WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 6, 2021
Anne Applebaum's assessment: At this point, with two weeks to go, how disordered is President Donald J. Trump?
You're asking a very good question! For what it's worth, here is Anne Applebaum's assessment of the commander's recent midday phone call to Georgia, as published in the Atlantic:
APPLEBAUM (1/5/21): If you can spare an hour, do listen to the full tape of the conversation between the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. Whichever adjective you use to describe Trump—delusional, demented, narcissistic—this recording shows that he is unwell. His grip on reality is loose. He is by turns insulting (“They’re going around playing you and laughing at you behind your back, Brad. Whether you know it or not, they’re laughing at you”) and wheedling (“So what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellas, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break”) and threatening (“You know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal offense.”)
He has weirdly specific, made-up numbers. He cites stories of “fraud” that have been thoroughly debunked. He never explains why the people who allegedly stole the presidential election didn’t steal the two Senate seats in Georgia while they were at it. He is unable to face the fact that he has comprehensively lost. He is grasping at conspiracy theories that offer him a false vision of the future—and yet he sounds completely convinced that they are true.
The commander-in-chief "is unwell," Applebaum writes. "His grip on reality is loose." When he makes his various crazy claims, "he sounds completely convinced that they are true."
So how unwell is Donald J. Trump? Aside from such concerns as derive from basic human decency, the question strikes us as very important.
Yes, he only has two weeks to go—but he remains the most powerful person on earth. Depending on how unwell he may be, what actions might he decide to take as he sees the end approach?
Applebaum doesn't address that question in the rest of her essay. Instead, she offers a fairly standard assessment of the people who enable Trump—the political leaders who know better, the regular people who don't.
Basically, there's nothing new about the behavior of those elected officials. Decades ago, Williams Shakespeare described some of the ways we human beings will pursue power. (He even described the growing madness of an aged king, though one who lacked nuclear codes.)
By way of contrast, the behavior of the rank and file may well seem surprising. The limits of our human discernment may well come as a surprise.
We're constantly told, by political pundits, that we the people "are pretty sharp"—and that isn't exactly always the case, even over here in Our Town. At any rate, for some remarkable footage of us the people as we heckle and badger Mitt Romney, we'll suggest that you peruse Elliott Hannon's offering at Slate.
How "unwell" is Donald J. Trump? The question strikes us as important. But right to the end, the tribunes we trust in Our Town have agreed that they must never consult any medical specialists about that important question.
We can see the flaws of the folks over there. But how sharp are we here, in Our Town?