Donald Trump may be the president of USA, but he sees “his” nation as the roughly 26 percent of the adult population that not only voted for him, but also adores his attitude
~By Kenneth Tiven
By almost any measure Donald Trump remains the raging, barely in control political candidate he was as a civilian TV host and real estate investor. He appears to have no policy interests and continually says things, which astonish many Americans and inferentially suggest how little he actually knows: “Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water,” (Who knew islands are surrounded by water?)
He may be the president of the USA, but he sees “his” nation as the roughly 26 percent of the adult population that not only voted for him, but also adores the “up yours” low brow attitude he exhibits towards people he doesn’t consider his base. (In USA only half the eligible voters actually cast ballots for a variety of personal reasons or political impediments.)
His demonstrated lack of empathy for hurricane victims is just one aspect of a growing belief that his emotional and mental condition are not what being president requires. To those who have followed his business career with disbelief, this is not a surprise. Trump had never held elective office before becoming president. He has never had a boss other than working for his father’s real estate business before assuming control. He has no experience in consensus management of any sort, always being the nearly “feudal” boss of the real estate company. He never admits a mistake. He famously holds grudges as he explained on the campaign trail, “When people treat me unfairly,” he warned, “I don’t let them forget it.”
Trump’s political instincts match his real estate persona: it is all about dominance.
Today major companies and high-tech corporations use pre-employment testing to measure mental fitness for a position, as well as for security issues related to workplace violence, safety, and liability. For the highest position in the nation, there is no testing for physical or mental well-being. Anyone can be president regardless of their health if they can convince people they are something other than what they appear to be. If this is a description of the Trump career then it also describes the lack of thought many American voters put into the choice presented.
For the record, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the federal government says these tests are legal because, “Cognitive tests assess reasoning, memory, perceptual speed and accuracy, and skills in arithmetic and reading comprehension, as well as knowledge of a particular function or job.”
After President Reagan was shot in a 1981 assassination attempt, the nation adopted the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to clarify presidential succession and response when a president seemed unfit for office. While it sounds specific in its language, it actually has modest political utility, except when physical illness is in play. As more than one late night TV monologue has noted, “you have to be mentally ill to be a politician these days.”
The Congress or the Cabinet would have to vote to remove a president. A partisan Congress seems unlikely to agree when its own party holds the office. Alternatively, his own cabinet could declare him unfit and vote for removal, thus promoting the vice president to the top job. Given that most of the 24 are rich friends of Trump that seems equally unlikely. The 25th amendment is as unlikely to be used as the Impeachment Clause of the Constitution.
Because Trump favours dominance over consensus, rage over intellectual honesty, his relationship with the cabinet lacks the concept of using expertise to gain the executive’s attention as the cornerstone of management. It shows for example in the Korean situation.
Trump picked the then president of Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest companies, to be his secretary of state. Rex Tillerson, who presided over a very structured corporation, is publicly undercut continually on matters such as dealing with North Korea. For Trump that is a “twofer,” showing both Kim Jung-Un and Tillerson who is the alpha male on the world stage.
Trump thinks about Trump. His disregard for the cost or optics of flying every single weekend to a property he owns to golf or play has permeated the thinking of the cabinet. It helps explain why four cabinet officials and a boss from a federal agency were chartering private jets instead of using available commercial flights as required by regulations.
Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price spent nearly $1,000,000 on private or military airplanes for travel and then learned the real price for this was his job. After a two-hour harangue by Trump, the White House announced Price had “resigned.” Now the four others face investigations into their travel plans.
Trump’s desire to take weekends away from the White House meant that his golfing bracketed the week before and after the Hurricane Maria disaster in Puerto Rico. He may have thought the effort to send material to the island was working, without understanding the distribution issues. So when the major of San Juan criticized the relief efforts, Trump lost it. He spent two days engaging in a personal feud with the woman who is mayor of San Juan. Until this, Trump’s “grudge presidency” had not been tested by a humanitarian crisis in which lives were being lost in real time. His self-described glowing performance assessment compared badly with the actual visual stories being reported live from the island. Implying by tweet that Puerto Ricans are lazy and disorganized because they are Hispanic and mainly people of color was not well received except by his most fervent supporters.
Additionally, on the matter of emotional stability there is this: The repeal of Obamacare, the health plan, failed again when the GOP could not muster the necessary 50 votes. An increasingly manic Trump insisted several times that the GOP would have had the necessary votes except for one senator who was hospitalized. This was false. Lying about things, which are empirical, is always dangerous. The senator issued a statement that he was not in the hospital. So again, people are asking, is he mentally and cognitively ok. We report, you decide.
—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post,
NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels