Trump is literally losing his mind

The Thinker by Rodin

I’ve been returning to the original theme of this blog lately: Occam’s Razor. So let’s cut to the chase today: Trump is literally losing his mind.

Let’s stop pretending that Trump is the “very stable genius” that he claims to be. It’s just laughable. Last week’s “summit” in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin should put that to bed. In a press conference after the “summit”, Trump said he could not see how Russia could be responsible for hacking the 2016 elections, despite conclusive evidence from our intelligence community that he was presented with before his inauguration. After all, Putin had told him so very forcefully. Obviously the word of a former KGB agent is much more reliable than the consensus of our entire intelligence community. Back in DC his advisers got him to read a statement saying just the opposite, but he added that it could have been anyone. Last night he was back at it again, so apparently it’s Obama and “Crooked Hillary’s” fault, not the Russians. He called out Obama for not taking action when Obama in fact did take action. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s obstruction though led to a watered down statement prior to the election on Russian meddling instead.

Does he look like a “very stable genius” to you? On this one issue alone, he vacillates back and forth. But of course he does this constantly, making him the most unstable person in the world at the moment. Geniuses of course rarely vacillate, but being very intelligent most are open to changing their minds if the weight of impartial evidence is against them. The only part of “very stable genius” that applies to Trump is the very part. He is very something. Occam’s Razor suggests he is very mentally ill.

Trump is hardly alone there. Mental illness is rife in this country. I noted ten years ago that many very intelligent people I have met struck me as mentally ill. This is in part because intelligence by itself does not mean you won’t suffer mental illness. In Trump’s case though it looks like he is suffering true cognitive decline. Watch videos of Trump from ten or twenty years ago. He was still insufferable, but he could put coherent thoughts together. His vocabulary was much richer. He could express complex thoughts. He could express nuance.

Now his vocabulary sounds like a fourth grader. It’s not news to his staff. They give him briefing books he won’t read. They try to summarize complex topics into a few bullet points, but he still doesn’t absorb them. Heck, he walked into a “summit” with Vladimir Putin without a formal agenda and without aides taking notes. This allowed Putin after the summit to claim that Trump agreed with policies (like Russia’s annexation of Crimea) that he may not have agreed to. Trump’s attention span is very short and he can’t seem to remember anything.

He is placing our country in unique peril. Which means that it’s time for a 25th Amendment remedy. Section 4 of the amendment applies here. It basically puts the onus on Vice President Mike Pence to get a majority of the cabinet members to tell the Senate that Trump is unable to discharge his duties, in this case because of likely mental illness.

Pence of course is his sycophant so this doesn’t look likely, at least in the short term. But that doesn’t mean the conversation should not start in earnest. Yet it seems to be something even Democrats don’t want to say aloud. Certainly they and many Republicans in Congress are already thinking it. Republicans lack the political courage to bring up the topic. Democrats should not.

Americans need to know their president is not mentally ill. The White House tried to dodge this issue with Trump’s last physical. The White House physician Ronnie Jackson gave him the simplest of cognitive tests, which he passed. Jackson has since stepped down as his physician, given his failed nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs and allegations of the abusive environment he created within the White House medical staff.

Occam’s Razor is not always right, but it does suggest that the simplest explanation is most likely to be correct. So Democrats should openly express serious concern about Trump’s mental health. This way it at least becomes a legitimate topic of conversation. Ideally those speaking should be key Democrats like Minority Leaders Pelosi and Schumer. They could suggest perhaps three impartial leading psychiatrists give him a battery of evaluative tests and submit a report to Congress. It’s possible but unlikely that Trump will ace them all. In which case the question will be answered: Trump’s increasingly dangerous and bizarre behavior is due to some factors other than mental illness, in which case impeachment and removal is appropriate.

Our operating assumption has always been that our president would be a sane person. This is seriously under question now, particularly when you get tweets from Trump like this latest tirade against Iran:

We can’t start this process soon enough.

Occam’s razor makes Trump’s treason look obvious

The Thinker by Rodin

Back in 2002, when I started this blog, I was looking for a theme. Occam’s Razor obviously came to mind since I thought it would have a largely intellectual bent. It best explained where my head was at, since the principle that the simplest solution was the most likely one is borne out in so many aspects of life. There wouldn’t be many posts on this blog though if I only discussed Occam’s Razor. Today though I return to my original theme to state what looks painfully obvious to me: Occam’s Razor plainly tells us that our president is a traitor.

