Who takes advantage of others' mistakes?


Commander-in-chief hammers Yahoo:
On Tuesday, right there in the White House, Yahoo's Hunter Walker made a mistake.

President Trump was taking questions with Governor DeSantis. Dr. Birx was also present. The mistake went down like this:
WALKER (4/28/20): Mr. President, overall, South Korea has done five times more tests than the U.S. per capita. Why is that?

TRUMP: I don’t think that’s true.

WALKER: That is true. You said this morning that—

TRUMP: I don’t—I don’t think it’s true.

WALKER: The White House said the U.S. passes South Korea on virus testing.

TRUMP: I don’t think it’s true. Who are you with?

WALKER: Yahoo News. And it’s not true per capita.

TRUMP (to Dr. Birx): Do you want to respond to that? Do you—if you have the numbers.
With that, Birx launched one of her long, rambling, way-off-the-point recitations. She didn't speak to the factual claim which President Trump had challenged.

Later, though, Birx had somehow acquired the numbers. At that point, the hammer came down:
BIRX: So, to our Yahoo gentleman, I just want to make it clear that South Korea’s testing was 11 per—per 100,000, and we’re at 17 per 100,000. So—

TRUMP: Right! Are you going to apologize, Yahoo? That’s why you’re Yahoo and nobody knows who the hell you are.

WALKER: If that’s correct— Based on the numbers I’ve seen, that’s not—

TRUMP: That’s why nobody knows who you are, including me. [To different journalist] Go ahead.

BIRX: Just check it again.

TRUMP: You ought to get your facts right before you make a statement like that.
"Right," the president said, as if he actually knew. Clearly, though, no one hates a factual error more than Donald J. Trump!

As far as we know, Dr. Birx's numbers were correct. You can see similar numbers reported by Vox just one day before this fiery White House exchange.

The Yahoo gentleman made a mistake. That said, Trump himself made all kinds of wild misstatements about the extent of our testing just one day before. Here's the difference:

The Yahoo gentleman was massacred by Trump in real time for making this mistake. Luckily, this event wasn't being broadcast in prime time by all three cable channels, but that's where teamwork comes in.

Fox News and the Washington Examiner each posted reports about the Yahoo gentleman's subsequent apology for his mistake. (ABC News and The Hill also reported the troubling incident.)

Trump himself retweeted the Fox News report under this headline:
Yahoo reporter apologizes to President Trump after making false coronavirus test claim in Oval Office meeting
People, Fake News had struck again! In this way, Trump supporters are given a certain picture of the world.

Concerning the various wild misstatements Trump had made the day before, people who found their way to PolitiFact found a "Pants on Fire" assessment of Trump's ridiculous claims. But you had to search it out.

Our point is simple:

Trump makes wild misstatements every day in the week. This was an especially egregious state of affairs when CNN and MSNBC were making a point of broadcasting his repeated wild misstatements to the nation in prime time, night after night after night.

Major news orgs took an amazingly permissive approach to the broadcast of these repetitive nightly misstatements. Even as these repetitive misstatements were being broadcast night after night, no major org created a dedicated newspaper page, or a dedicated cable program, dedicated to their collection and correction.

Let's review:

CNN and MSNBC aired hours of wild misstatements, night after night, for weeks. In the last few weeks, CNN began trying a bit harder to fact-check Trump's endless wild claims, but the overall imbalance of misstatement to correction was immense.

Citizens weren't invited to learn about the president's endless misstatements. The New York Times? CNN, MSNBC? Such orgs didn't much seem to care about the clownishness of this seven-nights-per-week propaganda and disinformation storm.

That said:

Let one reporter make a mistake, as the Yahoo gentleman did, and Trump supporters are told about it all up and down and around. The reporter gets yelled at in real time, after which the outraged reporting and the triumphant tweeting start.

Trump makes wild misstatements all the time; Yahoo made just one. But one team took that mistake and ran.

Across the spectrum, the boys and girls of the upper-end press have mainly just sat there and stared. It's just as we have ytold you for years:

Respect for accurate information plays an amazingly minor role in upper-end journalistic culture. What follows is an anthropological point:

Truth to tell, they just don't seem to care.

DIAGNOSING PRESIDENT TRUMP: Some mental health issues can be discussed!


Others, quite plainly, cannot:
Two days ago, we posted part of Maureen Dowd's New York Times column from Sunday, March 8.

We think it's worth posting again. We'll show you a slightly larger chunk of the passage in question the time.

In the passage down below, Dowd is helping to reinforce a cultural no-go zone. By the end, she seems to charge Democrats with a crime which plainly doesn't exist:
DOWD (3/7/20): Republicans have made something of a specialty of challenging opponents’ cognitive capacity.

W.’s forces fought John McCain in the Republican primary by whispering that the war hero had snakes in his head from his years of torture.

Lee Atwater infamously said a Democrat running for Congress in 1980, who had received electroshock therapy in his youth for depression, had been “hooked up to jumper cables.”

Even Ronald Reagan got in on the act when he called Michael Dukakis, who was running against his vice president, “an invalid,” echoing baseless rumors spread by followers of Lyndon LaRouche that Dukakis had had psychiatric treatment.

Democrats can resort to this sort of sniping, too.
Many Trump critics in 2016, and in the year after his election, pushed the idea that his father had suffered from Alzheimer’s and now Trump was losing it and that his vocabulary was eroding.

And it has become common among his attackers to say the president is deranged, suffering from malignant narcissism.
Online, Dowd links to no Democrat suggesting that President Trump suffers from Alzheimer's. She links to no one, and certainly to no Democrat, saying that Trump is "suffering from malignant narcissism."

Granted, Dowd doesn't directly say that "Democrats" have offered the latter diagnosis, but the suggestion seems to be floated. Meanwhile, any such assessment of President Trump is pre-defined as "sniping"—as the sort of (irresponsible) thing Republicans have tended to do.

We know of no Democratic Party office-holder or official who has ever said or suggested that President Trump is suffering from malignant narcissism.

Just last night, on The Last Word, Fintan O'Toole offered that direct assessment of Trump as ge spoke with Lawrence O'Donnell. But O'Toole is an Irish journalist and intellectual, not a "Democrat," and it's extremely rare to hear such assessments within our public discourse at all.

In 2017, Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee tried to start such a public discussion of Trump's psychiatric state. In January 2018, Dowd's newspaper penned this editorial, shutting such discussion down.

On April 6 of this very year, Jennifer Senior published an op-ed column in the Times suggesting that Trump suffers from "narcissistic personality disorder." ("Malignant narcissism" is a somewhat more alarming offshoot of this condition.)

Senior's highly constructive column generated zero discussion. Within our upper-end public discourse, such discussions have long constituted an obvious no-go zone.

Very few high-end journalists are willing to initiate a public discussion of a president's psychiatric or cognitive state. Such discussions are so rare that our intellectual infrastructure gives us little way to evaluate or understand such discussions even when they may occur.

In some ways, this is odd. Discussion of various mental health issues are quite common within our discourse. Consider a news report from Kashmir in Monday's New York Times.

In print editions, the news report was blurbed on page A3. Indeed, it topped the daily Of Interest feature:
Of Interest

In Kashmir, nearly half of all adults are estimated to have some form of mental illness, according to a 2015 survey conducted by Doctors Without Borders.

Kashmir, Under Siege and Lockdown, Faces a Mental Health Crisis. A18.
So said the blurb on page A3. On page A18, the report described the effects of Kashmir's coronavirus lockdown, piled on top of years of conflict with Indian military forces.

Are half of all adult Kashmiris suffering from some form of mental illness? We have no way of knowing, but the detailed report by Sameer Yasir described various types of mental health issues:
YASIR (4/27/20): Eight months after India revoked Kashmir’s semiautonomous status and brought the region fully under its authority, doctors here say a state of hopelessness has morphed into a severe psychological crisis. Mental health workers say Kashmir is witnessing an alarming increase in instances of depression, anxiety and psychotic events.

Hard data is difficult to come by, but local medical professionals say they are seeing a rise in suicides and an increase in already disturbingly high rates of domestic abuse.


Even before the events of recent months, decades of violence between Indian security forces and Kashmiri militants had taken a physical and mental toll on the region and its people. Nearly 1.8 million Kashmiris, or nearly half of all adults, have some form of mental disorder, Doctors Without Borders estimated after surveying 5,600 households in 2015. Nine of 10 have experienced conflict-related traumas. The figures are much higher than in India, according to other surveys.

A leading psychiatrist said he was overwhelmed. Dr. Majid Shafi, a government psychiatrist, said that last year he saw a hundred patients a week. Now he sees more than 500.
Is "some form of mental disorder" the same thing as "some form of mental illness?" We don't know, but Yasir's report describes depression, anxiety and psychotic events, along with suicides and "conflict-related trauma."

It wasn't always so, but these types of mental health events are now widely discussed within our mainstream culture. For example, it's routine to speak, with sympathy, of the conflict-related trauma which may be experienced, in later years, by American soldiers who have returned from service in brutal wars.

What was once whispered about as "shell shock" is now discussed sympathetically, and in clinical terms, as a form of trauma.

Our culture has advanced in this way, but talking about the psychiatric or cognitive state of our highest leaders is still largely verboten. Unless, for example, you're Maureen Dowd in November 2016, saying on CBS Sunday Morning that Trump "is a classic clinical narcissist," a person who's "missing empathy."

Yes, that's what she said, back then; you can watch the tape here. Within the higher ends of our punditry, no-go zones will sometimes come and go.

Is Trump a "clinical narcissist?" Does he suffer from "narcissistic personality disorder," as Senior suggested in her recent column?

