. They behave dangerously.

We'll go ahead and dispute one point, while being grateful that we have, on the rare occasion, an upper-end columnist as good as Senior.

Here's the point we'll semi-dispute:

In the highlighted passage, Senior says that she "and many others" have taken note of Trump's apparent psychiatric state. 

That's certainly true of Senior herself. To her vast credit, she broke through the press corps' embargo on such discussions with this column, published on April 5. 

Amazing! Semior wrote a column about the president's dangerous psychiatric state, even after the Times had instructed the upper-end guild that they mustn't go there!

(Giving credit where it's due, the Times published both of Senior's columns.)

Once again, Senior's new column includes a very sensible discussion of Trump's apparent psychiatric disabilities / disorders. That said, we'll quibble with the statement that, along with Senior herself, "many others" have taken note of this dangerous state of affairs.

Senior offers two links in support of her statement. She links to this essay by George Conway, one of the crackpot conservative world's original anti-Clinton elves. Conway's essay appeared online, on October 3, at the web site of The Atlantic.

In his essay, Conway discussed Trump's (apparent) "personality disorders" at substantial length. Yes, it was rather late in the game. But few other journalists did this. 

Senior's other link goes to this book review in the Washington Post—a review of three books about Trump and/or the American people.

This review appeared in September 2017. One of three books was The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee's collection of essays about Trump's allegedly dangerous clinical state.

A few months after that review in the Post, the New York Times published an editorial saying that journalists shouldn't conduct discussion of Trump's psychiatric state. 

As usual, journalists fell into line. Aside from the (very) occasional person like Senior herself, there has been almost no discussion of the dangerous state of affairs described by Lee's contributors.

To an almost total extent, the upper-end press corps has agreed—the state of Donald Trump's mental health mustn't be discussed. You've almost never seen such discussions on cable, a point we may discuss in a bit more detail tomorrow.

We'll quibble, therefore, with that one statement by Senior. In fact, the press corps' refusal to discuss Trump's apparently dangerous psychiatric disorders is one of the several ways we managed to reach this (dangerous) point.

That said, Senior's new column is superb. It  follows her original column, in which she broke the rules of the game by discussing Trump's apparent disorders. 

Again and again and again and again, the others have agreed not to go there. Also, please don't eat the daisies—and please discuss the nukes!

Today, we'll cite one other recent essay—this essay by Jonathan Chait for New York magazine. He discusses ongoing research about the accomplishments of charter schools, especially when it comes to the education (and well-being) of lower-income black kids.

Is it true, as Chait claims, that this research is beginning to look very good? We have no idea, and this topic will never be discussed in the wider press.

Our press corps doesn't care about that topic, and it never will. More enjoyably, we're now immersed, all over again, in impeaching Donald J. Trump.

Endless posturing to the side, our Hamptons-based, upper-end press corps doesn't care about black kids. Quite plainly, they don't care about kids like that, and they never will.

Chait's essay appears beneath this heading: THE NATIONAL INTEREST.

In one way, that's very true. In another way, what a laugh!


  1. “Is it true, as Chait claims, that this research is beginning to look very good? We have no idea”

    Did Chait back up his claims with evidence? Did Somerby peruse that evidence? Did he educate himself on this matter by seeking out other sources of information, which are as easy to find as a google search? Was he attracted to Chait’s column because it accuses Democrats of opposing charter schools, which, according to Chait, deliver “extraordinary” results?

    There really is no excuse for Somerby to have no idea, especially about a topic he purports to care about.

    And while we’re at it, maybe Somerby could realize the absurdity of saying “this topic will never be discussed in the wider press” while quoting a high-profile article about it, and then refusing to discuss it himself.

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  2. Here’s some discussion of Chait’s column. From Peter Greene at curmudgucation:

    “Jonathan Chait once again was given space to unleash his opinion about charter schools (without any accompanying caveat that his wife is a charterista). D. Julian Vasquez Heilig pointed out the many problems with Chait's piece, using the clever weapon of actual facts.”

    Here’s the article Greene is referring to:


    Peter Greene writes for Forbes Magazine, as well as maintaining his own blog.

