Is Donald Trump cracking up?
An article in Thursday’s NY Times describes him as being “in a sour mood after his morning marathon of television” (which he watches for five or six hours starting around 5:00 a.m.). He “sees few allies” on TV, not even on Fox so much anymore. Then he watches NY governor Andrew Cuomo, whose daily press briefings/reality shows are more popular than Trump’s – which must make Trump eat his heart out.
The article explains that he sees his daily news briefings as a substitute for his rallies. In both cases, he enjoys abusing people At the rallies he does so indirectly and in the news briefings he does so in up close and personal. Given Trump’s inability to focus on anything for any extended period of time, he doesn’t prepare for those briefings. “He is often seeing the final version of the day’s main talking points that aides have prepared for him for the first time although aides said he makes tweaks with a Sharpie just before he reads them live. He hastily plows through them, usually in a monotone, in order to get to the question-and-answer bullying session with reporters that he relishes.” (One of his better moments at his infamous April 23 press conference came when Phil Rucker of CNN asked Trump whether his thoughts on swallowing Lysol are useful for people who want information, Trump cut him off. “Hey, Phil. Hey, Phil. I’m the president and you’re fake news,” he replied before moving on.)
Trump cannot trust most of those around him. For example, there is Alex Azar, his health secretary. A recent news article made Azar appear good at Trump’s expense, “enraging” Trump. “He assumed Mr. Azar was working the news media to try to save his own reputation at the expense of Mr. Trump’s,” the article wrote.
Apparently the only ones Trump trusts are Jared Kushner (a light weight if there ever was one), who is now reportedly the effective chief of staff, Hope Hicks (whose entire career has always depended on Trump) and Johnny McEntee, the former college football player and Trump personal servant who is now in charge of White House personnel.
Trump cans the professionals for the sycophants
Foreign intelligence and state security is fundamental to any capitalist state. It must have professionals who are both knowledgeable and competent. A month ago, oaklandsocialist reported on how Trump was stripping this wing of the US government of exactly these types, replacing them with young nobodies who are entirely beholden to Trump.
Now, he seems on track to do something similar regarding the scientists who advise his administration on this pandemic. He already has overseen the removal of Dr. Rick Bright, as head of the HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). He was transferred out of that agency and now has no real responsibilities. This is the agency that is overseeing research into developing a vaccine for Covid-19, and according to all reports Bright is one of the foremost experts in vaccine research in the country. According to Bright his transfer “was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit…. “Unfortunately, this resulted in clashes with H.H.S. political leadership, including criticism for my proactive efforts to invest early into vaccines and supplies critical to saving American lives. I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections.”
As a recognized expert in his field, Bright has the confidence to speak out. Nor does he need Trump to maintain his reputation. On the contrary.
Trump claims he never heard of Bright. It’s difficult to know which is the greater condemnation: Axing him because he stood up for science, or never having heard of the Number One person in charge of developing an all-important vaccine.
Then there is Dr. Deborah Birx, who is in charge of the Covid-19 Response Team coordinator for the Trump administration. She has consistently tried to sidestep some of Trump’s more inane comments, and this came to a head at his April 23 press briefing, when he advocated taking cleaning disinfectants internally to kill the virus. As well, he said that light could kill the virus and that there were ways
to put the light inside a person’s body to accomplish this. Birx sat there in uncomfortable silence, and she must have wished the floor would open up and swallow her when Trump asked her if she’d ever heard of such a thing. “Not as a treatment, no. Certainly fever is a good thing. When you have a fever, it helps your body respond.”
Then the next day she justified Trump’s rantings by telling Fox News, “I think he just saw the information at the time, immediately before the press conference, and he was still digesting the information. When he gets new information he likes to talk that through out loud and really have that dialogue — and that’s what dialogue he was having.” Any sane person doesn’t have to “process” the idea of taking Lysol internally. (Birx evidently didn’t get the message in time, because Trump was saying that he never meant those rantings; he was being sarcastic.)
Birx may be willing to sacrifice her reputation to maintain her position, but even this bit of nonsense might not be enough. Trump is famous for resenting advisors who tell him things he doesn’t want to hear, even if he follows their advice. And, according to the Wall St. Journal editors, it was Birx who convinced Trump to criticize Georgia governor Kemp for prematurely reopening his state.
Robert Redfield and Anthony Fauci
Then there is the head of the CDC, Dr. Robert Redfield. He had told the Washington Post that a return of Covid-19 in the fall was entirely possible and that it would be “more difficult” at that time. Trump claimed Redfield had been misquoted and put Redfield up there to confirm that. Trying to walk a thin line, Redfield tried to water down what he’d said but ultimately had to admit that he’d been quoted accurately.
Even Fauci has tried to avoid directly contradicting Trump in so many words, although is career and reputation have meant that he cannot thoroughly prostitute himself as Birx seems on course to do.
Varnishing the truth
In the end, the words of emergency room physician Leana Weng, said it all. Interviewed on CNN on April 23, she commented, “We who are doctors who are not beholden to the president need to tell the unvarnished truth.” The implication was clear: All these other doctors are telling a version of the truth that has at least a couple of coats of varnish on it.
This brings us back to our original question: Whether Trump is cracking up. As he’s done with the State Department and the intelligence and security apparatus, he’s moving to surround himself with a bunch of yes-men and yes-women sycophants in this crisis. They will do all they have to do to at the very least not discourage his insane rantings. They will increasingly do little to bring him back into touch with reality. But reality has an unpleasant way of making itself felt, one way or another. As it does so, will Trump crack up entirely? Will he come down with a heart attack or stroke?
It must be extremely worrying to the tops of the capitalist class that they have such an unstable, almost certainly senile individual as head of state, and that if he survives, he might even get reelected. Once again, this is an indication of how much the grip of the mainstream of the US capitalist class has slipped. Some socialists might celebrate this fact, but the alternative is even worse.