Is he a "malignant narcissist," the assessment offered by Dr. John Gartner in this recent interview with Salon? Within our upper-end culture, such suggestions will occasionally appear, but no discussion will ensue—and truth to tell, we the people wouldn't likely be well equipped to follow any such discussion.

Within our less than fully impressive journalistic and intellectual culture, we discuss certain kinds of mental health issues all the time. Others don't get discussed at all. Consider a basic question:

Was Adolf Hitler mentally ill? How about Joseph Stalin? How about the many others who established the last century's killing fields?

Were those people mentally ill? And what exactly would such an assessment mean?

We would assume that such discussions have occurred within the publishing world and within the academy. Such discussions rarely occur in high-end popular culture.

Nor do we tend to discuss the nature of the more severe "personality disorders," including the nature of sociopathy ("antisocial personality disorder").

When we think of "sociopaths," we tend to think of thrilling Hollywood versions of same—of the Hannibal Lecters. Our discourse offers us little way to understand such puzzling facts as these, as summarized for Psychology Today:
EDDY (4/30/18): In 1994, the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published (the DSM-IV). It stated that estimates of the prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) were “less than 1% in the general population.” Regarding sociopaths (the DSM uses the equivalent term Antisocial Personality Disorder or ASPD), it said that overall prevalence “in community samples is about 3% in males and 1% in females.”

Between 2001 and 2005, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the largest study ever done regarding the prevalence of personality disorders in the United States.
Structured interviews were done with approximately 35,000 people who were randomly selected to be representative of the U.S. adult population in a variety of ways including age, income, gender and region. This study found that 6.2% of the general population would meet the criteria for NPD3 and 3.7% would meet the criteria for ASPD (5.5% male and 1.9% female).
Say what? Anywhere from 3 to 5.5 percent of American males could be diagnosed as sociopaths?

If that is true, is there any chance that President Trump isn't a sociopath? But what can such statistics possibly mean? How do such statistics coexist with our limited conceptual infrastructure, within which a "sociopath" is someone like Hannibal Lecter, or possibly Freddy Krueger?

Not too long ago, the traumas of war weren't discussed in the way they are today. Right on through the present day, the discussion of sexual assault still constitutes a type of no-go zone—and our ability to discuss that once forbidden topic is moving ahead very slowly.

The mental health of our sitting presidents is a bit like sexual assault was in the recent past. Well-behaved upper-end journalists will know that they mustn't go there.

This may leave us poorly armed to discuss the behavior of President Trump. Dr. Gartner and Dr. Lee say he's very dangerous—and when they do, the New York Times says this can't be discussed.

The president is now behind in the polls. Ask yourself a simple question:

Would this president leave office gracefully? Given the powers at his disposal, should such things be discussed?

Tomorrow: One last fairly recent description

Nuzzi disagrees with Blow!


Wants prime-time TV shows aired:
In last Monday's New York Times, Charles Blow's column appeared beneath these headlines:
Stop Airing Trump’s Briefings!
The media is allowing disinformation to appear as news.
One fact is plainly true. It's true that Trump's prime-time "briefings" have spilled with mis- and disinformation.

That said, something else is true. No president has ever been handed such an arrangement, in which he's given two hours of TV time, every night, to peddle self-serving narratives, whether they're false or they;re true.

Should cable channels be airing such nightly sessions—sessions which involve very little new information?

Blow said no, but New York magazine's Olivia Nuzzi disagrees.

In a new opinion piece, Nuzzi says the nightly sessions should be aired in full. As she starts to lay out her case, her reasoning goes like this:
NUZZI (4/29/20): Can the press protect the American people from the president? Should we?

That initial reasoning is rather slender. In the following passage, Nuzzi puts meat on the bones:
NUZZI: What a lot of Trump critics miss is that the biggest threat to his presidency isn’t the pandemic and the collapse of the global economy. It’s Trump. The more we see him—rambling, ranting, casually spitballing about bleach and sunlight—the clearer that becomes. But that’s not the media’s problem, and taking the spotlight off of him as he displays the full extent of his inadequacies would only serve to help him and to make the public less informed about what the federal government is doing—or not doing.

Watching Trump dangerously improvise is, in itself, information. It’s pure access to his thoughts and ideas and emotional state
, presented to the world in real time. Trump’s presence at the briefings is not valuable if what we hope to get from them is factual information about the pandemic. But if we want to learn more about what the government is doing, and why it’s doing what it’s doing, what could be better than this?
Nuzzi explicitly says that these sessions provide little new "factual" information. Even so, she thinks it's informative for people to see what Trump is saying and doing.

In one sense, that's certainly true—but what about all the mis- and disinformation the president spews at such times? Like so many others in the upper-end press, Nuzzi doesn't seem to have an especially strong focus on matters like that.

What about all that misinformation? Consider one example, of many:

At Monday's session, President Trump delivered the familiar monologue about the brilliant success he's engineered with respect to coronavirus testing. For perhaps the ten millionth time, viewers saw him say such things as this:
TRUMP (4/27/20): We've launched the most ambitious testing effort, likewise, on earth. The United States has now conducted more than 5.4 million tests, nearly double the number tested in any other country, more than twice as much as any other country. Think of that!
For unknown reasons, Nuzzi thinks that provided viewers with a chance to "access Trump's thoughts and ideas." In fact, it merely gave viewers a chance to hear his claims—and very few viewers would have a way to evaluate the accuracy of his presentation.

We know of no major news org which has adopted the burden of fact-checking this disordered man's endless repetitive claims. Viewers of his daily programs hear all sorts of songs of self-praise—but are they hearing accurate claims?

How is a viewer to know?

As almost anyone can see, these prime-time programs have served, in the main, as propaganda sessions. As Nuzzi herself concedes, little information is conveyed. But all sorts of claims get made.

Those claims are repeated, day after day, as our journalists sit and stare. The New York Times is too lazy and too indifferent to create a daily page dedicated solely to fact-checking these endless, repetitive claims. But then again, so is Nuzzi, and so is New York magazine itself.

Should cable channels broadcast these prime-time sessions? That is a matter of judgment. But if they do, we think, at the very least, that they should do two things:

First, corporate bosses should explain why they're doing so. No information is being conveyed. So why are they airing these shows?

Their second responsibility would be this. If they're going to air these sessions, they need to create high-profile, full-length programming dedicated to fact-checking the endless array of claims aired by these endless programs.

People watching President Trump don't know if his statements are accurate! They don't know if his endless claims are technically accurate but grossly misleading.

So Nuzzi, how about it? How does American testing compare to that in other lands?

Please come back with detailed information about world testing and the president's claims. Be prepared to post your info, in a high-profile way, every freaking day!

Trump has been using the children as props. The cables have been letting us watch.

DIAGNOSING PRESIDENT TRUMP: Gartner's assessment can't be discussed!


We simply don't work on that level:
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is mentally ill? Dangerously so, perhaps?

Of one thing you can be sure—you'll never see that question discussed within our upper-end press corps. Here's what you'll see instead:

As we noted yesterday, you'll see major journalists hinting at such an idea. But they won't pull on their big boy pants and say what they actually mean.

On occasion, a Jennifer Senior will come along and raise this possibility in print. On April 6, Senior did so in the New York Times, but her column generated exactly zero discussion.

Such efforts never will.

Many journalists secretly think that something is seriously wrong with Trump—that he's psychiatrically or cognitively impaired. But they won't say such things out loud. As a people, we simply don't work on that level.

Is it possible that Trump is severely ill—that he is, in William Styron's phrase, one of "the beaten children of the Earth?"

You won't see that possibility discussed. Instead, you'll see what you continue to see today, what you've seen in recent days:

You see references to how "stupid" Trump is
, references to him as a "moron." You won't be asked to consider the source of his endlessly repeated, deeply peculiar claims.

Within our unimpressive upper-end guild, you won't see any such discussion—until the first N-bomb falls.

Into this somewhat childish world walks Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist who served for 28 years as a professor at the Johns Hopkins Medical School.

Way back in March 2017, Gartner cast himself in the Jennifer Senior role. He wrote a column for USA Today in which he assessed that President Trump was in fact—we'll speak colloquially—severely mentally ill.

Was Gartner's assessment that day correct? Absent further debate and discussion, we're poorly equipped to say.

But Gartner came forward again last week to state his case about President Trump. We think it's worth explaining why his interview with Salon isn't ready for prime time—why you'll never see a public discussion of the assessments Gartner advanced.

Gartner's assessments may well be completely correct—but you'll never see them discussed. Let's start with what he wrote for USA Today, back when Trump's presidency was still just a pup.

For now, we'll skip the first two paragraphs in that three-year-old column. A word Gartner used in his opening sentence made it impossible that his column could ever be discussed.

Instead, we'll start with his paragraph 3.

A word Gartner used in paragraph 3 also made his piece untouchable. Still and all, much of what he said that day will sound extremely familiar today. A prediction he cites from 2016 will perhaps seem prescient:
GARTNER (5/4/17): Much has been written about Trump having narcissistic personality disorder. As critics have pointed out, merely saying a leader is narcissistic is hardly disqualifying. But malignant narcissism is like a malignant tumor: toxic.

Psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor Erich Fromm, who invented the diagnosis of malignant narcissism, argues that it “lies on the borderline between sanity and insanity.” Otto Kernberg, a psychoanalyst specializing in borderline personalities, defined malignant narcissism as having four components: narcissism, paranoia, antisocial personality and sadism. Trump exhibits all four.

