Andrew Sullivan batters Trump!

FRIDAY, MAY 22, 2020

To our ear, this doesn't make sense:
As with Conor Friedersdorf, so too with Andrew Sullivan.

He doesn't work from either tribe's scripts. That makes him a valuable journalist.

Sullivan's weekly ruminations for New York magazine have struck us as very valuable. That said, we though today's profile of Donald J. Trump is very strange, highly illogical, on the border of almost deranged.

All though his profile, Sullivan uses the language of psychiatric or cognitive impairment as he describes Trump behavior. He starts by describing the "plain evidence of Trump's derangement" and, by paragraph 3, he's explicitly saying this:
SULLIVAN (5/22/20): Count the objective COVID-19 failures in 2020 alone. The president was briefed on the looming viral threat, both internally and externally, multiple times in January. But he does not read his briefings—he doesn’t actually read anything—and is uniquely un-briefable in person, according to a story in the New York Times: “‘How do you know?’ is Mr. Trump’s common refrain during his 30- to 50-minute briefings two or three times a week. He counters with his own statistics on issues where he has strong views, like trade or NATO. Directly challenging him, even when his numbers are wrong, appears to erode Mr. Trump’s trust, according to former officials, and ultimately he stops listening.” In other words, the officials who tell him things he doesn’t want to believe are soon sidelined or fired. This is the behavior of a 2-year-old. In a man in his 70s, it’s a form of pathology.
Trump's behavior is "a form of pathology," Sully explicitly says. To our ear, that sound a great deal like a psychiatric assessment.

Sullivan uses this kind of language all through his profile of Trump. We'll highlight the relevant examples in the following chunk of text:
SULLIVAN: He even predicted at the end of February that “you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” (Asked two months later about this prediction, he said—of course!— that he was right: “Well, it will go down to zero, ultimately.”) He said it wasn’t a threat, and would go away, like a miracle. Put simply, these are delusional attempts to describe his own fantasies as an objective reality—like how the Russians did not try to interfere in the 2016 election, his inauguration crowd was way bigger than Obama’s, tariffs are paid by the Chinese government, and that anyone in America could have gotten a COVID-19 test. This is a form of psychological disorder.


I know we’re used to it, but there is no rational or coherent explanation for any of this. There is no strategy, or political genius. There is just a delusional pathology in which he says whatever comes into his head at any moment, determined entirely by his mood, which is usually bad. His attention span is so tiny and his memory so occluded that he can say two contradictory things with equal conviction repeatedly, and have no idea there might be any inconsistency at all.

His COVID-19 press conferences were proof of his mental limits. He couldn’t understand basic questions. He had no grip on epidemiology. He believes that tests are bad, because they make America look bad, and then boasts of his record in testing (which is, of course, not good). When a White House staffer, Vice-President Pence’s spokesperson, Katie Miller, tested positive for COVID-19, this is what Trump said: “She tested very good for a long period of time. And then all of a sudden today she tested positive. So, she tested positive out of the blue. This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily, right, the tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens and then all of a sudden, she was tested very recently and tested negative.” With anyone else, we would assume he was drunk when he said that. His sobriety is indistinguishable from alcoholic stupor.
All in all, that's about as clear as it gets. According to Sullivan, Trump exhibits "a delusional pathology"—"a form of psychological disorder."

Sullivan also suggests that Trump may suffer from a cognitive impairment. (Many older people do.) Trump's recent press conferences, Sullivan says, "were proof of his mental limits."

With anyone else, we'd assume he was drunk. Trump behaves like a two-year-old, Sullivan tells us, twice.

As the reader may know, we don't necessarily disagree with any of this. That said, Sullivan isn't a medical or psychological specialist. We'd rather hear these possibilities discussed by some responsible person who is.

We think Sullivan may well be right, but we're puzzled by his overall tone. We modern Americans don't normally scold people who are psychiatrically or cognitively impaired, but Sullivan aggressively scolds Trump all through his profile, even as he seems to tell us that Trump is in the grip of a psychological disorder, indeed a pathology, and presumably can't do any better.

Sullivan is very smart; it seems to us that this long tirade pretty much isn't. We'd even say that it tends toward the type of writing which has come to be called a form of "derangement syndrome." Such syndromes, from the right or the left, have made it impossible for our discourse and our politics to function.

