With a bang, not with a whimper: Early this morning, on CNN, James Clapper finally went there.
He said it during the midnight hour. He spoke with Don Lemon in a special broadcast following Donald J. Trump's latest trademark rant.
Clapper is a former director of National Intelligence. He held that post through January of this year.
For better or worse—we're inclined to assume for worse—Clapper has recently become a "CNN contributor." But when he appeared with Lemon last night, he questioned the president's "fitness" in this, their first exchange:
LEMON (8/23/17): I want to bring in now CNN national security analyst James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence. Mr. Clapper, thank you so much for joining us. What did you think of tonight's performance by President Trump?Lemon tiptoed around a bit, using the fuzzy term "fitness." Clapper said he did question Trump's fitness, although the term remained undefined.
CLAPPER: Well, Don, it's hard to know where to start. It is just so objectionable on so many levels. You know, I toiled in one capacity or another for every president since and including John F. Kennedy through President Obama. And I don't know when I've listened and watched something like this from a president that I found more disturbing.
Having some understanding of the levers of power that are available to a president if he chooses to exercise them, I found this downright scary and disturbing....
It is interesting to contrast last night's teleprompter Trump performance versus tonight which is, of course, the real Trump, just as it was in the unglued impromptu press conference at Trump Tower. So I just find this extremely disturbing.
LEMON: Are you questioning his fitness?
CLAPPER: Yes, I do. I really question his ability to—his fitness to be in this office. And I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it. Maybe he is looking for a way out.
He said he found Trump "downright scary" and "extremely disturbing." More on that below. To watch the full discussion, click here.
Clapper made a reference to the "levers of power" open to Trump. Before we show him expanding on that, let's consider his throw-away remark about the possibility that Donald J. Trump might be "looking for a way out."
We find it hard to believe that Trump is planning to quit. As long as he remains in office, he theoretically has the power to impede Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation.
It's hard to believe he'd surrender that power. Everything's possible, of course.
Regarding the more potent matter here, what did Director Clapper mean when he mentioned those "levers of power?" Later, as Lemon poked and prodded, he finally spelled it out:
LEMON: You said you questioned his fitness. Is he a threat to national security, the president?Director Clapper is afraid that Donald J. Trump, in a fit of pique, might employ those nuclear codes. He basically said there's no fail-safe. Lemon's response was priceless:
CLAPPER: Well, he certainly could be. Again, having some understanding of the levers that a president can exercise, I worry about, frankly, you know, the access to nuclear codes. In a fit of pique, he decides to do something about Kim Jong-Un, there's actually very little to stop him.
The whole system's built to insure rapid response if necessary. So there's very little in the way of controls over, you know, exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.
"Do you see this as a crisis, Mr. Clapper?"
We've been mentioning this point of concern for quite some time. Now that Clapper had said it, CNN's ship of fools was freed up to stage a discussion. Lemon turned to David Chalian to discuss what Clapper had said:
LEMON: The former director of national intelligence James Clapper, we just had on, dire words, saying he is concerned about his fitness for office. He does not believe he's fit for office. Concerned that such a person, who exhibits that behavior has access to the nuclear codes and is, you know, possibly going to have some sort of retaliation against Kim Jong-Un.Lemon and Chalian looked at each other as Clapper spoke. This wasn't some knee-jerk thing from the Democrats. This wasn't going to be dismissed as mere cable punditry!
CHALIAN: It's one thing when we hear politicians you know—Democrats obviously have a lot of knee-jerk opposition to the President. We've seen more and more Republicans coming out politically and making arguments of and comments of concern against the President.
If that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up when the former Director of National Intelligence is saying that his assessment of the President of the United States is one of concern because of his access to the nuclear codes and how his behavior matched with that responsibility, raises concern in him, I sort of stood back listening, and I know—
LEMON: I looked at you.
CHALIAN: —that Director Clapper has, you know, been making comments in opposition to the President or concern. But when in the totality he took what we witnessed tonight as part of the pattern of behavior we've seen from the President and put it into the context that really Clapper understands better than anyone about what that power is, the nuclear codes, what that means and how quickly a president can move on that, that's an alarm bell that is going to be heard by many people in Washington. That is not just going to be dismissed as some punditry on cable news which can be easily dismissed.
Trump's apparent mental/emotional disorder has seemed highly dangerous to us for a good long time. Cable stars have had to be dragged to such obvious points of concern.
Having said that, let's close with this:
We find it hard to believe that Donald J. Trump might "be looking for a way out" by way of resignation. Sometimes, though, highly disordered, disturbed people commit acts of murder/suicide.
How disordered is Donald J. Trump? Could he ever imagine the most devastating "way out" of all?
Meanwhile, how about Yawkey Way? Should its name be changed?