His narcissism is evident in his “grandiose sense of self-importance … without commensurate achievements.”
From viewing cable news, he knows "more about ISIS than the generals” and believes that among all human beings on the planet, “I alone can fix it.” His "repeated lying," “disregard for and violation of the rights of others” (Trump University fraud and multiple sexual assault allegations) and “lack of remorse” meet the clinical criteria for anti-social personality. His bizarre conspiracy theories, false sense of victimization, and demonization of the press, minorities and anyone who opposes him are textbook paranoia. Like most sadists, Trump has been a bully since childhood, and his thousands of vicious tweets make him perhaps the most prolific cyber bully in history.

A year ago, I warned that “the idea that Trump is going to settle down and become presidential when he achieves power is wishful thinking.” Trump, like many successful people, shows biological signs of hypomania—a mild and more functional expression of bipolar genes that manifest in energy, confidence, creativity, little need for sleep, as well as arrogance, impulsivity, irritability and diminished judgment. As is often typical, when Trump has achieved great success, his hypomania has increased with disastrous consequences.
Gartner says this as that passage starts: "Much has been written about Trump having narcissistic personality disorder."

Indeed, that's the possible diagnosis suggested by Senior, three years later, in her column for the New York Times.

You could almost imagine that diagnosis being discussed in the upper-end press. As Gartner suggests, it almost sounds like something we've seen, and joked about, in our previous leaders.

We don't mean this, in any way, as a criticism of Senior, or of the editors at the Times who were willing to publish her column. But Senior is a journalist, and Gartner is a psychotherapist who has dealt with severe personality disorders for decades in his private practice.

Gartner is an experienced psychotherapist; he says the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder doesn't go far enough. Gartner says that Trump is a "malignant narcissist," and that one word has made all the difference.

Gartner's assessment may be completely correct. But that diagnosis could never be discussed by our upper-end press corps.

Is it possible that Donald Trump fits into the diagnostic sub-category of "malignant narcissism?" As far as we know, it is.

That said, some problems may quickly arise. For one example, the leading authority on psychiatry tells us this:
Malignant narcissism is a psychological syndrome comprising an extreme mix of narcissism, antisocial behavior, aggression, and sadism. Grandiose, and always ready to raise hostility levels, the malignant narcissist undermines families and organizations in which they are involved, and dehumanizes the people with whom they associate.

Malignant narcissism is a hypothetical, experimental diagnostic category. Narcissistic personality disorder is found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), while malignant narcissism is not. As a hypothetical syndrome, malignant narcissism could include aspects of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) alongside a mix of antisocial, paranoid and sadistic personality disorder traits.
Uh-oh! While Senior's diagnosis has been officially sanctioned, "malignant narcissism" is said to be an experimental diagnosis.

That would scare high-end scribes away. But so would an array of challenging words Gartner has used in discussing Trump, perhaps with perfect accuracy.

At the start of his piece for USA Today, Gartner seemed to describe Trump as "psychotic." In last week's interview with Salon, he describes the president as a "sexual sadist."

Within the world of our upper-end discourse, you're allowed to use words like stupid and moron, but you aren't allowed to use words like those when you're discussing a president. Gartner may be completely right in his assessment of President Trump. But there's zero chance that our upper-end journalists would ever link themselves to his work or quote and discuss what he's said.

In that sense, Gartner's assessment may be completely correct but, quite plainly, it's also not ready for prime time.

As we noted yesterday, our upper-end journalists are generally unwilling to discuss the concept of psychiatric disorder at all. They'll never take the chance of linking to a diagnosis in which terms like "sexual sadist," "democidal" and even "malignant" occur.

To quote Dana Carvey as President Bush, "Na ga do it." Our upper-end discourse is limited, childish. It simply won't visit such lands.

We have one more thought about Gartner's interview with Salon. There's one more reason why his assessment could never be discussed:

Gartner may be completely correct in his assessment of Trump. But he also sounds angry and judgmental concerning Trump, and especially within a psychiatric context, that isn't going to fly.

Is Donald F. Trump severely disordered in the ways Gartner describes? In our view, he certainly may be. (Tomorrow, we'll discuss the extent to which laypersons like us can understand such diagnoses at all.)

Is the president severely disordered in the way Gartner says? Is he a "malignant narcissist?" On that basis, is he a uniquely dangerous person?

In our view, he certainly could be. But if he is, then in our view, that makes him one of the "beaten children of the Earth." It makes him Bob Dylan's (metaphorical) "poor immigrant," a broken-souled (and dangerous) person for whom Dylan recommended pity.

Jennifer Senior made an excellent try. Even better, Gartner is a deeply experienced psychotherapist. That said, some suggestions are never going to fly, given the withered nature of our upper-end discourse.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But despite the self-flattering stories we persistently tell ourselves, our current intellectual culture is extremely limited.

Our upper-end stars will never go there. In our view, we'd have a better chance to get our ideas out if we tried a little tenderness—if, in Homer's dramatic words, we chose to beat back our great anger.

Tomorrow: Was Joseph Stalin mentally ill? What does that even mean?

Trump returns to the briefing wars!


The dumbness of yesterday's comments:
Late yesterday afternoon, at 5:38 PM Eastern, the American president returned to the briefing wars.

About three minutes in, he said what's shown below. He'd already delivered his memorized monologue above having so many ventilators, way more than the governors need:
TRUMP (4/27/20): We've launched the most ambitious testing effort, likewise, on earth. The United States has now conducted more than 5.4 million tests, nearly double the number tested in any other country, more than twice as much as any other country. Think of that!
"Think of that," the dumbest known human said.

Have we really done twice as many tests as anyone else? We're not sure, but it's possible! Part of the reason would of course be this:
Total population, various countries
United States: 328.2 million
Italy: 60.4 million
Australia: 25.7 million
Lithuania: 2.8 million
Quite a few countries seem to have done more testing than we have done on a per capita basis. But we have the third largest population in the world, trailing only China (no reliable data) and India (very poor).

These prime time gong shows will continue to crawl with silly, stupid remarks. Our newspapers do not maintain "dedicated pages" which record, on a daily basis, all the blatantly stupid things the nation's commander says and says and says and says over and over again.

In fairness, sheer stupidity has been the lingua franca of our upper-end press corps itself for a very long time. They say and do so many dumb things that they may not notice, let alone be disturbed, when others sample the culture.

That said, how stupid did yesterday's comments get during Q-and-A? After a CEO Serenade, one presentation by Trump went like this:
REPORTER: Mr. President, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we need to increase testing by—double it at least, and so does the Rockefeller Foundation. When are we going to be doubling testing?

TRUMP: Well, that—it doesn’t really matter what they say there. And we just left him; we just had a meeting, but—because we’re going to have much more than double it very soon.

Now, there are big believers in testing, and then there are some governors that don’t feel as strongly about it at all. You understand that. They feel much differently about it.

But we’re going with maximum testing, because it’s something we’re very capable of doing. But we’ll be much more than doubled.

You know, Mike, I’d like you to answer that. We’re going to be much higher than doubled on testing very shortly.

Mike, please.
Let's translate! First, Trump told the vice president what he should say. Then, he told him to say it!

Thus prompted, Pence delivered one of his excruciating soliloquies. Later, though, this occurred:
KARL: This sounds incredibly promising. Walgreens, CVS for the drive-through tests, the diagnostic agencies. But we sat here in the Rose Garden back on March 13. These companies were here, some other companies were here. By my count, only 69 drive-through test sites have been set up by the companies that were here. I'm wondering if—

Of course, Mr. Vice President, back in early March you said we'd be at four million tests by the following week. We've just now got there in the last few days. What have you learned about what went wrong a month-and-a-half or over the last month-and-a-half or two months, and what's going to go right now? What lessons have you learned from the mistakes over the last month-and-a-half or so?

PENCE: Jon, I appreciate the question, but it represents a misunderstanding on your part and frankly, a lot of people in the public's part, about the difference between having a test versus the ability to actually process the test...
Thus triggered, Pence orated from there. When he was done, Karl followed up:
KARL: So when you said 4 million tests, seven weeks ago, you were just talking about tests being sent out, not actually being completed? I’m a little confused.

PENCE: Jon, I think—precisely correct...
He hadn't meant that four million tests would (or could) be conducted. He just meant they'd be sent out!

The spectacular dumbness of these sessions defines a failed national culture. In closing, we'll offer an obvious thought about one other Q-and-A:
REPORTER: The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee came out with the fourth installment of its report. It concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections and there was not political bias. Do you accept its conclusions?

TRUMP: Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the report. I haven’t seen the report.

[To different reporter] Yeah, please. Go ahead.
If Trump holds another gong-show today, will someone ask that question again? Citizen, please! What are the odds?

The ludicrous claims are made day after day. This conduct has been normalized.

Big news orgs don't seem to notice or care. Mike, please! Think about that!

DIAGNOSING PRESIDENT TRUMP: Is it possible that Trump is mentally ill?


Top journalists slipslide, evade:
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is mentally ill?

Could he be severely ill? Could he be severely ill is a way which is dangerous?

John Gartner thinks he is. Gartner taught for 28 years at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. In his private practice, he specializes in the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

Way back in 2017, Gartner contributed to The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a bestselling book which was assembled and edited by Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee. In an interview which appeared on April 25, Gartner discussed his assessment of Trump with Salon's Chauncey DeVega.

In his discussion with DeVega, Gartner offers a devastating diagnosis of Trump. For better or worse, his assessment clearly isn't "ready for (upper-end mainstream) prime time."

We don't mean to say that Gartner's diagnosis of Trump is wrong. It's entirely possible that his assessment is perfectly accurate.

We do mean that Gartner's assessment of Trump is so severe and so disturbing that, by the obvious rules of the game, it could never be discussed in upper-end publications. By tradition, by ability and by basic instinct, our journalists simply don't play the game that way, as we'll show you below.