We don't normally scold people who are cognitively limited or cognitively impaired. Sully thoroughly scolds Trump on this basis.

(When Sully scolds Trump for not reading anything, it doesn't seem to occur to him that it's possible that Trump suffers from some form of dyslexia—that he literally can't read, or can't read well, and has never been able to.)

We also don't normally scold people with severe psychiatric disorders. Sullivan desribes Trump that way all through his profile, but scolds him all the way through.

Trump has extreme "mental limits," Sully says. He says there is "no rational or coherent explanation" for the crazy things he says and does.

Trump's pressers were proof of these mental limits. Later, though, Sully says this:
SULLIVAN: When it was pointed out that what mattered was not the number of tests as a whole but tests per capita, Trump responded: “You know, when you say ‘per capita,’ there’s many per capitas. It’s, like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top, meaning positive on a per capita basis, too.” I have no idea what he is trying to say and neither does he. But it’s a lie. Per capita, the U.S. is not “way ahead of everybody”: We’re behind Russia, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, Australia, Italy, Austria, and New Zealand. And this is only true because, as Alexis Madrigal has reported, the CDC has been counting antibody testing as well as COVID-19 swab testing, o the numbers are inflated. How the CDC has been reduced to this squalid error is beyond me.
First Sullivan seems to say that Trump is too limited to know what he's talking about. His crazy claims aren't a strategy, Sully explicitly says.

Then, when Trump makes a stupid remark, Sullivan says it's a lie. That doesn't quite seem to make sense.

A lie is a knowing misstatement. Does this mean we're supposed to believe that Trump does know what he's talking about? Earlier, did Sullivan seem to say different?

Increasingly, our politics has been driven by lurid "derangement syndromes." For ourselves, we were trained, early in life, to "pity the poor [metaphorical] immigrant." We believe Bob Dylan said that!

It seems to us that Trump is nuts, that he's basically out on his feet. Does it help to scream and yell at a person who's so impaired?

Sullivan is a valuable journalist. Andrew Sullivan, call Bandy X. Lee!

Ask Lee how she would assess these disordered syndromes and these impairments. She's waiting at Yale for your call!


  1. "plain evidence of Trump's derangement"

    Tsk, yeah, an interesting case indeed.

    Well, I suppose he's heard about TDS somewhere, and he hasn't thought of anything more intelligent than using the same word, "derangement", in his projection.

    Or maybe he thought he was being 'clever'? Who the hell knows, dear Bob.

    In all fairness, It's difficult to analyze liberal zombies' motivations, on account of them having no brains, y'know...

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  2. Trump's supporters are just like him. They believe something, and then you show them by using facts that they are wrong, they NEVER change their opinion, like on the issue of vote fraud.

    1. Like the Republicans during the hearing last week with the epidemiologists, who kept contradicting the scientists data by using anecdotes.

  3. This is a rare case of Sullivan being correct. He was a supporter of Thatcher and W.

    1. Until Sullivan admits Liberals were correct about Conservatives for the past generation, this is just Sullivan trying to inflate a life raft he can use to escape the ruins of an ideology he still supports.
      Fuck him

  4. "We don't normally scold people who are cognitively limited or cognitively impaired. Sully thoroughly scolds Trump on this basis."

    We don't normally elect people with severe limitations to the demanding job of president. "Sully" helped put Trump into office because he couldn't stand Hillary Clinton. It was obvious what Trump was before the election in 2016. "Sully" has no one to blame but himself.

    Somerby's admiration for Andrew Sullivan is misplaced. Yes, he is smart, but he is also a conservative. Somerby might find Sullivan's opinions less palatable if he were actually a liberal, but his affinity for these various conservative pundits is telling.

    Being unfit for office is not an excuse for malfeasance. Trump has been enabled by the entire right wing. They are too busy feeding at the trough to worry about what Trump has been doing to our country, the damage to individuals, the harm that will have to be undone when Trump is evicted from office. Somerby worries about whether someone as disabled as Trump should be labeled, while the rest of the country suffers. His concern is misplaced.

