Trump’s Rogue Rage: We are Not Nearly as Afraid as We Should Be
Powerlessness is one of the most dreaded aspects of what it means to be human, underlying such states as loneliness, suicide, addiction, terminal disease, grief, rejection, poverty, etc. There are a variety of ways people respond to powerlessness. For our president, he has repeatedly demonstrated a dramatic, reckless tendency to fend off encroaching powerlessness by desperately trying to turn the tables and show himself and the world just how powerful he really is.
Three weeks ago, waking up in what some have described as a “pissy mood,” he defied the advice of his closest advisers in abruptly announcing universal 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% on aluminum, igniting what many politicians and economists, both here and abroad, fear will be a disastrous trade war that will spread across the world. Top economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned as his urgent warnings against tariffs went unheeded. Why would he make this colossal announcement on that particular day?
The day before, assistant Hope Hicks, his closest confidante, was forced to resign after hours of grilling by the Mueller team, admitting telling “white lies” for the president on occasion. Son-in-law Jared Kushner lost his security clearance, as had confidante Rob Porter, both of whom had access to top secret information while never having been cleared to do so. Porter was fired over credible spousal abuse charges. Most importantly, the Mueller investigation accelerated its way closer to the Oval Office, with witnesses flipping like burgers in a fast-food joint.
In the same manner, amid widespread White House reports of Trump’s rageful outbursts at anyone who crossed his path, he then attempted to fend off mounting powerlessness by unleashing his awesome powers for all to see when he abruptly agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un, basically by himself, with none of the usual preliminary diplomatic groundwork. Many argue this is automatically a “win” for Kim, solidifying his place as a world leader worthy of meeting with an American leader. More importantly, I believe Trump views the announcement as his own personal victory that “he alone can fix” the problem where all other presidents have failed.
The roguish behavior continued last week when Trump fired Rex Tillerson in a tweet that Tillerson received without warning during a transatlantic flight. After National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster openly criticized Russia for atrocities in Syria, it was heavily rumored that his days are numbered for disloyalty to Trump’s ardent support for all-things-Putin. Yesterday, that rumor was fulfilled when Trump replaced McMaster with John Bolton, one of the more hateful and hawkish icons in the last several decades of American history. It is now widely reported that Trump is considering firing Chief of Staff, John Kelly, and not replacing him, thinking he can do it all himself.
Trump’s powerlessness to control events again became apparent when “body man” personal assistant, John McEntee, was abruptly fired and forcibly escorted off the White House grounds without even being allowed to retrieve his jacket, allegedly for serious financial crimes. But Trump showed who was boss when he promptly hired McEntee to lead his re-election campaign.
There are many examples of Trump thumbing his nose at all advice and asserting his power to make decisions while trusting only himself, whom he regards as his best adviser. America is the only country that is not signed on to the Paris climate accord. He alone made the decision to fire James Comey to “end this Russia thing,” despite universal pressure from his staff not to do so. In false, ludicrous displays of being in the driver’s seat, when Steph Curry and his Warriors indicated they would decline the invitation, as NBA champions, to visit Trump in the White House, he rushed to tweet that in fact they had been disinvited; and after his Charlottesville support of white supremacists, when his Business Council of prominent CEOs decided to disband, in another hasty tweet, he asserted that he himself was dismantling the group.
In frightening displays of rogue behavior, Trump appears to have solidified an actual pathway that could plausibly lead to nuclear war with his announcement that he alone will sit down with Kim Jong Un, creating a level of proximity in which literally anything could happen. Former CIA Director John Brennan predicts only a 10% chance of it actually happening. Even so, the reasons for not meeting appear every bit as dangerous as if they do meet. To the extent that Trump feels outplayed, double-crossed, betrayed, disobeyed, or publicly humiliated by his inability to deliver on his boastful claims, we have every reason to be much more afraid than we are.
During the general election in September, 2016, I expressed my deep concern that the election was about “apocalypse, not politics.” Last week, the Mueller team subpoenaed financial records from the Trump Organization, which brings the investigation right into the Oval Office. Under circumstances of stress, Trump has shown his vulnerability to delusional, paranoid thinking. With an increasingly enraged, panicky, and cornered Trump heading toward a show-down with Kim, the potential for him reaching for the nuclear codes cannot be overestimated.
When he woke up last month in a pissy mood, he single-handedly started a trade war. The terrifying reality is that if he wakes up in an even worse mood, with his singular and unfettered access to the nuclear codes, he has the ability and the psychological make-up to show everyone who’s in the driver’s seat by starting an actual WAR war.