Gartner's assessment is much too harsh for upper-end mainstream discussion. Tomorrow, we'll review what Gartner told DeVega, showing you what we mean.

For today, let's scan the timid, timorous way top scribes discuss mental illness. In particular, let's review the way they discuss the possible impairment of Trump, a subject they discuss behind the scenes but never discuss out loud, where such ruminations could jangle their careers.

We'll start with this morning's column by the Washington Post's Gene Robinson. Rather plainly, Robinson thinks something's wrong with Trump. He just doesn't want to say so:
ROBINSON (4/28/20): It is time to ask once again, in all seriousness, whether the president of the United States is of sound mind.

Even by his own standards, President Trump’s weekend ranting and raving on Twitter was bizarre and disturbing.
I know there are commentators who see his eruptions as some kind of genius-level communications strategy, a way of bonding himself to his loyal base by sending messages at dog-whistle frequencies others cannot hear. Others justify these tantrums as a way for an embattled president to blow off steam. But there is a simpler and more disturbing interpretation: What you see is what you get.

And what we got Sunday was a whole lot of crazy. It’s not good for the country, and it doesn’t seem very good for the president, either.


I’m not making a diagnosis, but rather just stating the obvious. If a loved one were raging in such a manner, you’d worry about his or her well-being. You’d hope it was just a bad spell. You might attempt to investigate, if only with a text reading: “R u ok?” We can only hope someone in Trump’s life is doing the same for him.
Robinson starts by asking, "in all seriousness," if Trump "is of sound mind." Typically, this language would suggest the possibility that the person in question may be cognitively or psychiatrically impaired.

Since the person in question holds the nuclear codes, this is a dangerous matter. But rather than state his concern in grown-up terms, Robinson quickly undermines himself, observing that Trump's recent tweets offered "a whole lot of crazy."

That's the kind of jocular language which invites us to chuckle and enter the realm of the merely colloquial. Robinson never directly articulates his apparent thought.

In the final paragraph we've posted, Robinson again suggests that Trump seems to be impaired in some basic way, as elderly "loved ones" sometimes are. But the best he can do in the face of this problem is to imagine Ivanka texting Trump to ask if he's OK.

"We can only hope someone in Trump’s life" is responding in this fashion. As journalists, we can't start a public discussion about his "crazy" behavior.

Robinson will slip and slide until the day we all die. Last Sunday, on CNN's Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter took a similar approach to Trump's peculiar behavior.

Stelter strikes us as an unusually decent person. In the passage shown below, he disagrees with viewers who say that the media shouldn't even report Trump's various crazy statements.

In the passage shown below, Stelter voiced his concern about Trump's mental state even more clearly than Robinson did. But as we'll see, in the end, he too slipslid away:
STELTER (4/26/20): We have to report this. Even though it's insane, we have to fact check what he's doing even though it's disturbing because here's why, because poll after poll shows most Americans don't trust what president Trump says, but some people do. Tens of millions do say they trust him. What he says, what he tweets matters to them and it reflects on America all around the world.


The president's statements matter. Even though many of you say we shouldn't air the briefings, the briefings shouldn't be seen. The president's statements matter because they show his wellness, his competence or lack there thereof.

Let me put it this way, when a grandparent is not well, the entire family feels it. The entire family shares the pain.
Thousands of families know what that's like right now. The American family is experiencing it too.

When someone is not well, when a leader is not well, we all feel it.
Yet in this. the president has really powerful enablers in the media...
In that passage, it's plain that Stelter is concerned about the president's "wellness" and possible lack of "competence." He directly evokes the familiar situation in which it becomes clear that an older relative—a grandparent—is no longer mentally whole.

It's clear that Stelter believes that something is wrong with President Trump. But if we might borrow from the speech by noble Nestor near the towering walls of Troy, Stelter "reaches no useful end."

He refuses to make a clear statement about what he's plainly suggesting. Instead, he scolds Sean Hannity as an enabler, then prescribes what we should do:
STELTER: When someone is not well, when a leader is not well, we all feel it. Yet in this. the president has really powerful enablers in the media. I think we need to make sure we don't overlook this part of the story.

This is a screen grab from Sean Hannity's show back in the end of February, February 27th. Hannity went on there with a big graphic proudly displaying that zero people in the United States died from coronavirus.

Now, Sean doesn't use this graphic anymore. He doesn't put this up on the screen anymore. So we took the liberty of updating it for him. There's the current count, 53,934 Americans confirmed to have died from the coronavirus according to Johns Hopkins University. The true death toll, of course, even higher and very, very hard to know.

So I think the news coverage needs to center not on Trump, not on Hannity, but on those citizens, those who have passed, and also these citizens, the more than 26 million people who are unemployed right now. Again, the true number even greater, but that's the official toll—number as of earlier this week.
Within that short passage, Stelter traces a remarkable logic. He flatly says that the man who holds the nuclear codes "is not well." After that, he flatly says that we shouldn't "center on" that man, or on that fact!

Is it possible that President Trump is mentally ill in some serious way? If so, we'd say this makes him one of William Stryon's "beaten children of the Earth," someone deserving of pity, even as he rages on the moors.

Under present circumstances, it also makes him an extremely dangerous person. With that in mind, consider one more recent event.

In early March, ABC's Jonathan Karl released the latest easy-reader book about Trump. In a somewhat belated review in Sunday's Washington Post, Linda Killian mentioned something Karl reported:
KILLIAN (4/26/20): Karl also recounts that after Mick Mulvaney was named acting chief of staff, he asked the White House staff to read the book “A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness” by Nassir Ghaemi, the director of the mood disorders program at Tufts Medical Center. Karl talked with Ghaemi, who told him that Trump “clearly has mild manic symptoms all the time, as part of his personality,” which can manifest as someone who is unrealistic and unempathic.

But though Karl briefly touches on these issues, he does not raise the question of why so few former staff members have spoken publicly to tell the American people what they know about Trump and what is really going on in the administration.
Killian moved on from there. Consider what she said:

According to Karl, one of Trump's many chiefs-of-staff seemed to think that Trump is mentally ill. He asked the White House staff to read a book on the subject.

The relevant excerpt from Karl's book became public in early March. Within the upper-end press, it wasn't reported or investigated as possible news.

As best we can tell, no one other than Maureen Dowd discussed or reported this excerpt in the New York Times. In her March 8 column, Dowd reported what Karl said, but also slipslid away:
DOWD (3/8/20): Democrats can resort to this sort of sniping, too. Many Trump critics in 2016, and in the year after his election, pushed the idea that his father had suffered from Alzheimer’s and now Trump was losing it and that his vocabulary was eroding.

And it has become common among his attackers to say the president is deranged, suffering from malignant narcissism.

In his new book, “Front Row at the Trump Show,” Jonathan Karl
, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, reports the surprising fact that one of those calls on Trump derangement came from inside the White House.

Karl recounts that when Mick Mulvaney became acting chief of staff, he took senior White House staffers to Camp David for a weekend retreat. He recommended they read a 2011 book, “A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness,” by Nassir Ghaemi, director of the mood disorders program at Tufts Medical Center.

“This book argues that in at least one vitally important circumstance insanity produces good results and sanity is a problem,” Ghaemi writes in his introduction. “In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.”


As Karl writes: “The new acting chief of staff seemed to be saying President Trump was mentally ill—and that this was a good thing. The corollary to that theory: Don’t try to control the man in the Oval Office. What you think is madness is actually genius.”


When Karl reached out to Ghaemi to ask how Trump would fit into his thesis, Ghaemi replied “perfectly,”
noting that the president has “mild manic symptoms all the time.” Ghaemi also concedes in his book that extreme forms of mania can be highly disabling and dangerous.
In her treatment of this report, Dowd has it both major ways. As she starts, she directly says that Trump's critics are "sniping" when they suggest that he may be cognitively impaired or even mentally ill.

The use of the term "Trump derangement" extends this dismissive tone. Over the past decade, "derangement syndrome" has become a term which is used to suggest that a politician's critics are nuts, not that the pol himself is.

At any rate, Dowd recounted Karl's allegation in full. Even Trump's chief of staff seemed to think he was mentally ill!

But even as she told the tale, Dowd largely played it for fun. Today, the column appears beneath these Dowdian headlines:
Trump’s Crazy Fantasy World
In what The Spectator calls “the Year of the Drunken Uncle,” three old guys vie for the presidency amid coronavirus fears and a careering stock market.
Donald J. Trump isn't mentally ill. He's just your drunken uncle!

Did Mulvaney really issue that reading assignment? Did, or does, he really think that Trump is mentally ill?

We don't know what Mulvaney thinks, but many high-end journalists think such things and discuss such possibilities in private. They just won't say such things out loud, except in highly couched language.

Our TV stars think something is wrong, but they aren't willing to say so. Doing that simply isn't allowed. Homey don't play that game!

Tomorrow: Not ready for prime time? Senior v. Gartner

In search of the highly elusive Birx!

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2020—

Chuck, Jake crash and burn:
You really have to hand it to this morning's Washington Post.

In this morning's featured report, right at the top of page A1, three journalists start with an insight they claim to have gained from watching Dr. Deborah Birx speaking with Chuck Todd.

Yesterday, Birx was interviewed on Meet the Press, but also on CNN's State of the Union. The public was treated to two of the most god-awful interviews we've ever seen.

The answers were virtually non-existent, but the questions were frequently terrible. Consider the kabuki which resulted from the first things Todd and Birx said.

As you know, we love our old pal Chuck, but his first question wasn't the best. Much more awful was Birx's "reply." The first Q-and-A went like this:
TODD (4/26/20): Let me start with the issue of reopening. And that is, the four states right now that are doing some phase of it, none of these four states are meeting the guidelines that you laid out about ten days ago of what these phased reopenings would look like, what metrics each state should be looking for before they begin this.

