FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2022
No specialists need apply: The January 6 committee has completed its first round of presentations.
Quite a few questions remain. Yesterday, we cited several unresolved questions. One of those questions was this:
Did Donald J. Trump engage in preplanning for the violence which occurred on January 6?
It seems fairly clear that several groups actively planned to engage in violent conduct on January 6.
Did Trump, or his orbit, take part in that preplanning? To this point, the committee has made no attempt to answer that question, one way or the other. (The refusal of major figures to testify complicates this task.)
Did Donald Trump know, in advance, that violence was being planned? Did he himself take part in such planning?
Yesterday, we listed that as an unresolved question. Today, we'll tack another one on:
What was Donald J. Trump planning to do had he himself gone to the Capitol?
It seems fairly clear that Donald J. Trump wanted to go to the Capitol Building after finishing his speech on January 6.
It seems fairly clear that the Secret Service wouldn't let him do that. But what in the world was he planning to do if he had actually gone there?
Quite possibly, there will never be a way to answer this question. (It's also possible that this matter had been discussed by Trump and certain associates.)
But what the heck was he planning to do? Was he planning to give a speech outside the Capitol? Was he planning to lead a mob into the Capitol? Right into the chamber where the certification of Biden's win was taking place?
What in the world was he planning to do? We've seen no one offer a speculation about this intriguing question.
For ourselves, we regard Donald J. Trump as deeply disordered. But how disordered is Donald Trump? What might he have had in his head?
We pose these questions as a way to approach another unresolved question.
In truth, this question isn't simply unresolved. For the most part, it hasn't been approached or addressed. Because we aren't medical specialists, we'll pose the question this way:
Is "something wrong with" Donald J. Trump? Is something seriously wrong with Trump, in some literal / clinical way?
We've asked these questions before. Is it possible that Trump has a serious personality disorder, or a serious psychiatric condition? Is it possible that he's a "sociopath?" Does some other such serious condition obtain?
Our mainstream press corps has steadfastly agreed that questions like these must never be asked. In doing so, they have refused to interact with a major part of the basic science of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Last Thursday night, our own blue cable was having a crowd-pleasing time imagining dastardly possibilities. On MSNBC's The Last Word, excited analysts were floating the notion that [someone in] the Secret Service had plotted to kidnap Vice President Pence on January 6.
The next morning, presidential historian Michael Beschloss went them one better. He suggested that [someone in] the Secret Service had been plotting, with Donald J. Trump, for "intended assassinations" of Pence, and possibly Nancy Pelosi, on January 6.
It was a glorious time on blue tribe cable; the lurid speculating was good. Meanwhile, on that same Friday morning, multimillionaire tobacco lawyer George Conway appeared on CNN's New Day.
Conway rattled off angry claims about Trump's behavior on January 6. In our view, his easily memorized fury helped showcase the emptiness of the press corps' long-standing approach to this matter.
The previous night, the January 6 committee had presented testimony about Trump's behavior during the violent riot on January 6. After being returned to the White House, Trump sat in his private dining room and watched TV coverage of the events.
He made no attempt to cause the violence to stop. He refused to call in the National Guard. He refused to urge the rioters to stop.
He even posted a tweet increasing the rioters' murderous fury at Vice President Pence. None of this was new information, but it was a fairly thorough summary of the president's behavior over the course of more than three murderous hours.
The following morning, Conway appeared on CNN. His first exchange with John Berman started exactly like this:
BERMAN (7/22/22): George, you've now seen all of this. And last night was a moment the committee was building up to. What did you see as the most important part of what we heard last night?
CONWAY: Well, I think it was the entire package. I don't think it was any one element.
I think what we saw was a picture of not just dereliction. I mean, the theme last night was dereliction of duty, but it was depravity, it was utter depravity in Trump's not just failing to do something, but failing to do his duty in the context of a situation that he created and he glorified it. He—
You know, he not just—it wasn't just that he didn't talk to the Secretary of Defense, and didn't talk to anybody about getting security up on the Hill. He didn't talk to his vice president. He affirmatively launched a tweet attacking the vice president that led the crowd to want to storm the barriers even more. And the fact that he showed absolutely no remorse about it. He absolutely showed no caring whatsoever about the fate of his vice president, of the fate of our democracy, the fate of the officers on Capitol Hill. And, at the end of the day, when he went up to go to the residence, all he could say was, Mike Pence let him down.
That's all he cared about. He only cared about himself. He didn't care about the duty that he undertook when he raised his right hand on January 20, 2017, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution...