  3. "Trump, as I and many others have noted, impeccably meets the criteria of a malignant narcissist, and he has a defect in moral conscience that is emblematic of psychopaths."

    What?? Are you saying Orange Man Bad???

    Oh noes, tell us it ain't so!!! Dear Bob, dear Jennifer -- why didn't you tell us before?

    1. Mao, Its Trump's malignant narcissism and defective moral conscience that you so love, is it not?

    2. We loooove it when dembots talk dirty.

    3. Mao,
      Show us, on the doll, where black peoples votes being counted in elections touched you.

    4. Mao - you deflected per usual (points though for getting a "dembot" reference in, albeit without any basis). I assume you agree with my point insofar as you didn't dispute it.

    5. We love it when dembots talk obtusely too, but it's not uncommon here in these parts. For that reason, we suggest you concentrate on – and attempt to further develop – the "malignant narcissism and defective moral conscience" theme.

  4. “our Hamptons-based, upper-end press corps doesn't care about black kids.”

    Perhaps that is true. Who knows? However, Somerby has said this in different ways over and over:

    “These people [journalists and people on TV] and their “producers” know something. They know that we, the target audience, don’t give a flying fig about black kids—and so, they don’t bore us with those facts.”

    Or this:
    “White liberals (and magazines like The Atlantic) don't care a whole lot about black kids. “

    Whether or not he has convincingly shown that journalists don’t care, he tells his readers that the “audience”, ie average liberal consumers of news, don’t care. Also, white liberals don’t care.

    Tell that to the Peter Greenes of the world.

  5. This past Friday night on the "Last Word" Lawrence talked to Dr. Dodes, one of the authors from Bandy X Lee's book. It is on Youtube. Type in Lawrence O'Donnel and Dodes and it should come up.

  6. Somerby leaves out the second half of Jennifer Senior's column, so we don't get to know what she suggested the consequence of recognizing Trump's mental disorder should be.

    We all have eyes and ears and can see that Trump is "not right". But he is president, so we must deal with his actions, not his personality.

    If the rest of the world had looked at Hitler and given him a pass because he was so obviously crazy, would we be speaking German today or might we have saved 6 million Jews from the ovens?

    Somerby never calls for action against Trump. He still doesn't seem to favor impeachment or Article 25 removal from office. If there are no consequences being proposed, what is the point of describing his pathologies?

    Maybe calling Trump disordered is Somerby's way of feeling more normal himself. That's usually what is going on when someone calls out another person's foibles without suggesting any consequence. Ego maintenance. That's probably why Somerby spends so much time knocking liberals too.

  7. Somerby has never written a single word here about how covid is affecting public education, especially for black kids who may have less access to virtual teaching.

    Somerby has never written a single word about the differences between Biden's education policies and those of Donald Trump. In fact, he has never mentioned Betsy De Vos.

    Somerby is the guy who doesn't care about education or black kids. Somerby lives in Baltimore, but I'll bet he couldn't tell you what the schools are doing there right now -- are they in session or closed? What are those kids doing all day? Somerby doesn't care.

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  9. "Is it true, as Chait claims, that this research is beginning to look very good? We have no idea, and this topic will never be discussed in the wider press."

    Kevin Drum analyzes this success today on his blog. He isn't as reticent as Somerby to assess the research. Chait dismisses the objections to charter schools without citing evidence. Drum says that experienced teachers won't put in long hours at low pay, so charter schools aren't scalable. That is the same as the teacher's union criticisms of such schools that Chait and Drum both seem to dismiss as they applaud the charter school results.

    Drum wants to chalk their success up to finding that 10% of kids who are just "smarter, more enthusiastic and harder working". That used to be called "cream skimming" -- selecting top students and keeping out the lower performing ones in order to increase apparent success of a school.

    It has become trendy for pundits to declare themselves liberal while espousing conservative views. I am not calling for liberal orthodoxy, but it seems wrong for someone like Drum (or Chait, who is pseudo-liberal) to set aside teacher's union complaints when evaluating charter schools. Teaching is hugely labor-intensive, so the criticisms of such schools by those who provide the labor seem important to me.

    Kevin Drum is not much of a liberal but at least he is talking about what Chait said instead of shrugging it off in favor of name calling the press, as Somerby has done.

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