I Really Must Insist on This

I Has It

Paul Waldman, Trump’s accidental culture war over wearing masks

As the headline says, Waldman argues that the culture war over masks is something that Trump accidentally started. He writes, “It’s as if he fell into a culture war he knows he’s losing and would like to withdraw from, but he can’t quite bring himself to do it. He’s a slave to his own character flaws.”

I really must insist on this: he is a slave, not so much to his character flaws, as to his delusions. In the sewer that constitutions his mind, the existence of the pandemic falls into the category of information that makes him look bad—and, therefore, information that is untrue.

First, he acted as if the pandemic threat was unreal—see preceding paragraph.

Next, for a few weeks, he pretended to believe in the reality of the threat—hoping to garner the glory that would follow from appearing to defeat a foe that was (in his delusional mind) non-existent. In short, he acted on the assumption that most everyone else was delusional.

But that did not work. The glory did not come. So, now he is back to the default position. No one is giving him credit for defeating the enemy, so he reverts to the delusion that the viral enemy does not exist and never existed, because if it does and did exist, then that would be information that would make him look bad, and that, by irrefutable Trumpian logic, is untrue information.

Folks, he does not wear a mask because he does not believe there is a pandemic.

If Orange Man Were Sane, He Would Still Be Evil, But He’s Not Sane, and We’re Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Approach the question abstractly. You know someone whose name is Al. Al faces some life choice. He can choose Course A, the course of action that is, objectively, in his own best interest. Or he can pick Course B, the exact opposite of Course A, which no one in Al’s position would pick if he were not delusional. Al picks Course B.

If that happens just one time, you might say of Al, well, everybody makes mistakes, and sometimes they are big mistakes.

But the same thing happens the next month. Faced with a choice between A and B, he once again picks B.

And it happens a third time, and a fourth time, … and a twenty-second time.

What conclusion do you reach? The conclusion you reach is that Al suffers from delusional thinking, and that Al is badly in need of a checkup from the neck up.

My main point is that many of the pundits are still attributing Orange Man’s behavior to some kind of evil but rational strategic behavior. They still think that Trump is consciously putting his reelection prospects ahead of massive human suffering and loss of life. What I say is this: if Trump understood himself to be facing that choice, I am confident he would pick the massive suffering and death alternative in a New York minute. But that is not the choice as he understands it. Because he labors under two overarching delusions.

Overarching delusion number one is that he understands war better than the generals, economics better than the economists, and medical science better than the medical scientists. He says this all the time. And his actions can only be explained by positing an actual believe on his part in his world-historical genius.

Overarching delusion numero dos is that any information that conflicts with his genius, or that (he thinks) makes him look bad, is a hoax concocted by his personal enemies. Incapable of good faith himself, he is incapable of grasping that others, acting in good faith, are using their professional expertise to understand objective reality.

Some examples from today’s news.

Item: The swing states are being hit very hard by unemployment and state tax revenue loss, but

Trump appears dead-set against [new relief], even though it’s often argued he does not share the same ideological aversion to government help for the economically devastated that many conventional Republicans and conservatives do. So holds the mythology of his “economic populism,” anyway.

Why is Trump dug in? He and his advisers insist that the economy and jobs will roar back quickly. “The states are opening up,” Trump says. “It’s a transition to greatness.”

Maybe Trump is so convinced he can dramatically ramp up the economy again through sheer force of will and tweet — even though he’s failed to scale up robust testing, making it less likely people feel safe to resume activity — that he doesn’t want to even act as if urgent new infusions of aid are needed.

Item: Trump claims that medical scientists at two respected institutions are acting solely out of political motivation when they find that his miracle cure is in fact harmful.

Item: Trump is encouraging the religious to crowd together in church tomorrow, even though, as surely as God made little green apples, some of the congregants will be asymptomatic superspreaders.

Item: Current data show that “24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.” And the big fool tweets that everybody must now transition to greatness at the risk of their lives.

No, ladies and germs, these are not the words and deeds of a sane person. They are not even the words and deeds of a sane but profoundly evil person.

It is well past time to sweep the mental illness under the rug.