There are other explanations out there but even for Donald Trump these other explanations look ridiculous. For example, I could go with the solution that he is a reflexive narcissist and such a complete dunderhead that even he has no idea that he is a traitor. I can’t discount this altogether but while Trump is pretty dumb and incredibly self absorbed, he’s not that dumb. If he is, well his narcissistic personality disorder is one for the textbooks.

Yesterday’s widely panned press conference after his two-hour “summit” with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki though should have made even the most partisan Trump supporter reel. Even for them, it should have been one of those “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” moments. Trump is so eager to please Vladimir Putin that he will take his word that the Russians had nothing to do with trying to influence the 2016 elections and throw the entire U.S. intelligence community under the bus if necessary.

Just late last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted twelve Russians for hacking into our election systems and political party websites at the behest of the Russian Federation, which is to say at the behest of Vladimir Putin. He identified them by name. A federal grand jury confirmed these indictments. This means in the unlikely event these people come to trial the evidence against them is solid. This evidence was accumulated by our intelligence agencies. Rest assured they have the goods on them and could prove their guilt in a court of law. This is because we have a vast (though at times imperfect) intelligence system that collected voluminous data on them. It’s so voluminous that Putin is likely astonished by its breadth and specificity and is wondering what spies he has in his government.

While these twelve are likely beyond the reach of our government, the same can’t be said about Mariia Butina, a Russian who arrived here a few years ago on a supposedly student visa and who was arrested yesterday for attempting to set up back channels between the Russian Federation and the Trump campaign. It’s not like there is any question about her guilt. She did a great job. Ask Donald Trump Jr. Ask the NRA, which met with her and apparently illegally channeled Russian money into its election fund to elect Trump. At least we have custody of Butina. It’s unlikely she will be a free woman again, at least not for many decades.

When following a trail, sometimes you only have a few breadcrumbs to go on. In the case of Trump’s collusion and treason there are large turds (and scattered Chicken McNugget containers) every ten feet along this trail.

It’s all in plain sight. (“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Later that very day, the hacking began.) Doubtless Robert Mueller is piecing it all together and I doubt he is breaking a sweat finding the evidence. But also ask yourself: what would you want from a U.S. president if you were Vladimir Putin? Would you want a president that would try to break up NATO as well as the G7? Someone that would start trade wars and call our closest neighbor Canada an enemy? That would okay Russia’s annexation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine? That tacitly supports Russia’s support for Syria? Can you name one thing that Trump has done that Putin would find offensive?

It’s not hard to see how Trump was compromised. We know for a fact at Russian oligarchs kept him in wealth through the Great Recession through loans via Deutsche Bank, facilitated by soon to be former Justice Kennedy’s son. (Curious that he resigned after he had appointed his law clerks for next year.) Trump looks up to his hips in money laundering, mostly by Russian oligarchs paying inflated prices for his condos, likely at the insistence of Putin. No Russian agent had to break a sweat trying to compromise him; the only thing he smells is money and like a bloodhound he follows it with single-minded focus.

Whether explicitly or implicitly, Trump has been compromised and has been used by the Russians for a long time. They simply could not have picked a better Manchurian president. Russian intelligence plays a long game. They baited him decades ago, fed his vanity and ego and played his family like a fiddle. They also played the Republican Party by feeding its obsessions and vanities. We saw this when they changed the party’s platform on Russia and Ukraine. No other explanation comes even close to being plausible.

Republicans are in denial but I’m betting that the astute ones know they are supporting a traitor. Many of them don’t care. They are democratic in name only; and freedom is a principle that only applies to people in their socioeconomic class. Like Trump, most of them love the idea of an authoritarian government, as long as they are in charge and thus feel some kinship with a dictatorial regime. Trump sees Putin and a Russian alliance as part of a great white hope strategy. By aligning with other bigots he can perhaps make America white again and use Russian resources to do it.

The only problem is that he swore to uphold the constitution of the United States and its derived laws. He’s obviously doing the exact opposite. Because of this, he should be impeached and convicted, but this depends on a Republican Party with a spine it no longer possesses. It’s quite possible though (yet still unlikely) that after a disastrous midterm they will finally inhale the smelling salts and throw this bloated orange bastard overboard. After impeachment and removal, he should be tried for being the traitor that he is and has been.

Time to buckle your seatbelts, America

The Thinker by Rodin

I am back from our nation’s capital after having enjoyed two musicals, one movie, two ethnic restaurants, four American breakfasts (mostly omelets), barbeque, two museums on the Mall and a quick tour of the Capitol over three full days. I chose last Friday to go into D.C. It was odd to play the role of tourist considering I lived in the area for nearly 35 years.

