The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Would Like You to Know that Orange Man is Debsing the Presidency

great seal

The infamous far left clique that is the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal has expressed this collective opinion:

Donald Trump sometimes traffics in conspiracy theories—recall his innuendo in 2016 about Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination—but his latest accusation against MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is ugly even for him. Mr. Trump has been tweeting the suggestion that Mr. Scarborough might have had something to do with the death in 2001 of a young woman who worked in his Florida office when Mr. Scarborough was a GOP Congressman.

“A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday while retweeting a dubious account of the case.

He kept it going Tuesday with new tweets: “The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus. . . . So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” Nasty stuff, and from the Oval Office to more than 80 million Twitter followers.

There’s no evidence of foul play, or an affair with the woman, and the local coroner ruled that the woman fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and died of head trauma. Some on the web are positing a conspiracy because the coroner had left a previous job under a cloud, but the parents and husband of the young woman accepted the coroner’s findings and want the case to stay closed.

Mr. Trump always hits back at critics, and Mr. Scarborough has called the President mentally ill, among other things. But suggesting that the talk-show host is implicated in the woman’s death isn’t political hardball. It’s a smear. Mr. Trump rightly denounces the lies spread about him in the Steele dossier, yet here he is trafficking in the same sort of trash.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, had it right when he tweeted on the weekend: “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

We don’t write this with any expectation that Mr. Trump will stop. Perhaps he even thinks this helps him politically, though we can’t imagine how. But Mr. Trump is debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.

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.

The Mask That Orange Man Wears

Trump Mask

Maureen Dowd writes,

The fact is that Donald Trump has been wearing a mask for a long time, like Eleanor Rigby “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door.” He studied larger-than-life titans like George Steinbrenner and Lee Iacocca and invented a swaggering character called Donald Trump with a career marked by evasions, deceptions and disguises.

The young builder was intent, as T.S. Eliot wrote, to take the time “to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Early on, Donald locked in his costume for the masquerade, the look of a C.E.O. in the ’80s. His body armor was a dark suit, white shirt and monochromatic silk tie. His hair was a blond helmet, his war paint was orange.

“He is the most vaudevillian performance artist who ever inhabited the White House,” says his biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has a consuming desire to always be center stage, yet he never wants to reveal who he really is. He masks his finances, his taxes, his friendships, his ongoing family conflicts of interest, his ignorance and his inadequacies. He’s constantly making up areas of expertise he doesn’t have.

“He doesn’t read the Bible and he doesn’t live as a Christian and love thy neighbor. But he is demanding that the churches be reopened because his evangelical base will love that. Everything he’s doing right now is to stave off a loss in November.”

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.

Pandemic Tribalism

Jesus Trump mask

Thomas B. Edsall, When the Mask You’re Wearing ‘Tastes Like Socialism’: The partisan divide over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic has deepened over the past few weeks

Mr. Edsall’s piece of May 20 cites and summarizes a large number of social science studies on what I suppose we might call the social psychology of idiocy. I will not attempt to summarize his summary; please read it for yourself if you want to find your way deeper into the social science.

He ends by quoting a U.C. Irvine psychologist for the proposition, “In 21st century American politics, truth is tribal,” followed by these observations of his own:

In other words, the pandemic has become another example of Trump’s mastery over his most loyal subjects, his ability to manipulate them into violating their own instincts. It is this power over a substantial bloc of the electorate that has put him in the White House — and continues to make him so dangerous.

But, as many recent polls are teaching us, the my-mask-tastes-like socialism-crowd is only a part of the core Trump base—around 10 to 15 percent or so of the total population.

Georgia as a Petri Dish

The point is born out, for example, by Steve Rattner’s charts of this morning. With Georgia having officially shut down late and opened up early,

  • the good news is that so far covid-19 hasn’t sparked
  • but that’s mainly because behavior in Georgia has closely tracked behavior throughout the country—and Georgians by and large have stayed home, rather than obeying the governor’s ideologically driven commands, and, as you would expect
  • Georgians are not stimulating the economy with high levels of consumer spending, and business distress and unemployment remain high.

It’s the Delusion, Stupid

Trump is running around encouraging the nutjobs to take their AK-47s and storm the legislature. He is demanding that people fill church pews this coming Sunday. Many attribute this approach to desperation. But that, friends, is not the right term.

When you are losing money on every sale but think you can make it up on volume, that is not a strategy, that is a delusion.

Likewise, when you practice wedge politics by driving a deeper and deeper wedge between 15 percent of the country and everybody else, that is not a coherent strategy to win. That is delusion, rising to the level of psychosis.

Up, Up, and Away!

It was May 14 when we last looked at fivethirtyeight.com’s weighted poll of polls. On that day, Trump disapprovers outnumbered approvers by 8.4 points.

As of today, the comparable number is 10.5 points. That’s apples to apples, looking at the data set for “all polls.”

When we look today at the narrower, and perhaps more accurate, weighted average of polls limited to “likely or registered voters,” the number in 10.6 points.

Orange Man is twisting slowly, slowly in the wind.