Earlier this morning we looked at Umair Haque's assertions of the need for accountability if America is to move forward from the ugliness of the Trump years and, more important, the history that allowed for the whole freak-show. Last night, the editorial board of the NY Times was also looking at post-Trump accountability "How," they asked, "does American democracy confront the scale of the damage wrought by the departing president-- the brazen obliteration of norms, the abundant examples of criminal behavior, the repeated corruption and abuses of power by the highest officeholder in the land, even after he was impeached? In short, how does America prevent the next Trump administration if it can’t properly hold the current one to account?"
They wrote that defeating the Orange Excrement at the polls "was only the first step toward recalibrating the country’s moral compass. Two more challenges remain: The first, determining how to investigate the past administration. The second, determining how to ensure that subsequent presidents face more formidable obstacles to wrongdoing than Mr. Trump faced... Corruption and abuse of power are the most urgent issues in need of addressing."
But in the end, the Times editors would vote against a guillotine for Trump or even a prison cell and seem to be saying that we have no choice but to muddle on and hope for the past, something very different from what Haque was calling for.
And we have a month left-- a month of a president becoming increasingly and dangerously insane. This morning, Politico Magazine published an essay by Michael Kruse noting that Trump is cracking under the weight of losing. Even his bedrock supporters-- McConnell, Putin, Newsmax (let alone Fox)-- have acknowledged Trump is a loser, which his niece has written is tantamount to a virtual death sentence in the Trump family.
Trump isn't taking this well. "The narcissistic Trump," wrote Kruse, "has spent the last half a century-- but especially the last half a decade-- making himself and keeping himself the most paid-attention-to person on the planet. But in the month and a half since Election Day, Trump has been seen and heard relatively sparingly and sporadically. No-showing unexpectedly at a Christmas party, sticking to consistently sparse public schedules and speaking mainly through his increasingly manic Twitter feed, he’s been fixated more than anything else on his baseless insistence that he won the election when he did not. Over the course of a lifetime of professional and personal transgressions and failures, channeling lasting, curdled lessons of Norman Vincent Peale and Roy Cohn, Trump has assembled a record of rather remarkable resilience. His typical level of activity and almost animal energy has at times lent him an air of insusceptibility, every one of his brushes with financial or reputational ruin ending with Trump emerging all but untouched. His current crisis, though, his eviction from the White House now just a month out, is something altogether different and new.
“He’s never been in a situation in which he has lost in a way he can’t escape from,” Mary Trump, his niece and the author of the fiercely critical and bestselling book about him and their family, told me. “We continue to wait for him to accept reality, for him to concede, and that is something he is not capable of doing,” added Bandy Lee, the forensic psychiatrist from Yale who’s spent the last four years trying to warn the world about Trump and the ways in which he’s disordered and dangerous. “Being a loser,” she said, for Trump is tantamount to “psychic death.”
The combination of an unprecedented rebuke meeting an uncommonly vulnerable ego has some people wondering if there is a chance that Trump’s unusual actions suggest something potentially more dire. Could he be on his way to a mental breakdown?
...“His fragile ego has never been tested to this extent,” Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney and enforcer before he turned on him, told me. “While he’s creating a false pretense of strength and fortitude, internally he is angry, depressed and manic. As each day ends, Trump knows he’s one day closer to legal and financial troubles. Accordingly, we will all see his behavior deteriorate until it progresses into a full mental breakdown.”
...The people who’ve known Trump well, the people who’ve watched him for a long, long time, the mental health professionals—they’re worried, they told me, about what’s to come, in the next month, and in the months and years after that.
“There’s no reckoning with reality,” biographer Gwenda Blair said. “He’s going to continue to frame it that he won, he was cheated, he’s the victim, and he’s going to continue to bend reality as best he can.”
“He’ll continue to rage against the results, and he’ll continue to solidify in the minds of millions more Americans that the democratic process was corrupted, and that’s going to have a long-lasting tail that we’ll have to deal with in American politics for many, many years,” said Miles Taylor, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security who was “Anonymous” before he revealed his identity in October. “I don’t expect that the president is going to chain himself to the Resolute Desk and refuse to leave, but also, given what we’ve seen the past few weeks, I wouldn’t totally put it past him.”
“The probability of something very bad happening is very high, unacceptably high, and the fact that we don’t have guardrails in place, the fact that we are allowing a mentally incapacitated president to continue in the job, in such an important job, for a single day longer, is a truly unacceptable reality,” said Lee, the Yale psychiatrist. “We’re talking about his access to the most powerful military on the planet and his access to technology that’s capable of destroying human civilization many times over.”
“You have to remember,” said Cohen, his former attorney. “Trump doesn’t see things the way that you do. He sees things in his distorted reality that benefits him. He’s able to right now embrace that distorted reality because he still wakes up in the White House. But what happens each and every day as he gets closer to not only leaving, but also it comes with a sense of, in his mind, humiliation, right? And he knows that he is destined for legal troubles.”'
“He’s looking down the barrel” of legal and financial difficulties, Mary Trump said. “But perhaps more troubling for him or more terrifying for him is the fact that he is in danger of losing his relevance.”
And that is not something Trump will ever be able to abide.
“He’s going to go back to Mar-a-Lago, to MAGAstan, as I call it, and he’s going to return to standing ovations and applause beyond what you can comprehend,” Cohen said, “because these sycophants that are there will continue to bolster his ego and he can go from table to table, listening to people placate him about how the election was stolen from him. And that’s just going to further create that mishigas in his head.”