New Books Make It Clear: Trump Threatens Every Man, Woman and Child on Earth
Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, demonstrates how Donald Trump lied to the American people: “It goes through air, Bob. That’s always tougher than the touch…. It’s also more deadly than … even your strenuous flus. You know, people don’t realize, we lose 25,000, 30,000 people a year here.” He proceeds to say that the novel virus causes five times the mortality and calls it, “deadly stuff.” Yet he downplayed the threat in public, hampering national efforts and misinforming about the worst global pandemic in 100 years.
Similarly, Michael Cohen recounts in his new book, Disloyal: “The President of the United States wanted me dead. Or, let me say it the way Donald Trump would: He wouldn’t mind if I was dead. That was how Trump talked. Like a mob boss, using language carefully calibrated to convey his desires and demands, while at the same time employing deliberate indirection to insulate himself and avoid actually ordering a hit on his former personal attorney.” We have witnessed the president do this in public, playing on his followers’ psychology to encourage violence without directly taking responsibility for even massacres and widespread violence that ensue.
The more he kills his followers, the more they cling to him.
John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, shows that Trump’s thought process “was like an archipelago of dots, leaving the rest of us to discern—or create—policy.” He went into tough negotiations with foreign leaders with minimal understanding of the stakes, lured by grand spectacle, which led him to sign a toothless, vague agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore and side with Russian President Vladimir Putin rather than the U.S. intelligence community. He casually advocated for withdrawing the U.S. from NATO solely to “do something historic.”
‘Petty and Pathetic’
Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, depicts in developmental detail the president as a “petty, pathetic little man—ignorant, incapable, out of his depth, and lost to his own delusional spin.” “He’ll withhold ventilators or steal supplies from states that have not groveled sufficiently. What Donald thinks is justified retaliation is, in this context, mass murder.” She states her reasons for writing about her uncle: “Donald, following the lead of my grandfather and with the complicity, silence and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father. I can’t let him destroy my country.”
In this manner, just in recent weeks, a doctor of clinical psychology who happens to be the president’s niece and has known him and his family all her life; a former national security adviser who was privy to the internal conversations that led to many high-stakes foreign policy decisions; a former personal lawyer and fixer who worked closely with him for a very long time; and one of the country’s best-known, leading journalists all confirm through major books that Donald Trump is a great “danger” to the nation and the world. Intimate accounts now completely validate the concerns that mental health experts laid out in The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, a book I edited in 2017 when few, if any, were willing to call the president “dangerous”.
On April 20, 2017, one of the authors stated: “it is important to mention that everybody in America, and in fact everybody in the world, is in danger from the currently most powerful man in the world.” On May 24, 2017, I stated: “We have an obligation to speak about Donald Trump’s mental health issues because many lives and our survival as a species may be at stake.” We said so because of the seriousness of our message: “The president was more dangerous than people suspected, would grow more dangerous with time, and could ultimately become uncontainable.”
Though many have come around to our position, we must note that he is not merely “dangerous”, just as he is not simply lying when he has said the novel coronavirus, “like a miracle … will disappear.” He vacillates between, “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic,” and “I still like playing it down,” as he said on March 17 and March 19, 2020, respectively.
His unique danger lies in the fact that he is not only “criminally-minded,” as we say in forensic psychiatry, but also combines with mental pathology in a way that makes him vastly more dangerous. This, in part, is what we meant when we said he could become “uncontainable”. To the same measure that he commits felony-level crimes and perhaps even murder, he also mobilizes his “gut”, the effectiveness of which he is well aware, to maintain the unyielding support of his followers. He does not recognize, however, that this “skill” he obeys is a pathological symptom that will eventually lead to his ruin as equally as that of his “enemies”.
In the short-run, the emotional drive that pathology brings is far more effective in bulldozing others into acquiescing or enabling him than rational persuasion. In garnering fervent, irrational support from followers, it is unparalleled. This is what we see in the accelerating menace of the QAnon movement. This is not a unique dynamic; it is common in prison settings where highly mentally-impaired individuals often become gang or ring leaders. Carl Jung described it as a state of being “seized or possessed.”
Followers in a ‘Cult of Personality’
The president’s long-time associate, Cohen describes himself as a “demented follower” who fell under a “trance-like spell…. Around Trump I felt excited, alive, like he possessed the urgent and only truth, the chance for my salvation and success in life,” the former fixer writes. When helping Trump spread the birtherism lie about Barack Obama, he could hardly restrain himself: “That is what it feels like to lose control of your mind—you actually give up your common sense, sense of decency, sensitivity, even your grip on reality…. I was in a cult of personality. And I loved it.”
In this state of mind, vast suffering and deaths only solidify his following in fearful dependence and defensive idealization. As he creates more crises, these become opportunities for his criminal mind to further its grip on power. Since the growing fury will never be directed at him, it becomes an additional weapon for him to redirect against his enemies and critics. And this is what we have largely seen: the more he kills his followers, the more they cling to him.
Delusions and Lies
Hence, will the revelations that he lied about the pandemic defeat him? If they were mere lies, they likely would. If they combined with an actual belief in his lies—in other words, delusions—then they likely would not. This is the part that we can only partially discern from a distance, although there are signs that he fluctuates in and out of delusions.
Most criminal minds are not mentally ill, and most mentally ill minds are not criminal. Yet they can combine to form vastly greater power that makes democide of genocidal proportions possible. We should therefore think in terms of “and” and not “either-or.” The presence of “insanity” (a legal term) does not negate the fact that he willfully and brazenly lied, but it could make him more dangerous. And in Trump’s case, the special counsel’s report pretty much proved criminal intent. Indeed, mass killings are already happening; nearly 200,000 deaths later and entering a pandemic spiral—a catastrophic loss of control that mental health experts predicted—we are again failing to confront the problem.
How do we confront it? If we found a mass killer, we would take him into custody. If we found a person dangerous for psychological reasons, we would hospitalize him immediately. What is the equivalent for a president? We cannot convince ourselves that rules or laws do not apply; they should.