The President’s Podium
President Trump’s daily reality show is not primarily about Covid-19 but rather a forum for his self-serving bluster. Trump’s behavior at the podium is a splendid example of Wikipedia’s definition of a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD): behavior “characterized by a long-term pattern of exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy toward other people. People with NPD often spend much time thinking about achieving power and success, or on their appearance.”When Trump is speaking from the podium his words and gestures, and his impulse to constantly interrupt other speakers, underscore the veracity of this definition. Deception, disinformation and lies are the nightly staples. Actual Covid-19 briefings are merely snippets interspersed among Trump’s diatribes that malign the media, lambast and blame Democrats, repudiate facts and advice from his experts, and contradict his own previous statements. If the networks and cable channels insist on airing these campaign rallies, they need to run real-time fact checks across the bottom of the screen in all-capital red letters: THIS IS NOT TRUE
The “Deep State”
While out for my daily walk yesterday I listened to an enlightening discussion about the “deep state” in which Terry Gross interviewed David Rhode, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for International Reporting and currently the on-line news director for The New Yorker. His most recent book is “In Deep: The FBI, CIA, and the truth about America’s Deep State.” Rhode analyzes and discredits Trump’s obsession about a “deep state” and his claim that it is working to undercut his presidency.
That got me thinking about how Trump himself is creating a dictatorial shallow state, one that reflects his proclamation at Monday’s reality show that his power is limitless: “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total.”
In Trump’s “total control” shallow state, anyone who dares to disagree with him would be cast out and prosecuted as a traitor. He would be supported by an administration of sycophantic fellow believers. With Trump as Czar, his Chief of Staff and Guardian of Loyalty is Bill Barr; Sean Hannity, Minister of Disinformation; Rudy Giuliani, Minister of Inflicting Vengeance; Senator Tom Cotton, Minister of International Isolation; Stephan Miller, Minister of Xenophobic Policies and Immigrant Expulsion; Kellyanne Conway, Minister of Trump-Worship; Mike Pompeo, Minister of War and Elimination of Pesty Allies; Scott Pruitt, Minister of Environmental Destruction and Natural Resource Monetization.
From Roger Cohen in the April 18 New York Times: “Trump’s genius lies in a sinister capacity to ignore reality and create another by getting people’s blood up in a whirlwind of chaos and distraction. This is how he got into the Oval Office, and how he could remain there.”
Conservatives who seek a job in Trump world have one prerequisite: absolute loyalty. They must be willing to agree with the boss no matter how wrong he is proven to be. If the best minds in economics, science, or medicine do not support the Trump ideology, the president’s team finds lesser lights who will. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman calls this behavior “a close alliance between modern conservatism and quackery.”
Common Ground Used to be More Common
When I became the director of Arizona’s Department of Economic Security, the Republican Representative Jane Hull was chair of one of our oversight committees. She was a conservative with philosophical doubts about the efficacy of social programs, but she had an open mind and was a willing listener.
Jane visited some of our offices in the Phoenix area, spent time talking with me about her philosophy of social programs, and took time to think about my responses. We grew to respect and even like one another. Despite our disagreements we usually found a way to work together. Arizonans who were behind the social, medical and economic curves were better served as a result. We never agreed on everything––sometimes not on much at all—but we respected and liked one another.
Jane went on to serve as Speaker of the House and Secretary of State. In 1997 she became Arizona’s governor. During her gubernatorial tenure she pushed through an expanded health care program for children in low income families, increased funding for education and championed other initiatives that would be considered progressive. Arizona was a better place because of her service. Governor Jane D. Hull died Thursday, April 16, 2020 at the age of 84. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.