NORTH CHATHAM, New York—U.S.A.
William Barr, attorney general of the United States, did exactly what Donald J. Trump hired him to do: On the afternoon of March 24, in Washington, he granted absolution to his lord and master—Donald J. Trump, suspected of treason and obstruction of justice. This act of legal mercy occurred on a Sunday, when evangelical Christian Trumpisti throughout the land undoubtedly spent their Sabbath morning beseeching Jesus and the Holy Father to spare the Golden-Haired One from impeachment or imprisonment.
As the world knows by now, a two-year probe of alleged traitorous collusion between the Kremlin and Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign of 2016, conducted by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, ended with a report that dismissed such charge; thus did the president dodge a bullet. Now then, according to Mr. Barr’s twisted legal logic, the president must not be prosecuted for obstructing justice—as he did in plain sight, repeatedly—absent the “underlying crime” of treason. As every lawyer not beholden to Donald Trump has said by now, Mr. Barr’s reasoning is poppycock.
So that was Sunday. The next day in New York City, attorney Michael Avenatti, former counsel for one of Mr. Trump’s numerous extra-marital naughty ladies (pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels), was arrested and bound over to federal court on charges of attempted extortion to the tune of $22.5 million (€19.93 million). As usual, Mr. Trump’s cult of Christianist rectitude expressed no concern regarding certifiably sinful links to the Golden-Haired One.
Meanwhile in the nation’s capital, Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama thought it befitting to quote from Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” on the floor of the House of Representatives. A stalwart of the president’s shameless Republican Party, Mr. Brooks borrowed from Hitler’s sentiments on the “big lie” technique—which Der Führer applied to Jews who blamed Germany’s loss in the first world war General Erich Ludendorff, a noted anti-Semite. In the Brooks version, a “big lie” campaign was waged against the Golden-Haired One by “socialists” of the opposition Democratic Party and a “fake news media” bent on transferring the poor guy from the White House to a penitentiary.
—Among the addled Alabaman’s previous observations: Falling rocks are responsible for rising sea levels; people who lead “good lives” are immune from heart attacks, strokes, and birth defects; Democrats are waging a “war on whites.”
There you have it: the main headlines from last week’s U.S. news. As usual, I return to my first horrified thought back on that dark day in November ’16 when sixty-three million of my fellow Americans—sixty-three million!—cast their votes for the spiritual leader of an incipient Fascist International.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, wrote of the disgraceful Trump epoch, which has aged us all by about ten years: “He can stay, he can go. He can be impeached, or voted out in 2020. But removing Trump will not remove the infrastructure of an entire party that embraced him; the dark money that funded him; the online radicalization that drummed his army; nor the racism that he amplified and reanimated.”
To be sure (and to mix my metaphors), though he has indeed dodged a bullet Mr. Trump is not out of the woods. Investigations into his probable criminal and unethical conduct continue under prosecution teams in a number of federal and state venues, as well as Congress.
And eventually, the Mueller Commission report, said to be several hundred pages long, will become public. Mr. Barr might release it of his own volition, or it will be somehow leaked to the press. Whatever.
I have retreated to the rolling hills of upstate New York, to a community the president dare not despoil with his presence. I have come to clear my head, if possible, of that nagging question about the Trumpisti.
A few miles from my dacha here in the historic hamlet of North Chatham, the American Revolution entered its final stage of inexorable triumph over what was at the time the world’s mightiest military power. In the autumn of 1777, during two bloody sieges known as the Battle of Saratoga, a ragtag army of colonial peasants defeated British redcoats under the royal command of General John “Gentleman John” Burgoyne (1722-92).
Back in London, the obstinate and proudly ignorant King George William Frederick III refused to see a plucky new nation on the rise, a reality visible to all others; he felt no reason to dial back on a reign of cruelty to which my ancestral peasants took violent issue. The monarch was simply incapable of grasping resentment within his realm. Not for nix was he was known throughout the empire as Mad King George.
George III (1738-1820) was stricken with porphyria, a blood disease that strips its victims of ordinary empathetic impulse and plagues them with hallucinations, paranoia, curdling pain, blue urine, and enlarged teeth that vampires would envy. Typical of most other varieties of madmen, he was narcissistic, delusional, and vengeful. To the end of his bitter life, according to British historian George Trevelyan (1876-1962), the king vowed “never to acknowledge the independence of the Americans, and to punish their contumacy [and to] keep the rebels harassed, anxious, and poor until the day when, by a natural and inevitable process, discontent and disappointment were converted into penitence and remorse.”
Often when in residence here, I think of Mad King George. Descended from the German Haus Hannover, he occupied the throne of the United Kingdom and Ireland at a time my his oppressed colonial subjects built my house by hand. Not long after the American War of Independence (1775-1783), he was trundled off to Windsor Castle, in the English county of Berkshire, where he died—alone and babbling insanely.
This weekend, I think of a contemporary man likewise of German descent—from the house of Drumpf in Kallstadt, once part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. And likewise mentally impaired.
Down in the city of New York, one hundred and twenty-five miles due south of here (201.2 km), Donald Trump and I maintain respective households at opposite poles of Manhattan: he on the moneyed East Side in a gaudy penthouse à la the Palace of Versailles, atop a skyscraper built largely by underpaid (or unpaid) Polish immigrant labor; I on the West Side, in a district known as Hell’s Kitchen.