DC weather rarely disappoints expectations in July. It certainly didn’t last Friday when the heat topped 95F and walking around the Mall felt like going into the sauna. Despite the horrid but predictable July weather, things felt, well, different. I remembered a time when you could get into the Capitol easily. You just passed through security and wandered around. Back then areas the public wasn’t supposed to go in were clearly marked off but otherwise you wandered around as you pleased. Now you go to the Capitol Visitors Center and get a ticket for a substandard tour. You won’t get to see either the House or Senate chambers. (There is a separate tour for that.)

Also new was the current occupant of the White House. During the Capitol tour the tour guide was agog over the slogan on our currency: E pluribus unum, or Out of many: one. I guess he couldn’t tell the truth: that our Congress has perhaps never been so undemocratic. It is so gerrymandered that moderates are nearly extinct in Congress. While we were there our narcissistic Cheeto-in-Chief was kicking off a special commission to look into the nonexistent issue of voter fraud. The only fraud is the actual intent of the commission: voter suppression so more of those people aren’t allowed to vote. Arguably these laws put Trump in the White House in the first place. Anyhow, the very limited access the public now gets to the Capitol is symbolic of our national dysfunction. It is harder than ever to meet your legislator unless you represent some interest with plenty of cash. Most likely the one giving the cash doesn’t even employ people in the legislator’s district. Congress critters are even giving up on town halls, unless the audience consists of prescreened partisans. To our new aristocracy, the rest of us are rabble and not worth their time.

Meanwhile, the acts in the Trump circus kept getting more bizarre. Trump’s interview with the “fake media” New York Times signaled a four-alarm fire. Trump clearly has no idea what he is doing, and has at best a minimal grasp of the issues. The acts kept changing when we were in town too. Gone is press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer, and in is former hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci as, of all things, White House Communications Director. I shouldn’t be surprised because apparently having no experience in a problem domain is a prime qualification for being chosen by Trump. Still, it was one more breathtakingly bad appointment amongst so many others. It’s also clear from the Times transcript and Trump’s latest tweets that he is obsessed with the Russian investigation, to the point that he has pretty much given up governing. Providing no national calamities happen, this is good news and explains why nothing is getting done even though Republicans control three branches of government.

In the Times interview, Trump made it clear that he reserves the right to fire Special Counsel Mueller and that his ability to pardon is unconditional, which apparently also includes being able to pardon himself. His lawyers are writing arguments to make the case, which suggests if push comes to shove he will pardon all his friends and family implicated in the scandal even though he continues to say there is nothing there. But if there is nothing there, why would he pardon anyone? Why is he so scared?

The answer is clear: it’s because there’s plenty of fire under the visible smoke. You don’t get this kind of response from someone who is innocent and confident that the facts will vindicate him. You get it from someone who knows he is guilty and is prepared to use every tool at his disposal to ensure no one pays a price, especially Trump. From all reports Trump spends most of his days obsessively watching TV to see how he is coming across in the media. Image is everything to him, but he can’t seem to make this Russia thing go away. So he is preparing for the nuclear option: pardon and fire his way out of it. The more scared he gets the more bizarre his behavior gets too.

From this we can reasonably infer things won’t get better, but they will get much worse as Trump senses a cage coming down around him. Which means that our country is at a moment of unique peril. The most perilous part of it is not whether Trump survives or not. It’s whether our enemies use this opportunity of national dysfunction to play their hand. We got a glimpse of it last week when we learned that Trump and Putin had an unannounced private meeting at the G-20 conference in Hamburg. Curiously it wasn’t log afterward that Trump announced that the United States would no longer give support to anti-Assad forces in Syria.

Trump constantly defends Russia so it’s not hard to infer that Russia has the goods on him, he knows it, and he is being blackmailed. All this is likely to come out in time as a result of investigations underway. As a narcissist Trump is driven into denial about his own failings, so he must project them elsewhere using a cast of predictable enemies: the “fake” news media, Democrats, disloyal Republicans and of course Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He’s also probably trying to figure out a way to exit this trap. He hopefully understands that can’t pardon himself out of this problem and remain president, although Trump may be delusional enough to think he can. Trump will look desperately for a face-saving solution that allows him to blame others. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin laid out the most plausible outcomes. It’s most likely #4 or #5, probably #4 as it’s the easiest path for a narcissist to deal with his cognitive dissonance.

