War and mental health: On last evening' Hardball, Chris Matthews asked Ron Suskind to comment on Donald J. Trump's intentions regarding Iran.
Matthews was especially concerned with the role of super-hawk John Bolton as an adviser to Trump. Suskind, now of the Harvard Law School, said war could be part of a Trump re-election plan:
SUSKIND (5/8/19): Bolton in a way could play just as some of Trump's worst instincts in terms of getting into a conflagration with Iran. Especially during the election year, that's what we're fearful of.Oof. Suskind was doing a bit of mind-reading. But according to Suskind, next year's presidential election raises the likelihood that Trump could engage in military action.
We have been fearing that "wag the dog" opportunity for the president. Mind you, Chris, he's got either a second term or possible jail time. This is a bad set of circumstances.
And right now I think it seems like they're setting the table for many options, including potential military. I'm not seeing a full scale war. But any conflagration, even with some of the Shiite proxies of the Iranians, is going to be just what Trump will know he needs in the fall of 2020.
If Trump fails to get re-elected, he face possible prosecutions, Suskind noted. He might therefore stage a distractive patriotic war as an electoral boost.
In his second statement to Matthews, Suskind mentioned a possible contributing problem—Trump's alleged recklessness:
SUSKIND: Look, Trump is a reckless guy. He acts recklessly. He shatters everything around him.A reckless man would be well served by war. That was Suskind's warning.
I mean, this is a situation where I think Trump is probably sitting and looking at options and probably asking Bolton some of these same questions. How do we do something that's limited? How do we get involved in something that brings heat, shows our power, shows we're willing to fight, and maybe even uses some of that armament we're so famous for but doesn't get into a full scale conflagration with a real power in the region?
But even a little dance with the Iranians that might lead to something bigger where we get to shoot someone or do something is going to be very, very good for Trump just when he needs it. That's what I'd be watching.
We've often wondered if Trump would be willing to start a war to help himself get re-elected. (Or even in the aftermath of an election defeat.) One hour after Suskind's appearance, Anderson Cooper spoke with Tony Schwartz about Trump's possibly impaired mental health.
Schwartz was co-author of Trump's 1987 book, The Art of the Deal. He isn't a psychiatrist, but he offered a stark diagnosis:
SCHWARTZ (5/8/19): If I had to...rename The Art of the Deal, I would call it The Sociopath. And I think that's a window into why he doesn't experience the kind of overwhelm and pressure and tension at the level you or I would or most people would, because he has no conscience, he has no guilt. All he wants to do is make the case that he would like to be true.We ourselves have googled "sociopath" during this age of Trump. It sounds bad every time.
And while I do think that he's probably aware that more walls are closing around him than ever before, he does not experience the world in the way an ordinary human being would.
COOPER: You're saying he's a sociopath?
SCHWARTZ: Without any question. You know, I encourage people who wonder about that to simply Google "sociopath" and the first or second entry gives you like nine or 10 descriptive words about what a sociopath is.
It always includes a kind of pathological narcissism, which is what many people describe him as being, but it adds the element of absence of conscience and that changes everything.
Once again, Tony Schwartz isn't a psychiatrist. But Yale's Dr. Bandy X. Lee is.
Lee edited the 2017 book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Along with four other specialists, she has now written a mental health analysis of the behaviors described in the Mueller report.
She and two of her co-authors have now offered this related essay for the Boston Globe.
Under the direction of the New York Times, the mainstream press corps decided to take a pass on the discussion of Trump's mental health. Starting early last year, Lee's book and the thinking behind it were essentially disappeared. She's rarely published within the mainstream press.
Is there any way this age of Trump is going to end up well? You can color us somewhat skeptical.
We thought journalistic culture had gone disastrously off the rails as of 1997, when we started planning this site. Twenty-two years later, we agree with Lee's basic point:
We think we've reached a dangerous place. Journalistic, academic and political elites have been functioning poorly for decades now. The rewards have just been too damn high! For better or worse, our failing culture finally led to the rise of Donald J. Trump.
That includes the increasingly disordered elites of our own "liberal" world. By now, our cultural breakdown may have reached a point of no good return.
Would Donald J. Trump really start a war to serve his pre- or post-election interests? Might he start a conflagration through sheer incompetence?
Might he even nuke Nordstrom headquarters if they don't buy Ivanka's spring line?
We don't know how to answer those questions. It seems to us that we're at the mercy of a gaggle of distant gods.
On "cable news," they're still selling The Chase. The Chase is selling extremely well, and absolutely nothing else exists or needs to apply.
For example: At Slate, Susan Matthews keeps getting it basically right. Her current topic, the end of the world, is too trivial to make it to cable, where only The Chase need apply.