This was the day when the several blind men of Hindostan debated loud and long about whether the President of the United States is best compared to a petulant, immature child, to a raging bear, to a bull in a China shop, or to mad King Lear.
There is, as my colleague David Brooks wrote Tuesday, a basic childishness to the man who now occupies the presidency. That is the simplest way of understanding what has come tumbling into light in the last few days: The presidency now has kinglike qualities, and we have a child upon the throne.
It is a child who blurts out classified information in order to impress distinguished visitors. It is a child who asks the head of the F.B.I. why the rules cannot be suspended for his friend and ally. It is a child who does not understand the obvious consequences of his more vindictive actions — like firing the very same man whom you had asked to potentially obstruct justice on your say-so. …
But a child … cannot really commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” in any usual meaning of the term. There will be more talk of impeachment now, more talk of a special prosecutor for the Russia business; well and good. But ultimately I do not believe that our president sufficiently understands the nature of the office that he holds, the nature of the legal constraints that are supposed to bind him, perhaps even the nature of normal human interactions, to be guilty of obstruction of justice in the Nixonian or even Clintonian sense of the phrase. I do not believe he is really capable of the behind-the-scenes conspiring that the darker Russia theories envision. And it is hard to betray an oath of office whose obligations you evince no sign of really understanding or respecting.
Which is not an argument for allowing him to occupy that office. It is an argument, instead, for using a constitutional mechanism more appropriate to this strange situation than impeachment: the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows for the removal of the president if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the cabinet’s judgment.
For reasons best known to herself, Douthat’s argument greatly upset Jennifer Rubin. “[W]e should not medicalize amoral, stupid and/or illegal behavior.” Rubin opined.
Aardvark’s response? Well, no we shouldn’t. But conversely, when someone is acting in a way best explained by postulating a serious mental illness, we are not obligated to attribute that behavior to evil impulse and overlook the apparent mental illness.
Much of Ms. Rubin’s oeuvre strikes me as highly tendentious, even by the standards of political blogging. In this case, Aardvark hasn’t quite reverse engineered the tendentiousness. But, no doubt, all will become clear in time.
In another response to Douthat, Alexandra Petri argued that comparing Trump to a child, or to a bull in a china shop, is unfair to children and bulls:
The Trump presidency is the discovery that what you thought was a man in a bear suit is just a bear. Suddenly the fact that he wouldn’t play by the rules makes total sense. It wasn’t that he refused to, that he was playing a long game. It was that he was a wild animal who eats fish and climbs trees, and English words were totally unintelligible to him. In retrospect, you should have suspected that after he just straight-up ate a guy. But at the time everyone cheered. It was good TV. Also, he was your bear.
So you have spent 200 years building a fragile snow globe, and now you have given it to a bear. The animal doesn’t care. You cannot even explain to him what the thing is. To him, all your words are just sounds. He looks at you when you are making them and he looks away when you are finished. You can only hope the bear becomes bored and sets the snow globe down and wanders off looking for food.
(Again, this is an insult to bears, who have fewer places to live than Trump and do not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.)
Finally, writing in the Times, Anna North went for the King Lear analogy.
Not King Lear. Not a bear. Not a bull. A child.