One thing is for sure: it will be more than a bumpy ride. As a nation, we are going to go through months and years of airsickness, not to mention grave mortal danger to our nation. It’s quite unclear that Republicans will put country over party. We can hope for it but we should not expect it. The parallels with Watergate are murky at best. The best we can hope for is that Republicans will come to consensus that they are better without him, and vote to impeach and remove him. The hope then lies in Trump’s increasing franticness and that this turbulence will be very severe but relatively short.

Buckle your seatbelts folks and if you are a praying type, now is the time for fervent prayer.

The dumbest thing about the Goldstone email to Trump Jr.

The Thinker by Rodin

(Note: first published here on DailyKos. Minor edits were made.)

So Donald J. Trump Jr. released the email that publicist Rob Goldstone sent him last year yesterday, along with his reply. Any lawyers among my readers were probably thinking, “What a stupid thing to do!” Trump Jr. probably figured that someone else would release it shortly so maybe there was some benefit of being the first to do so. It sure took everyone by surprise, including possibly his newly hired lawyer. Anyhow, it sure looks dumb. I was dumbstruck by the deed and Trump Sr. is reportedly furious.

Keystone Kops
Keystone Kops

I’m not a lawyer. I’m in Information Technology. And to me the stupidest thing of all was that Rob Goldstone used email to reach Trump Jr. Email! What the hell was he thinking? He compounded his error by giving the email the title (and I swear I’m not making this up):

Russia – Clinton – private and confidential

If you know much about email, you know that a lot of the world’s email goes across the Internet unencrypted, at least between certain points in the network between mail servers. The major email providers have upped the ante, fortunately. GMail encrypts end to end, but if some part of the email was sent through an unencrypted network it lets you know (at least in the web version) with a little unlocked “padlock” icon.

Using email was an amazingly stupid thing to do. I doubt Goldstone was being directed by the Russians to contact the Trump campaign on such a sensitive matter this way, but who knows? In any event if you are going to send a sensitive email you don’t fill the subject line with such lurid keywords.

The Internet leaves traces, and email in particular leaves traces. Emails usually collect in the outgoing email servers, and in places in between emails are often archived. One of those places might have been a NSA computer room. If the NSA were sniffing for information like this, well, they hardly had to do much work. Trump Jr.’s email address was there, it came from a known friend of the Trumps, and it came with a subject line that would automatically flag it. Perhaps the email was already known to the FBI as it got flagged by the NSA but was classified because of the sources and methods involved.

Trump Jr.’s response was classic too. Anyone with half a brain would have raised a red flag, probably reported it internally and to the FBI as well, not replied to it. Obviously there’s a lot of tone deafness in the Trump campaign, administration and family and a feeling they are somehow exempt from the rules.

I don’t do subterfuge, but if given a task like this instead of sending an email I’d be picking up the phone. I might allude to some information Trump Jr. would find very interesting, but it had to be shared in person and, oh, bring Jared and Paul. I’d suggest meeting for lunch in a quiet cubby at a local Ruth’s Chris.

In any event, it gives the whole incident a Keystone Kops surreal feel. It’s beyond amateur. It’s embarrassing. Even Putin gets slimed here. Is this the best he and his FSB can do? I expected they were way less inept than they apparently are.

It’s crazy not to be scared by a President Trump

The Thinker by Rodin

During the 1972 Democratic primaries, Senator Edmund Muskie (ME) was caught crying on camera at a news conference outside the offices of the Manchester Union-Leader. Muskie said it was just snow melting on his face, but he was heatedly responding to reports that his wife was addicted to a drug. It was enough to kill his campaign. His primary competitor, Senator George McGovern (SD) eventually won the nomination, but McGovern’s eventual choice of vice president Thomas Eagleton was later pulled from the ticket. Eagleton had a past episode of clinical depression. At the time this was considered disqualifying.

Forty-four years later we elected Donald Trump as our next president. It’s abundantly clear that Trump has mental issues of his own, most prominently his supersize case of narcissism. Rather than being disqualifying, it was a feature of his campaign. Wikipedia defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

A long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of understanding of others’ feelings. People affected by it often spend a lot of time thinking about achieving power or success, or about their appearance. They often take advantage of the people around them. The behavior typically begins by early adulthood, and occurs across a variety of situations.

You don’t have to be psychologist to see Trump’s evident narcissism. There is evidence every day in his Twitter feed. He’s a man so vain he attacks Meryl Streep for criticizing him at the recent Golden Globe awards. He told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd:

“I win, Maureen, I always win. Knock on wood. I win. It’s what I do. I beat people. I win.”