This wasn't a mandate. They were guidelines, I grant you that. How concerned are you that we are up to four states not following these federal guidelines?

BIRX: We put out the gating criteria to be very clear about what epidemiologic pieces we thought were critical, what health care delivery pieces we thought were critical, and what surveillance and monitoring pieces were critical. And we still believe strongly that those are the best public health recommendations to every state and every governor to follow.
How concerned is Dr. Birx? Dr. Birx didn't say!

As a matter of fact, she didn't say if she's concerned at all! Chuck decided to give it another try:
TODD (continuing directly): Would you advise any one of these states that have reopened right now, Georgia, South Carolina, Alaska, Oklahoma to be reopening right now?

BIRX: Well, each state is different. And the reason we made the guidelines and gating criteria very specific was also—and I'm sure a lot of people have missed the asterisk that said to look not only statewide, but also county by county. And I have been very struck by how different the outbreaks are from the metro regions, to the rural regions, to the county regions. And that's why we look at things in a very granular way and governors should be doing the same because there are areas of every state that are much more stable and much more spared this epidemic than other areas of states.
Would she advise those states to reopen? Dr. Birx didn't say!

She did say, as she rambled on, that the situations are very different, county by county, in different parts of these states. For that reason, governors should be "look[ing] at things in a very granular way."

That was an interesting, somewhat surprising answer to a question she hadn't been asked. With respect to the question she had been asked, consider the state of Georgia, which has received the most attention among these four reopening states.

In Georgia, Governor Kemp hasn't seemed to look at things in a very granular way. His plan doesn't follow the administration's guidelines, and Kemp specifically said that mayors and other local officials won't be allowed to maintain closures which differ from his statewide decree.

In that sense, the Georgia governor wasn't taking the granular approach Dr. Birx was recommending, but Chuck didn't mention this fact. He did make a somewhat imprecise third try at getting an answer to his general question:
TODD (continuing directly): Are you concerned though that if you have already four states not following the guidelines that you laid out, more states appear to be ready to possibly do that as well, that we end up losing all the ground that we’ve gained over the last six weeks?
For our money, that was the best question Chuck had asked. For one thing, he didn't make a presumption by asking how much Dr. Birx was concerned. In this case, he simply asked if she was concerned at all.

If various states don't follow the guidelines, could we lose the ground we've gained over the past six weeks? Presumably, Chuck was asking if infection rates and death rates might shoot back up or might fail to decline.

Stated clearly, that's a very basic question. Rambling around the countryside, Dr. Birx responded with this:
BIRX (continuing directly): I've had really very good conversations with a series of governors. And they have really been very insightful of how they are looking at this. They understand the risk. And they talk about this not as turning on a light switch, but slowly turning up the dimmer. Very slowly. And each, each—that is why these are in phases. And each phase carries a very specific piece. And to all the American people, please read those phases because it was very clear that if you have preexisting conditions or you're the elderly with preexisting conditions and have risk factors, we strongly recommended that you continue to shelter in place and continue to be protected and continue to follow all the guidelines. And anybody that you interact with, ensure that they're also following the guidelines very carefully.
Is Dr. Birx concerned that we might lose the ground we've gained? Might infection and death rates start going up if states ignore the guidelines?

Dr. Birx didn't say! Instead, she rambled on about how insightful an unspecified number of governors are. Also, we the people should be sure to read the phases, whatever the heck they are.

Meanwhile, but how about the governors who aren't following the guidelines? How concerned is Birx about them?

Chuck had tried to ask three times. Each time, Birx didn't say.

Chuck's next question went like this. By now, the analysts were crying:
TODD (continuing directly): Well, now that actually gets me to my next topic with you, and that is the issue of testing. I’d actually, instead of me asking the question, I'd like to get you to respond to Bill Gates. Here is what he said to a colleague of mine yesterday on the testing issue.

GATES (videotape): Of all the things I am most surprised about the federal government response, the unwillingness to get involved in test prioritization is the most amazing. We have 330 million people and our testing capacity is under 200,000 a day.

TODD: Dr. Birx, I know you have had your own—you’ve worked with the Gates Foundation in the past, so I should set that aside there a second. How would you respond to him?
How would Birx respond to Gates? That sounds like a reasonable question. But what had Gates actually said?

Gates seemed to be saying that we aren't doing sufficient testing. But is that what he actually meant?

The clumsy phrase, "test prioritization," made his comment hard to parse. Meanwhile, a million people have said by now that we aren't doing sufficient testing. If that's what Chuck was asking about, it should have been an amazingly easy question to ask.

Whatever! Chuck proceeded to ask two more questions, three in all, which seemed to be about insufficient testing. Birx's first two responses were long, technocratic and barely coherent. The third Q-and-A in the series went like this:
TODD: So essentially what you’re saying is we don’t have—you don’t think we have the capacity to ramp up the testing you would like because we need this—we basically need a breakthrough for easier testing?

BIRX: No, I think we have other technology that we think can come online within the next two to three weeks. That will be a breakthrough in the RNA-type testing. But I think also, just for ease of use, finding out how we can do antigen-type testing like they do with flu. It can be used as a screening test. And then you could do the actual RNA testing for a confirmatory test. Just allows you to screen large numbers of individuals quickly.
"RNA-type testing?" Is that the "nucleic acid testing" Birx had rambled on about in her (much longer) two previous statements?

Things were getting murky. In her previous statement, Birx had said that "we really need to move into antigen testing" without explaining what that type of testing is, or how it differs from the "nucleic acid testing" she'd already mentioned.

Now we were on to "antigen testing." All in all, Birx's three answers about testing were about as clear as mud.

After that, Chuck asked this:
TODD (continuing directly): The vice president on Friday said that by Memorial Day—in fact, I want to read the quote exactly here—that, by Memorial Day, the epidemic, “I think honestly, if you look at the trends today, that I think by Memorial Day Weekend we'll largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us." This Memorial Day, 2020? Is that realistic, that it is behind us? Can you explain what he means by that?
"Can you explain what he means by that?" By adding that unnecessary second question, Chuck was practically asking Birx to create a version of Pence's remark which seemed to make good sense.

In fairness, Pence's sunny, perhaps delusional statement was somewhat vague. But the obvious question would have been this:

Do you agree with Pence's statement? Do you believe this pandemic will be largely behind us by the end of May? Full stop!

We don't know what Birx would have said in response to that direct question. Below, you see the bafflegab Chuck's actual question produced:
BIRX: I think he means that in the models and in tracking our actual data—because previously, we were using models based on data from around the world. And now, we are very much tracking every single outbreak in the United States separately. And if you look at those outbreaks over time, and you look at places like Louisiana, if you look at Houston, if you look at Detroit, and you look at how they have reached their peak and come down, and what those cases look like as they come down, it gives us great hope when you project out Boston and Chicago and certainly, the New York Metro which we are all very still focused on. I mean, they still have 45% or so of the entire cases in the United States, and the majority, about 40 to 50% of the mortalities.

So we continue to watch this very closely. But that is where the projections take us. And it is very much based on Detroit, Louisiana and other groups. And then looking at Seattle, that never really reached a peak and has never really had a large outbreak. And trying to understand what we can do as a people to ensure—social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases.
Will the pandemic largely be behind us by the end of May? That seemed to be what Chuck was asking.

Did Dr. Birx answer that question? We have no idea! Heroically, though, the Washington Post took today's lede from that rambling answer.

We'll have social distancing through the summer! That's the absurdly obvious statement around which the Post built its front-page report. "Social distancing could last months, White House coronavirus coordinator says." So the newspaper's online headline says.

The word "through" is somewhat ambiguous there. But that turned out to be the deathless remark which tops the Post's front page.

For all we know, Dr. Birx may be giving sound advice behind the scenes. But as a public explainer, she's a total disaster, a rambling wreck, and has been for some time.

Things went no better on CNN, with Jake Tapper forming the questions. Concerning Chuck and Jake, we would say this:

Neither fellow seemed to know when his questions weren't being answered. If they knew, they weren't prepared to do what a questioner should:

They weren't prepared to start with a cogent question, then simply state the question again if it hasn't been answered. All through yesterday's interviews, the moderators and the doctor seemed to be speaking different languages.

We thought about the later Wittgenstein as we watched. Repeatedly, Chuck and Jake didn't seem to recognize when nothing coherent was being offered in response to their somewhat fuzzy questions. Incoherence from Dr. Birx seemed like a cultural given.

The later Wittgenstein seemed to say that western philosophy, at its highest end, is shot through with such acts of incoherence and incomprehension—with major figures who don't recognize that their own difficult statements make no discernible sense.

The people inq uestion are regarded as giants. But their statements made no sense, and they couldn't tell!

That's what we thought of as we watched. But we have decided to hold those reports for a later day.

Final thought for today: Stalking the wild asparagus was almost certainly easier than attempting to get an actual answer from the highly elusive Birx.

DIAGNOSING TRUMP: But also picturing Lukashenko!

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2020

Teaching Gartner's diagnosis, flat and round:
Say hello to Aleksandr Lukashenko, aspiring president-for-life of little, forlorn Belarus.

Under a slightly different name, Belarus was once a Soviet Socialist Republic. Lukashenko has served as the nation's strongman president ever since the position was established in 1994.
In Sunday's print editions, the New York Times profiled the 66-year-old Belarusian strongman. You can even see a photo of him cavorting in his hockey gear—but here's how the profile began:
KRAMER (4/26/20): As he headed off the ice after playing a hockey game in an amateur tournament in late March, the leader of Belarus brushed aside reporters’ anxious questions about the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are no viruses here,” said the Belarusian president
, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, gesturing to the crowded arena. “Do you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them either.”

