What he said!

David Rothkopf is the author of the forthcoming “The Great Questions of Tomorrow”(TED Books/Simon & Schuster, 2017). He is a visiting professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In the Washington Post he writes, The greatest threat facing the United States is its own president:

Last week, at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I moderated a panel on U.S. national security in the Trump era. On the panel, former CIA director David H. Petraeus offered the most robust defense of President Trump’s foreign policy that I have heard. Central to his premise were two facts. First, he argued that Trump’s national security team was the strongest he had ever seen. Next, he argued that whereas President Barack Obama was indecisive to the point of paralysis, such as in the case of Syria, Trump is decisive.

Toward the end of the conversation, we turned to Trump’s erratic behavior and I noted that for the first time in three decades in the world of foreign policy, I was getting regular questions about the mental health of the president.

I asked Petraeus, a man I respect, if he thought the president was fit to serve. His response was, “It’s immaterial.” He argued that because the team around Trump was so good, they could offset whatever deficits he might have. I was floored. It was a stunningly weak defense.

That is where we are now. The president’s tweeting hysterically at the media is just an element of this. So too is his malignant and ever-visible narcissism. The president has demonstrated himself to have zero impulse control and a tendency to damage vital international relationships with ill-considered outbursts, to trust very few of the people in his own government, and to reportedly rant and shout at staff and even at the television sets he obsessively watches.

Whether he is actually clinically ill is a matter for psychiatric professionals to consider. But when you take the above behaviors and combine them with his resistance to doing the work needed to be president, to sitting down for briefings, to reading background materials, to familiarizing himself with details enough to manage his staff, there is clearly a problem. Compound it with his deliberate reluctance to fill key positions in government and his wild flip-flopping on critical issues from relations with China to trade, and you come to a conclusion that it may be that Trump’s fitness to serve as president is our nation’s core national security issue.

Not only does the president diminish the office with his pettiness; he also shows disregard for constitutional principles including free speech, freedom of religion and separation of powers, and he operates as though he were above ethics laws. Daily he shows he lacks the character, discipline, intellect, judgment or respect for the office to be president of the United States. In normal times, this would be worrying. But look at the news. North Korea is moving closer to having the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the United States. A confrontation is coming that will be a test of character pitting North Korea’s unhinged leader, Kim Jong Un, against our leader.

Later this week, he will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany, during the Group of 20 meeting. Quite apart from the political optics of rewarding a man who attacked the United States  to help get Trump elected with such a meeting, the summit reveals why it is so dangerous to have an erratic president. Much of U.S. foreign policy comes down to personal diplomacy conducted by the president and his actions in the wake of such meetings. If a dedicated enemy of the United States and opportunist such as Putin determines to take advantage of Trump’s narcissism, ignorance, paranoia, business interests or brewing scandals, he will do just that. If he sees Trump’s behavior as a tacit endorsement of his own thuggishness, he will seize the opportunity. Could Trump enter the meeting with good advice from the team that Petraeus and others admire so much? Yes. But they can’t undo Trump’s record, nor can they, we have learned, always shape the behavior of a man who has shown repeated propensity for ignoring the advice of his best allies. That is one reason, according to reports, that European officials are deeply concerned about the outcomes of the meeting that will take place in Hamburg this week.

The United States has had a wide variety of presidents; we have as often been victimized by their errors of judgment as we have benefited from their leadership. But the stark reality is that objective analysis reveals that we have never before seen a president so unfit for office. Even President Richard Nixon at his moments of darkest paranoia was a professional public servant who understood the office and the stakes associated with it. One might, on this Independence Day week, have to go back to King George III to find a head of state who so threatened America. But there is no precedent for one whose character is so obviously ill-suited to the presidency.

At the end of the Aspen session, a gentleman approached me and asked why I had made the conversation so ad hominem by questioning Trump’s fitness. I explained that when we have a system in which the chief executive is endowed with so much power, we regularly find that our fate in crises turns on the character of the president. For that reason, it is not the incivility of modern politics that drives us to question Trump’s fitness; it is a respect for the lessons of history and for the national interests his profound deficits put at risk.

Well said!

15 thoughts on “What he said!”

  1. Let’s see, the stock market is up 4 trillion since he surprised us with his election. And, that is on top of the 7 trillion it increased knowing Obama was leaving for sure.

    And, he is being described as a threat to us?

    Even today, the Wilshire 5000 index is right at its peak $25.3 trillion despite the disappointing employment news.