Trump obviously does not always win. He overleveraged himself with failed businesses in Atlantic City and elsewhere. His Trump shuttle between New York and Washington was taken over by creditors. He’s lost lots of lawsuits and most recently settled the Trump University class action lawsuit for millions of dollars. And yet he cannot acknowledge any of these many failures, matters of simple public record.

In ten days the American people are going to give this man the authority to use our nuclear weapons.

It’s thinking about this that makes my head hurt so much that simply to maintain my own sanity I have at times turned off my brain. I’ve avoided the typical ways people deal with stuff like this: booze and drugs, but I can certainly understand why a sane person would. At times I’ve avoided the news and deliberately sought out distractions. Most recently I’ve been playing a lot of online crossword puzzles.

If you are sane, you should absolutely be scared about a Trump presidency. Trump is super easy to read so it’s not hard to figure out how he’s going to behave and govern. He’s not going to reinvent himself. He will continue to lash out at critics over Twitter, but most likely he will use the levers of power to bully them too, perhaps tapping their phones, examining their computers and surreptitiously putting out dirt on them. He’s a natural fascist. He’s picked a cabinet of tone deaf bullies because he wants to change things, the same way a bull in a china shop will change things. As horrifying and illegal as these actions will be though, what keeps my heart skipping beats is his role as commander in chief.

Trump simply does not understand the complexity of our foreign policy challenges. When they occur rather than use back channels he will be inclined to go postal. Imagine what he would do if China closed off the China Sea to U.S. vessels, or if North Korea attacked South Korea, or sent an ICBM at Guam. Trump will go grand and he will go aggressive. He’d have the navy on the sea-lanes shooting at Chinese warships and aircraft. He might nuke North Korea. This is because he is a narcissist. When someone challenges your authority, you go grand. In the past this meant filing lots of lawsuits. In the future, this means using our military to maximum effect and quickly to prove you are serious.

Remember what his solution to ISIS was? “Bomb the shit out of them!” This got him great applause but it won’t solve the problem of ISIS anymore than Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia did much to slow the Vietcong. Dealing with ISIS is a multifaceted problem, but it’s much more a war of minds. Bombing the shit out of ISIS may cause lots of death and destruction, but it won’t change minds, only steel the resolve of those aligned with ISIS.

Trump is quite binary. If you suck up to him, he likes you. If you oppose him, he’s your eternal enemy and he will use whatever power he has to mow you down. He can’t deal with nuance or complexity. He is full of impatience and an “ends justify the means” sort of guy, typical of a narcissist. And he will never, ever admit a mistake.

One of these days he’s going to figure out that Vladimir Putin is playing him. Okay, maybe not. He may not be that self-aware. Right now he admires Putin, which is unsurprising as he and Republicans in general are drawn to strong people and really don’t care about our democracy. Putin though has an agenda and it’s likely he’s going to play Trump like a fine fiddle. Putin wants to restore Russia’s former glory. It’s not too hard to see how he can do this at some point: reoccupy most of Eastern Europe that the USSR used to control. I would not be surprised to see Putin send in the army to wholly occupy Ukraine. But why stop there? Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are so close too. Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all used to be part of their empire. If any of these scenarios happen they are likely to catch Trump flatfooted. In fact they will be tacitly abetted by Trump, who sees NATO as obsolete. Maybe Trump would even approve.

But something will trip him up and Trump will go big because big and grandiose is how he operates. When he gets tangled in the invariable complexity of it all, he’s not going to be able to think out realistic options or realize he won’t be able to get his way. This is likely to lead to huge anger and a desire to hit his enemies with everything we’ve got. That won’t work either, but it will temporarily assuage his feelings.

If any president were likely to use our nuclear forces proactively, it would be Trump. And if he does it won’t be hard for other nuclear powers, principally Russia and China, to respond in kind. The point of diplomacy and foreign policy is to leverage power without resorting to extraordinary means. That’s not going to happen in a Trump Administration.

It’s entirely rational for rational Americans to be scared as shit by a Trump presidency. I sure am. If you are not, you are in denial.

God bless America, because Trump sure won’t.

What to expect from the Trump Administration

The Thinker by Rodin

There are reasons so many of us are alarmed by the upcoming Trump administration. Certainly we are concerned about the direction he and Republicans in Congress are likely to take the country. His picks detail the wreckage they hope to create, from loosened environmental laws, to mass deportations, to the implicit if not explicit favoring of whites over others. As alarming as these things are likely to be, there are far bigger areas of concern. What is more alarming than all of that? Well, there’s Donald Trump himself!