"He only cared about himself," Conway rather pointlessly said. From there, he moved to the key building block of blue tribe punditry—the desire to get Trump charged with a crime and locked up.
We were struck that day by the general emptiness of Conway's presentation.
By the time of Conway's appearance, the idea that Trump "only cares about himself" was older than any known hills. Pundits had been making that statement for years.
Conway had nothing new to offer this day. But in his second statement this day, he went pseudo-psychiatric:
CONWAY: You know, it's just a reflection of his pathological narcissism.
As one of the White House aides whose emails was, or texts were quoted last night, he can't bring himself to criticize the rioters, the insurrectionists, because they were for him and he would be thereby criticizing himself. He can't do that. He identifies with them because they supported him, and it was all about him. It wasn't about the Constitution. It wasn't about the oath. It wasn't about fairness. It wasn't about right. It wasn't about wrong. It wasn't about facts. It wasn't about law. It was all about him and his desire to retain power.
And since those people were supporting him, he couldn't bring himself to criticize them and talk about them possibly breaking the law. And he certainly wasn't going to admit that he lost the election because that's the ultimate blow to his narcissistic, delicate, fragile, pathetic ego.
It was all about Trump's "pathological narcissism," Conway heatedly said.
As far as we know, that might be the actual clinical case. But we were struck by the emptiness of a psychiatric / mental health / medical analysis coming from a multimillionaire tobacco lawyer.
In fairness, it isn't fair to single Conway out. Within the confines of blue cable, every non-specialist on the face of the earth has offered some such analysis of Trump over the past five years.
What anchors like Berman haven't done is speak to medical specialists—people who might have some real idea what they're talking about.
Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is a sociopath? According to standard medical texts, a significant percentage of adult men can be so diagnosed.
Is it possible that he's psychotic? Is it possible that he actually continues to believe that he really did win the election?
There are medical specialists in the world who could bring actual expertise and experience to such obvious questions. But the upper-end press corps has steadfastly agreed that such specialists mustn't be brought on the air.
Instead, they've spoken to the tobacco lawyers. They've found their analyses there.
These non-specialists speak, somewhat metaphorically, about Trump's apparent psychiatric condition. For ourselves, we wonder how disordered he might be in the literal, clinical sense. And knowing what little we think we know about what sociopaths will do in a pinch, we wonder what he might have ended up doing had he gone to the Capitol that day, along with his angry supporters.
Back in the 1990s, Conway clowned around with Coulter and Drudge, trying to make the discourse concern Bill Clinton's (imagined) "defining characteristic."
Today, because he's anti-Trump, he's become a blue tribe hero. Along the way, the defining characteristic of blue tribe discourse is becoming its studied dumbness. We dream up tales about kidnapping plots and assassinations, and we invite multimillionaire tobacco lawyers to deliver psychiatric assessments.
Conway had nothing new to offer this day. It was Storyline all the way down.
Meanwhile, to what extent is "something (seriously) wrong with" Donald J. Trump in the literal / clinical sense? To what extent might his behavior that day have been the perfect, textbook expression of some underlying clinically-defined condition?
Berman's producers didn't send him a medical specialist. They sent him a lawyer instead. He only cared about himself! After all these many years, this is all we want to hear.
At this point, we'll say some things we've said in the past:
For starters, we feel sorry for people who are severely disordered. If Trump is in the grip of a serious clinical disorder, we feel sorry for the loss. "There but for fortune," we'd say.
The question here is a political question. How did someone as transparently disordered as Donald J. Trump manage to win the support of so many millions of people?
Also, what might our own blue tribe be doing to help him win that support? Over Here, on blue tribe cable, we rarely ask such questions. Within the rules of our current media system, it simply isn't done.
Our blue tribe cable was really rockin' as of last Thursday night:
A kidnapping plot was underway. No, it was a plot of "intended assassinations!" Then the tobacco lawyer came on, cast in the role of the shrink.
Also, Trump only cares about himself! This is the state of our flailing blue discourse as our nation, such as it was, keeps sliding towards the sea.
A final point: As we've noted before, it's almost surely just as well that our journalists stay away from medical specialists concerning such matters as these.
Almost surely, a discussion like that wouldn't turn out well. Simply put, we wouldn't be up to the task.
Still, that leaves us with an amazingly childish public discussion. Is Trump some (clinical) version of "mentally ill?" Does that explain what he did that day?
Inquiring minds don't want to know. We just want to hurl standard insults!