    1. correction: "should be labeled" should read "should be scolded"

    2. Don't worry about it, professor. Probably just a Freudian slip.

    3. Sometimes a mistake is just a mistake.

  5. Trump is in denial and is looking for the silver lining. He's stupidity and pathologies aren't helping him sell that denial very well but they're not really the reason he's messing up so much. Was Dick Cheney an alcoholic for making the case to go into Iraq?

  6. "A lie is a knowing misstatement. Does this mean we're supposed to believe that Trump does know what he's talking about? Earlier, did Sullivan seem to say different?"

    It is possible for someone to say things without bothering about whether they are true or not. That is lying and the person knows they are doing it, but they don't care, because it doesn't matter to them whether they tell the truth or not.

    That fits both Somerby's definition of a lie and Sullivan's claim that when Trump says something without knowing whether it is true or not, he is lying.

    Somerby's definition of a lie is too restrictive. It would exclude many instances of lying that occur in real life. It would be better to require that someone sincerely believe that their statement is true, to avoid being labeled as a lie, not simply someone who doesn't know and doesn't care whether his statements are true. If Trump makes no effort to evaluate the truth value of his own statements because consequences don't matter to him, he is a liar.

    Somerby should read Paul Ekman's book "Telling Lies." His own, too narrow definition lets too many people off the hook.

  7. Somerby as usual buries Sullivan’s lede, which is: “It’s perfectly clear by now that the United States does not have a functioning president or administration. It also seems clear that this does not matter to a sizable chunk of the population. They just don’t care — even when it could lead them to lose their lives and their livelihoods.”

    Indeed, Sullivan’s piece is titled “With Trump, the Pathology Is the Point”.

    Sullivan doesn’t present his “diagnosis” of Trump as anything surprising or unknown. In fact, his real point is in his summation, and it isn’t about Trump:

    The key thing, however, is that none of this seems to matter to the supporters of the president. For them, the pathology seems to be the point. It is precisely Trump’s refusal to acknowledge reality that they thrill to — because it offends and upsets the people they hate (i.e., city dwellers, the educated, and the media). The more Trump brazenly lies, the more Republicans support him. The more incoherent he is, the more insistent they are. Bit by bit, they have been co-opted by Trump into a series of cascading and contradicting lies, and they are not going to give up now — even when they are being treated for COVID-19 in hospital.

    We are entering the Jonestown phase of the Trump cult this summer. It is not going to be pretty.”

    That is the reason Sullivan wrote the piece, not as some psychiatric profile of Trump.

  8. Uh-oh. With my sincere apologies for distracting you from the hugely important topic of Andrew Sullivan battering Trump, what's your opinion on this, dear Bob:
    "Grandma Killer" Cuomo Sent 4,300 Patients Back To Nursing Homes Despite Positive COVID-19 Tests?

    "Earlier this month, a reporter at one of NY Gov Andrew Cuomo's daily press briefings asked the governor about reports that the state issued guidance calling for hospitals to return thousands of patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 to nursing homes or long-term care facilities where they lived.

    Somehow, despite the horrifying notion that Cuomo deliberately sent patients back to nursing homes where they unleashed some of the deadliest outbreaks in the country, the governor readily owned up to the decision, and insisted public health officials believed this to be the best option to prevent the patients from just hanging around the hospital."

    ...if you don't, perhaps the wise future anthropologists would like comment, dear Bob?

  9. My opinion is your distractions aren't going to work.
    Looking forward to Trump being charged with criminal negligence for all the deaths he caused.

  10. This site is weird.
    What's with the dembot zombie who posts under the name Mao Cheng Ji?

    1. He's some troll paid by the Establishment to pretend Trump doesn't work directly for them.

  11. "designed solely to play the media"

    Kevin Drum today gives Trump too much credit. His stupidities are not "designed" for any purpose. That is just the way he is. He didn't plan any remark to play the press. The press isn't being played. Trump is just being his stupid self.

  12. Another example of actual reporting by the mainstream press -- Trump hasn't completed his yearly physical exam:

    “It’s been more than six months since President Trump claimed to have started his annual physical at Walter Reed hospital but the White House is declining to explain why he has yet to complete the yearly doctor’s examination,” NBC News reports.

    Trump made a surprise visit to the hospital last November that did not follow official protocol. It was only later that he claimed he was “starting” his annual physical."


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