If there is something good to say about Trump it’s that he’s quite transparent and thus easy to understand. Normally this would be good, but it’s bad in this case because we know pretty much how he will behave and thus govern, and this part is awful. Trump has many issues but what is most likely to hobble him is his inability to concentrate on anything for more than five or ten minutes. This is the reason he is spurning national security briefings. He is constitutionally unable to cope with them, so he copes by refusing to get them because they are full of detail and nuance. This means he will get periodic bullet summaries at best, handled and filtered by aides. From imperfect knowledge he will make life and death decisions affecting us all, probably impetuously.

Republicans like principled conservatives. However, Trump is wholly bereft of principle. All that really matters is being noticed. He thrives on attention. He prefers positive attention but as he demonstrated during the campaign negative attention will do too. Attention is what matters and his craving for it is insatiable. He feels validated when he is talked about. One way to be more talked about is simply to be outrageous. And when you are outrageous, it’s easy to succumb to impulse. And so he does day after day. His tweets are collections of sophomoric “Hey, look at me!” thoughts. Rarely are they coherent or even consistent. Yesterday he was tweeting that Russia did not interfere with our election, contradicting our best intelligence assessments. He said if this was a problem, why wasn’t it brought out during the campaign, where it was repeatedly. You can see his general problem rather clearly: short attention span. (Curiously, these tweets have been deleted.)

In the 2008 campaign Sarah Palin was lampooned when asked which newspapers and magazines she read. She replied, “All of them.” Donald Trump barely reads. He doesn’t read any books and at best he scans newspapers. Most of what he consumes is on conservative TV channels. He’s basically friendless and it’s pretty clear he is emotionally distant with his spouses and at least some of his children. Those who complained about Obama’s religion should be outraged by Trump’s lack of morals or religious convictions. He never attends church. He has no history with faith communities. He’s clearly not a Christian. It’s doubtful he could define what empathy is, simply because he can’t understand the concept. He feels closest to those who are a lot like him, which is why he is populating his cabinet with mostly rich white guys, but these relationships are invariably ephemeral and are discarded when no longer of use to him. What matters to him are wealth and an endless need to be validated.

So what does this say about how his administration will govern? First, he will delegate a lot of stuff because it simply doesn’t interest him. Second, he’s going to piss off a lot of the people he picks to help lead the country, because he will spontaneously contradict them whenever it is convenient or gets him some attention. Doing so makes him (in his eyes) look superior and/or increases attention/adulation. No one will be allowed to outshine him and if they do they are likely to be undermined or replaced. This will mean that staff like Steve Bannon will become powers behind the throne, feeding him bullets and sound bites as it serves their agendas. They will also dish out plenty of red meat for him and his supporters that will serve the dual purpose of validating Trump’s enormous ego and the convictions of his supporters.

If Trump is playing his supporters for fools, Putin is playing Trump for the fool that he is. Both cold and real wars are very inefficient ways to extend power. It’s much easier if you can get your enemies to undercut themselves, but it doesn’t hurt when you have a sycophant like Trump who is already indebted to you.

Trump will be keeping us outraged and his supporters happy while the biggest dangers are really elsewhere. He’s already starting to make a wreck of our foreign policy: pissing off China, validating the Philippines’ dictator Duterte, undercutting NATO and even going off after our defense contractors.

We’ll see how this plays off. Trump is a true Shakespearean character that will likely wreak massive havoc unless/until forces manage to stop him. This process looks like it is already underway. Congress will be looking into how Russia influenced our election. Trump’s fervent and repeated assurances that there is nothing there somehow makes it much more likely that there is. Unless things change quickly, his businesses from which he profits will be accepting money from other countries, which would put him in violation of the Emoluments Clause of our constitution. This alone is impeachable. Given all the other baggage he’s been carrying it’s likely a number of these could be impeachable. It all depends though on if/when Republicans in Congress decide to proceed with them. As a master bully with supporters willing to literally take up arms to defend him, it’s likely they will be cowed instead.

We live with the curse of interesting times and our country is its nexus. I find that I cannot allow myself to think too much about it, simply for my own sanity. We are about to go through the most dangerous time for our country, certainly since the Cold War and likely since the Civil War. It’s unclear to me if we can rise to this occasion. If we cannot, Vladimir Putin will be ecstatic but you sure won’t be.