    People still believe the future is brighter and more prosperous than the present because he is president.

    Could all change tomorrow but it has taken an enormous number of slings and arrows and is still not shaking.

    • Correlation does not imply causation. Yet even if Trump did create a great economy, he has done other things which are not acceptable Presidential actions.

      • The Russian quisling in the oval office inherited the best economy we’ve had in years.

        • “The Russian quisling in the oval office inherited the best economy we’ve had in years.”

          What is this, Tom? Floating another fantasy for others in your little circle to applaud? Trump inherited an economy that showed signs of being in recovery, but like all such economies, it was frail, feeble, and subject to going bust at any time. Under Trump, the economy has made as much a recovery as it did under eight years of Obama.

          The Stock Market Booms are entirely Trump’s to celebrate. He is elected to office and (BAM!) the booms occur. They would never have occurred had Hillary been elected or Obama had stayed in office. Now when the Stock Markets make their inevitable adjustment and drop, Trump will also take the blame for that. That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.

          • “Under Trump, the economy has made as much a recovery as it did under eight years of Obama.”
            I can hardly think of a bigger falsehood!
            If you think this is true how about some evidence.

  2. As I think back over the Presidents who have served in my lifetime, I remember that each one, regardless of party, had critics who questioned whether they were fit to be President. The questions usually hinged on their mental fitness, and, indeed, each one had quirks that allowed them to have their service called into question. Granted, Trump has more quirks than the others, but he still hasn’t done anything to make me think he is incapable of being the President. Every President has chafed at being over managed by his staff who guided him through his schedule and they exhibited that resentment in their own way. I remember distinctly all the fuss that was raised when Reagan insisted on a nap every afternoon, and the crap Clinton took over his golf games.

    All of the fuss being raised about Trump reeks of partisanship rather than genuine concern. Let me restate that…the people raising the stink over Trump may be genuinely concerned, but NONE of them could even remotely be considered friends of Trump. I suspect that if Trump was their candidate, their concerns would be much more muted and circumspect. As it is, they hate Trump and have fixated on his quirks as a possible way to remove him from office. Or, at the very least, to continue trying to make life miserable for the Trump Administration.

    I have enough confidence in the systems we have in place to ensure that the President does nothing too extreme should he go off the deep end. There are safeguards against him frivolously launching nukes, he is limited in his war making abilities, and if, as Tom correctly expresses as a concern, he is inflicted with Alzheimers, there are sufficient numbers and varieties of people around him to take the proper action to keep him from damaging the Nation too much.

    The urgency and hysteria generated by the Left is politics, pure and simple.

    • Trump also seems to have a propensity for bypassing systems that put checks on his powers. It’s that trait that is most worrisome. I am not convinced that the safeguards will hold.

      • Well, Sarah, you could very well be correct. I guess I am just more optimistic than most and believe that, for the really important systems, he isn’t able to bypass them. I could be wrong, but like I said I am an optimist and have faith in the safeguards put in place. And the people responsible for those safeguards…

    • How about some substance rather than the childish “He (they) did it too” defence?
      “The urgency and hysteria generated by the Left is politics, pure and simple.”
      Of course—Trump is in a political position!

      • Bill, I didn’t say anything along the lines of “he did it too, so leave Trump alone”. I was pointing out that people who rise to the Presidency tend to be very successful people and those types of people often develop personality quirks of all types. It is part of what makes them who they are. I wasn’t saying what they did was the same so we should ignore what Trump is doing. What I am saying is that we should keep an eye on Trump to make certain his particular quirks do not get the Nation into trouble. My concern is the welfare of the nation. Your concern is getting Trump out of office. We have different levels of tolerance, I do believe. ;o)

        • Trump ‘s critics are about the survival of the nation. He is about his ego and narcissism. There has never been this level of incompetence in the White House occupant. Even George W. and Nixon were more capable than Trump. Bush the First is Lincoln compared to Trump. It is not vent about policy differences, it is about basic competence. He is so far out of his league the entire world is laughing at us. Even die hard Republicans know this.

          • One reading of you message tells anyone who wants to know that your “concern”, Frances, is driven more by politics than by genuine concern. Your focus is entirely on Republican Presidents. The same crapola was talked about incessantly during Bush’s Presidency and Nixon’s Presidency…”He’s not competent to ser-r-r-ve!” etc. Politics. Not so much concern….

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