At a time when some countries, like Germany and Denmark, having tamped down the initial outbreak of the virus, are experimenting with cautious openings of businesses and schools, Belarus is an outlier. It never imposed any restrictions at all.

Restaurants, coffee shops and movie theaters remain open. Last weekend, churches were packed for Orthodox Easter. Professional soccer is in full swing, though the roaring crowds of earlier this month have thinned. In the capital, Minsk, the subways are crowded.
“There are no viruses here,” the bluster-based Belarusian declared. “Do you see any of them flying around?”

Presumably, Lukashenko knows that viruses can't be seen by the naked eye. His statement likely was "sarcastic," or some version of same.

Still and all, the president explicitly said that there are no viruses in Belarus. Obviously, the coronavirus is on the scene in that forlorn land. As time goes by, it's very likely to do substantial damage.

Lukashenko's bluster may recall various statements by our own president, Donald J. Trump. A comical bit of recent Belarusian history may recall some of the more disordered claims our own president has made in the recent past.

At issue is one of Lukashenko's many re-elections, the one he enjoyed in 2006.

According to the leading authority on the matter, the heads of all 25 EU countries declared that the election had been "fundamentally flawed." The Bush White House said it believed that the election had been rigged and called for a new election.

Setting such niceties to the side, Lukashenko won the election—and he won it very big. Comically, the blustering strongman said this:
Lukashenko later stated that he had rigged the election results, but against himself, in order to obtain a majority more typical of European countries. Although he had won 93.5% of the vote, he said, he had directed the government to announce a result of 86%.
Though he'd really won 93.5% of the vote, Lukashenko directed the government to say it was just 86! That's the way an election may go with a fellow like this in command. For the full statement, click here.

How strong is Lukashenko's real support? We have no way of knowing. That said, we couldn't help thinking of President Trump when we encountered that comically gonzo statement.

We thought of the busloads of voters from Massachusetts who crossed into New Hampshire in November 2016, costing Candidate Trump that state. We thought of the millions of illegal voters in California that same year. Their illegal votes explain why Candidate Trump seemed to lose the popular vote to "Crooked Hillary" by almost three million votes.

In such ways, the weird behaviors of Lukashenko may recall the weird behaviors of our own President Trump. But there's one extremely large difference between these two world figures:

Within our storehouse of political imagery, Lukashenko is a classic Eastern European, Soviet-era strongman. Within our political culture, we have familiar, Borat-flavored frameworks for understanding the weird behaviors of such a peculiar man.

Within our withered political culture, we have established ways to picture the behavior of a fellow like Lukashenko. But when it comes to our own president, it may be harder for us to see a certain possibility:

It may be harder to see the possibility that something is badly wrong with President Trump, or to come to terms with what the problem may be.

Lukashenko is a Soviet-era strongman, perhaps with a Borat tone. By way of contrast, President Trump has been a familiar figure within mainstream American culture since the 1970s.

He was once a popular "reality show" TV star. Sadly enough, a high-end figure like Diane Sawyer once asked Marla Maples, on network TV, if sex with the Donald had really been the best sex she ever had!

For better or worse, President Trump has been with us, and with our highest-end TV stars, pretty much forever. Unlike Lukashenko, Donald J. Trump is one of us—one of our own—and he's been so for a long time.

Donald Trump isn't a comical foreign figure; he's long been one of our own. For this reason, it may be hard for us to picture him in certain ways—for example, to imagine the possibility that he may be severely mentally ill.

We mention that obvious possibility for a reason. In the wake of our president's most recent strange behavior, a major psychologist has come forward with a direct diagnosis of Trump.

That psychologist is John Gartner, who recently spoke about President Trump with Salon's Chauncey DeVega. Who the heck is Dr. Gartner? DeVega tells us this:
DEVEGA (4/25/20): Psychologist and psychotherapist John Gartner [was a] contributor to the bestselling book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump"...

Dr. Gartner taught for many years at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and has private therapeutic practices in Baltimore and New York
, specializing in the treatment of borderline personality disorders.
The best-selling book to which DeVega refers is the book which was compiled and edited by Yale's Dr. Bandy X. Lee. In that book, Lee attempted to initiate a difficult discussion—a discussion the upper-end American press corps has refused to conduct.

Once again, who is Gartner? According to the leading authority, Gartner graduated magna cum laude from Princeton; received a doctorate in clinical psychology from UMass; then completed post-doctoral training at Cornell.

He was a part-time professor at Hopkins from 1987 through 2015. He's a psychotherapist who specializes in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder and depression. He's a widely published author of articles for scientific journals.

None of this mean that something has to be true just because Gartner says it. But a certain irony obtains in the ongoing coverage of our own Donald Trump:

Even as Trump is routinely criticized for ignoring the advice of technical specialists in various fields, Gartner is the kind of technical specialist—the kind of "expert"—the upper-end press corps has itself refused to consult.

In his interview with DeVega, Gartner offers a diagnosis of our own blustering president. It isn't right because Gartner has said it. But should it be ignored?

In truth, Gartner offers an extremely dire diagnosis of President Trump. On April 6, Jennifer Senior suggested a similar diagnosis in an opinion column in the New York Times, but Gartner takes the diagnosis to a much scarier place.

Senior is a journalist; Gartner's a psychotherapist. That said, Donald Trump is one of our own, and that has made it very hard for many people to consider the possibility that he may be mentally ill, even severely so.

As Americans, we have pictures of Soviet-era strongmen we can apply to figures like Lukashenko. It's harder for us to access pictures which may apply to a highly disordered person who's also one of our own.

In part, this raises the question of whether we believe in severe psychiatric illness at all. When we hear about "sociopaths," we may tend hink of outlandish Hollywood figures like Hannibal Lecter.

We may tend to think that a sociopath has to be someone like that. We may picture Hannibal Lecter and picture no one else.

So we may tend to assume. But the National Institutes of Health has said that 5.5 percent of American males could be diagnosed as sociopaths!

That assessment will likely sound strange to most Americans. Within our intellectually unimpressive culture, we rarely discuss such topics in any serious way at all.

Within the American market, Gartner's dire diagnosis of President Trump would be very hard to sell. That doesn't mean that his diagnosis is wrong. In part, it means that his diagnosis hasn't been couched in a way which makes it palatable for our convention-based upper-end mainstream press corps.

Indeed, the boys and girls of the upper-end press haven't been willing to go there at all. As Trump engages in constant delusions, they close their own eyes and ears to a fairly obvious possibility:

Could something be severely wrong with our sitting president? Is it possible that our own Lukashenko is (severely) mentally ill?

Dr. Gartner has opined that Trump is severely ill. Borrowing from President Johnson, wee can teach that diagnosis flat or round, and we'll do so all week.

Is something wrong with President Trump? Is it possible that, as Gartner says, he is severely (and dangerously) ill?

For ourselves, we've long counseled pity for such such "beaten children of the Earth," even when their disorders lead them to do terrible things.

We've counseled pity for President Trump and for others so afflicted. But the upper-end press corps has refused to consult with specialists like Gartner. They speak from a no-go zone.

Do we even believe in mental illness? It isn't entirely clear that we do.

If we do, has Donald Trump caught that particular virus? Our press corps refuses to ask.

Tomorrow: Gartner's (severe) diagnosis

Still coming: Was Joseph Stalin "mentally ill?" How about Adolf Hitler?

Do we really believe in "mental illness" at all? Hannibal Lecter to the side, is there any such thing as a "sociopath?"

Thinking back to Senior and Blow!


Wallace, Stokols won't ask:
For what it's worth, Dr. Trump's (latest) miracle cure is featured today, above the fold, on the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

So, at least, there's that.

That said, our thoughts this morning drifted back to Jennifer Senior's column.

The column appeared in the hard-copy New York Times on Tuesday, April 6. Predictably, it triggered no further discussion.

In her column, Senior asked if President Donald J. Trump is mentally ill. More precisely, she seemed to offer a diagnosis. She said or suggested that Trump suffers from the condition technically known as "narcissistic personality disorder."

Completely predictably, Senior's column triggered no further discussion. Led by a January 2018 editorial in Senior's own New York Times, our high-end journalists and high-end news orgs have agreed on a certain course:

The Goldwater Rule must remain in effect. There must be no discussion of the psychiatric or psychological states of our political leaders.

Early this morning, our thoughts also drifted back to Charles Blow's column.

His column appeared in the hard-copy New York Times this past Tuesday, April 20. Predictably, it triggered no further discussion.

In his column, Blow argued, with great cogency, that Donald Trump's daily prime-time TV shows shouldn't be televised.

Others may disagree, of course. But no such discussion occurred.

In large part, we thought of these columns on this beautiful, chilly morning because of a pseudo-discussion we saw yesterday on cable. For today, we aren't going to transcribe it for you, though we may do so next week.

In this pseudo-discussion, Nicole Wallace and Eli Stokols pseudo-discussed the difficulty of covering Trump's daily "briefings." As the pair pretended to discuss this alleged problem, we couldn't help noting the following facts:

Neither party raised the possibility that the briefings shouldn't be aired at all. Also, neither party discussed the possibility that something is clinically wrong with the person at issue—that Trump may be mentally ill.

Wallace and Stokols ostentatiously praised each other for the depth of their ruminations. But neither party mentioned wither of these possibilities.

"Man [sic] is the rational animal," Aristotle is said to have said. Top major expert anthropologists now largely reject that claim.

Several have told us that "man" has actually turned out to be "the animal which is hard-wired to avoid real discussion." We recalled this claim as we watched Williams and Stokols pretend to discuss Thursday's gonzo events.