Live and Let Die

Writing in the New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser asks, Has Trump Reached the Lying-to-Himself-and-Believing-It Stage of the Coronavirus Pandemic? The reality—in both public-health and crass political terms—doesn’t look good for the President. After exploring this issue in some detail, Ms. Glasser concludes with these paragraphs:

On Tuesday, he flew to a mask factory in Arizona for a photo op, where he appeared not wearing a mask, as the Guns N’ Roses version of the song “Live and Let Die” blasted over the factory’s loudspeakers. …

In the past, when Trump has got too far away from what is actually happening and into his personal hall of mirrors, the press of events has forced him to abandon his position. He is adept enough at self-survival to make wild course corrections where necessary. This is a man, after all, who said in late February that coronavirus cases would soon be down to zero and, just two weeks later, declared a national emergency and vowed to wage war on the deadly “invisible enemy.” I’ve seen many possible explanations for Trump’s bizarre, reality-defying behavior in recent days. He’s bored. He’s clueless. He’s panicking about his reëlection. He doesn’t care about anything other than the stock market. He’d rather talk about his border wall or vanquishing the “deep state.” All of them might be correct. It’s also possible that Trump really is the greatest of all time at something: believing his own hype. On Sunday, he stared right into a Fox News camera and declared that he had been treated worse than Abraham Lincoln—while speaking at the national memorial to the slain President. Either Trump is the most brazen politician in the long line of brazen American politicians or he somehow had been brainwashed by his own B.S.

Still, Trump appears to me to be increasingly terrified at the very real prospect of losing in November, as both national polls and surveys in battleground states currently show him doing. Overnight Monday and again on Tuesday, he let loose about an ad being run against him by a group of Never Trump Republicans called the Lincoln Project. The ad, “Mourning in America,” shows haunting scenes of a devastated country, “weaker and sicker and poorer” after four years under Trump’s leadership. The President responded by calling the group “the losers project” and railing about its founders, among them George Conway, the Trump-bashing husband of the White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway. This did not exactly seem like a confident performance by the most powerful man on the planet. It seemed like the scared rant of someone who knows that, eventually, he might finally be called on his most bullshit of performances.

Even Corey Lewandowski—Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and as blustery a loyalist to the President as exists—is now publicly acknowledging that Trump has set an extraordinarily risky political course in declaring victory over a still-raging pandemic. “It’s a huge gamble,” Lewandowski said in an interview, released on Thursday, with Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody. He added, “If there is a resurgence . . . not just in the next four weeks or six weeks, but as the weather turns again, if, come the fall in September, in October, we see an uptick again in the COVID-19 pandemic coming back because we didn’t handle it right the first time—we still don’t have testing and we don’t have a solution—that is devastating as an incumbent President of the United States.”

More than three decades ago, in his as-told-to memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” Trump bragged about the sheer, addictive effectiveness of lying—he called it “hyperbole”—in service of his goals. Yet he also acknowledged, “You can’t con people, at least not for long. You can create excitement, you can do wonderful promotion and get all kinds of press, and you can throw in a little hyperbole. But if you don’t deliver the goods, people will eventually catch on.” On November 3rd, we’ll find out if they did. For now, the scary prospect is sure to keep Trump up for many more nights to come, hate-tweeting in the dark.

My own observations follow, in thenext post.



Nibbling the Bullet


A few days into the new presidency, more observers are beginning to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Trump’s delusional thinking. The Plum Line, for example, nibbles at the bullet with this headline: Sean Spicer just said Trump believes millions voted illegally. Here’s the problem: No one can tell him otherwise.

Almost there, Plum Line, almost there. Because “the” problem isn’t the advisers, “the” problem is the President’s ingrained delusional thinking.

And so we arrive at this scenario from the Twilight Zone; The Plum Line concludes,

The White House’s actual position is that Trump genuinely believes that millions of people voted illegally, which would have dire implications for our democracy — yet Trump also doesn’t think this is a big enough deal to merit a serious accounting, because it didn’t prevent him from winning.

A final thought: Aardvark much prefers reading stories about what has happened to reading stories about what might happen or could happen or will probably happen, unless something else happens. That said, here’s what I’ll be watching for.

You remember that almost –completed health care bill—just need to run it through spell check—that was going to fix everything? The bill that the HHS candidate doesn’t know anything about? Let’s see what happens when Trump’s magical thinking on health care meets right wing ideology and the two of them meet the five million Trump supporters about to lose their health care coverage.

Maybe this clown car can reach unity on some health care policy that is at least coherent, even if abhorrent. That is a metaphysical possibility. But if you believe it, then Aardvark has a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you at a really good price.


Trump calls for ‘major investigation’ into alleged voter fraud, according to his latest tweet. And why would he possibly do such a thing? I think that you, gentle reader, already know the answer: BECAUSE HE BELIEVES IT TO BE TRUE.