When not in the city, Mr. Trump is sometimes at the White House in Washington—where he sleeps (alone) on the second floor, wanders corridors in his bathrobe in the middle of the night, watches lunatic right-wing know-nothings hold forth on television, and taps out semi-literate screeds via Twitter whilst relieving himself upon what we Americans refer to as a “throne.” When not indoors at the White House, Mr. Trump may be found in the rose garden, babbling on camera to members of what he, like Mr. Brooks, refers to as the “fake news media.”
The similarities of Mad King George and Mad King Don are clear and abundant. I repeat myself in citing a primary difference: No one ever voted for George William Frederick, sixty-three million of us Americans cast ballots for Donald John Trump.
The medical term “malignant narcissist” was coined by Erich Fromm (1900-1980), a German-born philosopher, American sociologist, psychoanalyst, and Holocaust survivor. It was the lingual mechanism by which he could comprehend Hitler. It is the term that today’s psychologists apply to Donald Trump.
To wit: In a recent podcast interview, former Johns Hopkins University psychology professor John Gartner said the American president “has actually gotten intense pleasure from [other people’s] pain. He is reveling in the chaos and the destruction he is causing. The more he feels threatened by the Mueller investigation, the more he needs to experience the exaltation of feeling drunk with power, through his ability to harm and humiliate, and degrade other people.”
Author of “Rocket Man: Nuclear Madness and the Mind of Donald Trump,” and currently in private psychiatric practice in New York, Mr. Gartner added, “I’m not saying he’s Hitler. I’m saying he has the same psychology. He’s of the same type, cut from the same cloth. …He is someone who, if given the chance, would enact the same kind of destructive agenda.”
On the matter of mental acuity demonstrated in Mr. Trump’s speech, I leave it to you, dear readers, to render a diagnosis. Consider the transcript of the president’s wildly disjoined and strangely repetitive remarks, made during a pop-up press conference in the White House rose garden a week prior to Mr. Barr’s absolution:
No collusion. No collusion. …It’s interesting that [Mueller] gets appointed by a deputy. He writes a report. You know, never figured that one out. A man gets appointed by a deputy, he writes a report.
I had the greatest electoral victory—one of them—in the history of our country. Tremendous success. Tens of millions of voters. And now somebody is going to write a report who never got a vote.
No, no. We’re—in Syria. We’re leaving two hundred people there and two hundred people in another place in Syria, closer to Israel…[As he displays a map of the Middle East]: I brought this out for you because this is a map of—everything in the red—this was Election Night in 2016. Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over, it was a mess.
Now, on the bottom, that’s the exact same. There is no red. …So this is ISIS on Election Day—my election day—and this is ISIS now.
I got sixty-three million votes. And now somebody writes a report? I think it’s ridiculous. …[Mueller’s] conflicted. I know his friend [former F.B.I. Director James] Comey is a bad cop. And I know that there are other things, obviously. You know, I had a business transaction with [Mueller] that I’ve reported many times that you people don’t talk about. But I had a nasty business transaction with him and other things.
I think Twitter is a way that I get out the word when we have a corrupt media. And it is corrupt and it’s fake. So Twitter is a way I can get out the word. Because media is so dishonest—a lot of it—the mainstream. A lot of it. They don’t report the facts. They don’t report—as an example that I just showed you, they don’t want to report this, so I figure I might as well show it. So when I do Twitter statements, I get out the word from a fake and corrupt media.
Donald Trump is exhausting.
Michael Gerson of the Washington Post writes that America “has a president who respects no rule of morality, tradition, or law that conflicts with his own immediate self-expression or gratification. …This is narcissism that has slipped its leash, roaming wherever it wishes across the wide world, and in our heads.”
The aforementioned Erich Fromm once expressed a point of view echoed by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez—and myself: “Many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity,” said Mr. Fromm. “They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.”
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone magazine, no voice of moderation, posits that Donald Trump is as American as apple pie; that America is an accursed “bloodthirsty Mr. Hyde nation that subsists on massacres and slave labor and leaves victims half-alive and crawling over deserts and jungles while we sit stuffing ourselves on couches and blathering about our ‘American exceptionalism.’”
Further, Mr. Taibbi writes:
We dumped twenty million gallons of toxic herbicide on Vietnam from the air, just to make the shooting easier without all those trees, an insane plan to win ‘hearts and minds’ that has left about a million still disabled from defects and disease—including about a hundred thousand children…little kids with misshapen heads, webbed hands, and fused eyelids writhing on cots.
Nowadays, we use flying robots and missiles to kill so many civilians and women and children in places like Mosul and Raqqa and Damadola, Pakistan, in our countless ongoing undeclared wars, that the incidents scarcely make the news anymore.
If you want to look in our rearview, it’s lynchings and race war and genocide all the way back, from Hispaniola to Jolo Island in the Philippines to Mendocino County, California, where we nearly wiped out the Yuki people once upon a time.
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths.
We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity… Now the mask of respectability is gone…the sickness is showing.
[Trump is] embarrassing, mentally disorganized, and completely inappropriate…[H]e’s just the president we deserve, dragging our name down where it belongs. He is miserable, so are we, and we’re stuck with each other. Karma really is a bitch.
—Thomas Adcock is America correspondent for CulturMag