Commander Trump has now said that he was simply being sarcastic when he made his latest sad remarks during Thursday's prime time program. It has also been suggested that the commander will no longer conduct these daily prime-time programs.

That remains to be seen. But it's amazing to see the way our top journalists keep staging pseudo-discussions, in which every question is picked apart except the questions which matter.

Is something wrong with Donald J. Trump? On April 6, Senior said something is plainly wrong.

She said it in the New York Times. It produced no further discussion.

For ourselves, we heard a bit of "Rosebud" in the president's attempt to pose, once again, as a brilliant man of science. Here's the way our our out-on-his-feet Palooka-in-chief started Thursday's discussion:
TRUMP (4/23/20): Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting.
Stating the obvious, no one was thinking of the ridiculous questions which followed—no one but Donald J. Trump.

That said, Trump was rather plainly posing as a man of science. He'd done the same thing, way back when, on his trip to the CDC to straighten everything out.

That trip occurred on Friday, March 6. Trump made the following sad remarks, explaining how brilliant he is:
TRUMP (3/6/20): We’re prepared for anything. We’re prepared. We are, really, very highly prepared for anything. And in a short period of time—I mean, what they’ve done is very incredible. And I’ve seen what they’ve done back there. It’s really incredible.

REPORTER: And just from a health perspective—

TRUMP: And, by the way, NIH, what they’ve done—I spent time over there—and I like this stuff.

You know, my uncle was a great person. He was at MIT.
He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years. He was a great super-genius. Dr. John Trump.

I like this stuff. I really get it.
People are surprised that I understand it. Every one of these doctors said, “How do you know so much about this?” Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.

But you know what? What they’ve done is very incredible. I understand that whole world. I love that world. I really do. I love that world.
His uncle was a great super-genius—and so, it seemed, was Our Trump. That same sad person was speaking last Thursday as he made his absurd remarks.

For ourselves, we hear a bit of "Rosebud" in such pitiful, clueless remarks. We feel sorry for such anyone who is so delusional—so detached from the normal understandings of "the family of man [sic]."

We can almost find ourselves thinking that this sad, delusional person is among "the many others who were but a few of the butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the Earth." That said, the person is question holds the nuclear codes. He started threatening Iran this week, but even this won't make our journalists discuss the questions at hand.

("Man is the animal which can't seem to focus," one top expert has said.)

We'd like to hear Yale's Bandy X. Lee speak about Trump's mental state. We'd like to hear her thoughts about a person whose overpowering sense of inferiority is so baldly transparent.

We'd like to hear Dr. Lee speak. There could be respectful ways to do that, but our upper-end journalists have agreed that such a thing mustn't occur.

One top expert spoke to us about this problem last night. Sometimes, this renowned major expert said, if it weren't for all the forbidden discussions, there would be no discussions at all!

Improvements from the Fake News: On his trip to the CDC, Donald J. Trump said this:

"Anybody that needs a test can have a test."

That was a delusional (if somewhat imprecise) claim, but that's what he actually said. But within the Fake News, pundits routinely say that Trump said this:

"Anyone who wants a test can get a test."

That isn't what he actually said, but it's better than what he actually said! For that reason, in time-honored fashion, the new improved claim took hold.

How long did it take for this transcription error to take hold? Go ahead—just click here.

That headline appeared the very next day. People, we're just saying!

Is something wrong with President Trump?

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2020

His latest ruminations:
All by itself, Bill Bryan's deathless presentation was tedious enough.

Bryan had explained that disinfectant can shorten the lifespan of the virus which causes Covid-19. He also described the way sunlight, heat and humidity effect the virus when it's on various surfaces.

When Bryan finished, President Trump decided to share his own deep thoughts.

He started by pretending, as he sometimes does, that he's a true intellectual, with deep thoughts and bright ideas. This was his full rumination
TRUMP (4/23/20): Thank you very much. So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting.

So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous—whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light—and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it. And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too. It sounds interesting.

BRYAN: We’ll get to the right folks who could.

TRUMP: Right. And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks [the virus] out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds—it sounds interesting to me.

So we’ll see. But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s—that’s pretty powerful.
Because he's "totally into that world," this nephew to a super-genius uncle wanted to share his own scientific musings. He mused about the possibility of bringing ultraviolet light inside the body—"whether through the skin or in some other way."

He asked if Bryan was going to test such ideas. Presumably, Bryan felt forced to say that "the right folks" almost certainly would.

After that, the disinfectant! Since disinfectant can kill the virus on a hard surface, why couldn't it do the same thing inside the human body?

"It gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs," the scientifically literate commander in chief lucidly said. "So it would be interesting to check that."

So it went at the start of yesterday's oddball musings. A few minutes later, Jonathan Karl decided to bring the eternal note of sanity in:
KARL: The president mentioned the idea of a cleaner, bleach and isopropyl alcohol emerging. There’s no scenario where that could be injected into a person, is there?

BRYAN: No, I’m here to talk about the findings that we had in the study. We don’t do that within that lab, at our labs.

TRUMP: It wouldn’t be through injections. We're talking about almost a cleaning and sterilization of an area. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work, but it certainly has a big effect if it’s on a stationary object.
Already, Trump had rethought his approach. The treatment wouldn't be done through injections, he now said, even as Bryan was (presumably) forced to pretend that somebody else might be exploring such matters.

Later, Trump joined a reporter in speculating that it might make sense to fight the coronavirus by spending a lot of time outside when it's hot. That led to the later disaster in which Dr. Birx was put on the spot.

As often happens at these sessions, it started with a wiseguy question from the Washington Post's Philip Rucker. Just like that, the embattled commander took charge:
RUCKER: Mr. President, after the presentation we just saw about the heat and the humidity, is it dangerous for you to make people think they would be safe by going outside in the heat, considering that so many people are dying in Florida, considering that this virus has had an outbreak in Singapore, places that are hot and humid?

TRUMP: Here we go. Here we go. The new headline is “Trump asks people to go outside. That’s dangerous.” Here we go. Same old group.

You ready? I hope people enjoy the sun, and if it has an impact, that’s great. I’m just hearing this, not really for the first time. I mean, there’s been a rumor, a very nice rumor, that you go outside in the sun, or you have heat, and it does have an effect on other viruses.

But now we get it from one of the great laboratories of the world, I have to say. Covers a lot more territory than just this.

[Addressing Bryan] This is probably an easy thing, relatively speaking, for you. I would like you to speak to the medical doctors to see if there’s any way that you can apply light and heat to cure. You know? If you could. And maybe you can, maybe you can’t. Again, I say maybe you can, maybe you can’t. I’m not a doctor. But I’m a person that has a good you know what.

Deborah, have you ever heard of that? The heat and the light relative to certain viruses, yes, but relative to this virus?

BIRX: That is a treatment. I mean, certainly fever, is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond. But not as—I’ve not seen heat or light as a—

TRUMP: I think it’s a great thing to look at. Okay?
Trump was forced to cut Birx off, but this wasn't new to him. He'd already heard a rumor!

At that point, and to his credit, Rucker refused to quit.

As an obvious East Coast elitist, Rucker knew he had to pretend to be concerned by the president's talk about hearing a rumor. For his trouble, he was dispatched in the manner shown:
RUCKER (continuing directly): But respectfully, sir, you’re the president. And people tuning into these briefings, they want to get information and guidance and want to know what to do. They’re not looking for a rumor.

TRUMP: Hey—hey, Phil. I’m the president, and you’re Fake News. And you know what I’ll say to you? I’ll say it very nicely.

I know you well. I know you well. Because I know the guy. I see what he writes. He’s a total faker.

So, are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready? It’s just a suggestion from a brilliant lab by a very, very smart, perhaps brilliant, man. He’s talking about sun. He’s talking about heat. And you see the numbers.

So that’s it; that’s all I have. I’m just here to present talent. I’m here to present ideas, because we want ideas to get rid of this thing. And if heat is good and if sunlight is good, that’s a great thing as far as I’m concerned.
For ourselves, we don't have the slightest idea whether sunbathing could ever defeat the virus.

Gargling with Lysol and light-bulb colonics are also foreign to us. But we said we'd show you what was said, and we've now kept our word.

This sort of thing is being aired in prime time every night. It's long past the time when network executives need to say, in public statements, what they actually think about all this.

Also this, very strongly:

Is something wrong with President Trump? We have recommended pity for the damaged souls of the earth. But it's long past time for upper-end scribes and the people who hire them to start asking this question out loud.

Is something wrong with President Trump? There are respectful ways to pursue that question. But will our upper-end "news" executives ever be willing to ask?

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE: Gargling with Lysol, plus lightbulb colonics!

FRIDAY, APRIL 24, 2020

As broadcast each night in prime time:
Yesterday's briefing is being treated, in some quarters, as the most remarkable yet.

On balance, it pretty much wasn't. That said, Kevin Drum, in an instant assessment, asked a constructive question:
DRUM (4/23/20): A few hours ago President Trump took to the airwaves to blather about using heat and light “through the skin” to cure COVID-19. Or maybe we should all be injecting bleach to perform “almost a cleaning.” Or something. Just so you can be sure I’m not making this up, here’s the video:


This is not just idiotic, even by Trump’s standards, but potentially dangerous since someone watching will probably decide to guzzle a cup of Clorox because they’ve got a fever. But here’s my real question. I just checked the front pages of four big newspapers and not one of them covered this. Why? How are people supposed to know what kind of moron we have in the Oval Office unless the press covers it? Do we literally just not care anymore?
By "we," we assume that Drum meant "they"—the people who run those four newspapers.

