|Trump and Emperor Nero - two of a kind?|
Some likely think my comparisons of Donald Trump to mentally deranged Roman emperors of the past are off target, but this past week and stories coming out of the White House suggest that the comparisons are all to appropriate. Worse yet, they suggest that dangerous actions could come from an emotionally and - in my view and that of others - mentally ill occupant of the White House. A piece in the Washington Post based on interviews with 22 White House officials, friends and advisers to the president and other administration allies suggests that thinking Americans - which excludes Fox News viewers and evangelical Christians - should be very worried if not truly frightened. Here are story excerpts:
Inside the White House, aides over the past week have described an air of anxiety and volatility — with an uncontrollable commander in chief at its center. . . . As one official put it: “We haven’t bottomed out.”
Trump is now a president in transition, at times angry and increasingly isolated. He fumes in private that just about every time he looks up at a television screen, the cable news headlines are trumpeting yet another scandal. He voices frustration that son-in-law Jared Kushner has few on-air defenders. He revives old grudges.
Still, Trump’s friends are increasingly concerned about his well-being, worried that the president’s obsession with cable commentary and perceived slights is taking a toll on the 71-year-old. “Pure madness,” lamented one exasperated ally.
Retired four-star Army general Barry McCaffrey said the American people — and Congress especially — should be alarmed.
“I think the president is starting to wobble in his emotional stability and this is not going to end well,” McCaffrey said. “Trump’s judgment is fundamentally flawed, and the more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase.”
This portrait of Trump at a moment of crisis just over a year after taking office is based on interviews with 22 White House officials, friends and advisers to the president and other administration allies, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss Trump’s state of mind.
The tumult comes as special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference and the president’s possible obstruction of justice has intensified. Meanwhile, Kushner, a White House senior adviser, was stripped last week of his access to the nation’s top secrets amid increasing public scrutiny of his foreign contacts and of his mixing of business and government work.
Trump seethed with anger last Wednesday night over cable news coverage of a photo, obtained by Axios, showing Sessions at dinner with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation, and another top Justice Department prosecutor. The outing was described in news reports as amounting to an act of solidarity after Trump had attacked Sessions in a tweet that morning.
The next morning, Trump was still raging about the photo, venting to friends and allies about a dinner he viewed as an intentional show of disloyalty.
I definitely do not sleep well know that we have in essence a mad man in the White House.“Trump’s fundamentally distorted personality — which at its core is chaotic, volatile and transgressive — when combined with the powers of the presidency had to end poorly,” said Peter Wehner, a veteran of the three previous Republican administrations and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “What we’re now seeing is the radiating effects of that, and it’s enveloped him, his White House, his family and his friends.”
Trump is testing the patience of his own staff, some of whom think he is not listening to their advice. White House counsel Donald McGahn and national economic council director Gary Cohn have been especially frustrated, according to other advisers.
“Morale is the worst it’s ever been,” said a Republican strategist in frequent contact with White House staff. “Nobody knows what to expect.”