This afternoon, we'll show you what Trump said yesterday in its unfortunate fullness. For now, let's consider the upside and the downside of Drum's reaction.

On the upside, Drum challenged the way four big newspapers reacted to yesterday's session. According to Drum, the newspapers chose to ignore Trump's crazy remarks—or at least, they didn't cover his remarks on their front pages.

Do these newspapers "just not care?" That's what Drum, constructively, asked.

In fairness, yesterday's session took place fairly late in the day—during prime time, as always. For big newspapers on the east coast, it may have happened too late in the day for front-page treatment—and that may be especially true given the weirdness of what Trump said and did.

That said, the topic isn't covered today in our hard-copy New York Times, but it's covered on page A4 of the newspaper's later editions. It isn't covered in our hard-copy Washington Post, but it's being featured right at the top of the newspaper's web site.

On the whole, we're going to guess that these latest strange remarks won't be ignored by our major newspapers.

Drum's reaction may have been premature, but he moved in a constructive direction. He raised the question we've been wanting to raise. He suggested that our highest-end news orgs have been enabling the manifest craziness of this very high public official.

The problem begins with the nightly airing of these frequently lunatic sessions, with no network officials brave enough to explain why these prime-time broadcasts continue.

It involves the refusal to come to terms with the obvious possibility that our commander-in-chief is psychiatrically or cognitively impaired—or quite possibly both.

It continues through the press corps' lazy reaction to his endless wild misstatements. Serious journalists, long ago, should have had the courage and the journalistic integrity to describe this obvious phenomenon as a national emergency.

Our highest-end news orgs haven't simply failed to rise to the challenge. For the past several years, they've engaged in a covert agreement. Rather plainly, they have agreed that such possibilities must not be discussed.

Discussion of possible mental illness was shut down in January 2018. Surely, this possibility has been discussed in every high-end news room and in every corporate suite, but only behind closed doors.

They've all agreed that these obvious questions must not be discussed in public. In that sense, our journalism is now largely based on withholding public discussion of deeply serious matters.

As this code of silence obtains, the crazy statements go on and on. In line with Drum's constructive question, this has been largely "normalized." Objectively, it's much as Drum suggested:

Objectively, these news orgs "just don't care anymore"—or at least, they aren't willing to show, on the record, that they care about the president's plainly disordered mental state.

What should be done about Donald J Trump's endless disordered rantings? In a world where journalists were more forthright, we'd like to see dedicated pages in major newspapers concerning his endless misstatements.

In hard copy, such pages would appear every day in a standard location, with a standard format. On line, they'd be given high visibility.

These pages would list the president's many misstatements on a daily basis, with callbacks to past misstatements. In this way, newspapers would be making a serious effort to keep their readers informed about a major national problem.

In such ways, news orgs would demonstrate their awareness that this is a major problem. They'd also be demonstrating their commitment to an entity known as "the truth."

We'd like to see cable news channels follow suit. If they're going to air these nightly sessions—if they're even going to start teasing these gong-shows during the 4 PM Eastern hour—they need to run dedicated nightly programs which deal with the endless misstatements they keep putting on the air.

This would of course produce howls of rage from other elements in the society. But at some point, entities which claim to be journalistic need to step up to the plate and declare their interest in relevant truth.

This could be done in a courteous way—but it does need to be done. Meanwhile, inside the briefing room, it's time for our somnolent, mewling reporters to start acting like real high-end human beings.

For starters, they need to stop tolerating constant interruptions from President Trump. Again and again and again and again, journalists are interrupted by the commander before they can even get a question out.

He breaks in before they can ask a question, then delivers one of his repetitive, ludicrous monologues. Again and again, the silent lambs of the upper-end press are willing to tolerate this.

There are courteous ways to say, as a group, that this behavior needs to stop. Also, to push back against these interruptions when they occur in real time.

It's time for our patsies to stand up and speak. Their somnolence, their apparent vast indifference, has become a national problem.

Below, you see something that happened in yesterday's session—something which won't be discussed at all. The White House Correspondents Association ought to be frogmarched to re-education camps for permitting this sort of thing to go on.

As we noted last week, CNN's Kaitlan Collins had been acting like an actual journalist in these daily sessions. Yesterday, sge was familiarized with the wages of sin.

Collins had asked Trump to clarify a minor point from the previous question. When she tried to ask her own question, this is what occurred:
COLLINS (4/23/20): So, can I ask you a question?

TRUMP: What do you have? No, that’s enough. Go ahead [speaking to another reporter].

COLLINS: But that wasn’t my question.

TRUMP: The problem is, you don’t write the truth. So you know, as far as I’m concerned. I want to go to the next person.

COLLINS: Can I ask you a question about Rick Bright?

TRUMP: No. Not CNN. Please, go ahead [speaking to another reporter].

COLLINS: The White House has—

TRUMP: I told you, CNN is fake news. Don’t talk to me. Go ahead. Please [speaking to another reporter].

COLLINS: But he says he was retaliated against and that’s why he was removed from this job. Do you have a response to that?

TRUMP: Okay, next question.

DIFFERENT REPORTER: Mr. President, I have two questions. One on behalf of a colleague who is not here because of social distancing...
That second reporter could have asked Trump to respond to Collin's thoroughly relevant question. (Collins was asking about a matter concerning which Trump had, unconvincingly, declared ignorance the day before.)

That second reporter could have asked that Trump answer the question on the floor. But our press corps doesn't play it that way. There's almost nothing they won't put up with as they play their assigned role in this ongoing scam.

(For the record, that second reporter, the Wall Street Journal's Catherine Lucey, had been thoroughly mauled by President Trump just the week before.).

We'd planned to present a formal list of things which should be done about these ridiculous daily gong-shows. We're going to have to put that off to another day.

That said, we've touched on several basic needs as these ludicrous, information-free sessions continue. Summarizing, we would say this:

Network executives need to discuss their reasons for airing these sessions. They need to do so out loud.

If networks decide to keep airing these sessions, they need to explain their thinking in light of the president's constant, unending misstatements. They need to explain out loud.

Correspondents need to stop tolerating Trump's behavior inside that press room. There exists a White House Correspondents Association. At some point, this mewling group needs to insist on basic courtesy within these nationally televised sessions. They need to do so out loud.

There are courteous, respectful ways to make such requests. There are also courteous ways for the New York Times to create daily pages dedicated to the president's endless misstatements—and to such basic topics as these:

What is the current state of supplies for our health care workers? What is the current state of supply concerning various types of protective masks? What is the current state of supply concerning protective gowns? Concerning gloves?

What is the current state of supply concerning the basic supplies needed for testing?

It isn't enough to cover these topics in random, scattershot fashion. The state of play concerning these topics should be summarized on the same page, every day, with daily updates provided.

This would, of course, involve a refusal to accept the president's most ridiculous monologue, the monologue featuring The Gong Show of Very Large Numbers. Newspapers should compare the number of protective items which have been provided to estimates of actual need.

Until they do, we'd advise our news orgs to stop pretending that they care about our health care workers. Manifestly, they don't—or they're simply too dumb to know how to act on their concerns.

We started with Kevin Drum's instant reaction. We thought he took a constructive approach when he suggested that we should be critiquing our major news orgs along with our manifestly disordered president.

In another way, we thought he took a somewhat unhelpful approach. That said, this faulty approach can be seen all over the journalistic landscape. In this approach, journalists engage in endlessly repetitive moral scolding of President Donald J. Trump.

Joe and Mika were morally scolding very loudly this morning; they do so every day. But this moral scolding is a way of avoiding the troubling matter our news orgs have agreed to ignore:

It's a way of ignoring the fact that this president seems to be mentally ill, or cognitively impaired, or both. If true, this doesn't make him a "moron." It makes him mentally ill.

Perhaps understandably, our big news orgs have never wanted to discuss such possibilities. That said, our nurses don't want to go into those hospitals, but they do so every day. By now, our journalists' refusal to discuss this topic amounts to a dereliction of duty on a major scale.

Our reporters let themselves be interrupted and insulted on a daily basis. Their employers air the president's nightly rantings in the face of the absurd misstatements of which they're all aware.

There are courteous, respectful ways to explore an obvious question—the question of the commander-in-chief's psychological and cognitive health. But serious mental illness isn't a moral state of affairs. As every enlightened person will claim to know, it's a question of illness.

At the end of William Styron's Sophie's Choice, Stingo is ending his sojourn in New York City. He's thinking about what he has seen and learned there.

His two best friends have taken their own lives. Regarding Sophie and Nathan, he says that he regards them as "but a few of the beaten and butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the earth."

We think the statement, lightly edited, works especially well at the end of Alan Pakula's 1982 film: "I let go the rage and sorrow for Sophie and Nathan and for the many others who were but a few of the butchered and betrayed and martyred children of the Earth."

So too with those who are severely mentally ill—or with those unlucky enough to have been raised by Donald Trump's father. In our view, it's time to stop scolding this beaten, lost man, even as timorous journalists refuse to discuss the obvious possibility that he's severely disordered.

Scolding is easy; truth can be hard. For decades, telling the truth has been extremely hard for President Trump—but also, again and again, for our upper-end "press corps."

This afternoon, we'll show you the full text of the president's latest lunacies. Based on yesterday's weird ruminations, he'd have us gargling with Lysol, with a type of colonics thrown in.

This president seems to be deeply impaired. It's been this way for a very long time. Our press corps is deeply compliant.

This afternoon, We'll show you the latest crazy things this beaten, lost person has said.

Again with Kaitlin Collins: We'll say again what we said last week:

Collins is only 28. We wish her colleagues would watch the things she does to see how a self-respecting, competent journalist might be expected to act.