Jon Chait flags yet another terrifying transcript of a Trump conversation, this one with the Prime Minster of Austria or Australia or one of them countries.
Tl;dr: PM tries to explain a very simple refugee policy that a 12-year-old of normal intelligence would understand after about 30 seconds of exposition. (This is not hyperbole). Then he tries again. And again. And again. Trump never gives any evidence of understanding anything he’s being told.
What’s the matter with this guy? Some possibilities (these are not of course mutually exclusive):
Trump is so narcissistic that he can’t focus on anything other than himself for more than a few seconds, unless it’s something in which he has a compelling pre-existing interest: a category which apparently includes golf, the genitalia of young women, and not much if anything else.
If we want to try to get technical, this itself comes across as a form of attention deficit disorder: specifically, he often gives the impression of having the attention span of a fruit fly, which of course makes it impossible for him to learn anything (Getting this guy to actually read a three-page executive summary is probably equivalent to trying to get Bart Simpson to do a book report on Being and Time).
There’s a powerful negative synergy at work here, in that his ADD is compounded by his impatience with any subject he doesn’t know much about, which again appears to be basically everything other than a couple or three topics, none of which are germane to the execution of his current job.
In addition, Trump’s narcissism, if that’s what underlies all this, manifests itself constantly as some sort of florid compensation for what appears to be a deep psychic wound or wounds, that he frantically tries to cover up with his continual, extraordinarily socially inappropriate insistence that he is the most talented, impressive, beloved, and admired person he has ever met. The Boy Scout convention incident is typical: Trump insists to reporters that he got a standing ovation that lasted five minutes after he left the stage. (Set a timer and try to applaud for five minutes. A friend of mine who is a historian of the Soviet Union tells me of the agonizing problem encountered by Soviet officials at the end of any Stalin speech, to wit, who was going to be the first person to stop applauding. No doubt North Korea’s elite faces a similar problem today).
If this wasn’t enough, he then invents a completely imaginary phone call from the head of the organization, in which he’s told it was the greatest speech ever given to its members. And this isn’t some one-off incident: Trump does and says things like this all the time.
Trump’s rambling, often incomprehensible style of speech has led to speculation that he may be suffering from early stage dementia (he’s 71, so this isn’t particularly improbable).
People sometimes compare Trump’s mental abilities and deficits to Reagan and Bush II, but this seems to me to be a radical understatement of the gravity of the situation. It’s true that Reagan did seem to manifest some serious cognitive slippage toward the end of his presidency, and that Bush the Lesser was intellectually incurious in the extreme. Peggy Noonan once celebrated the latter quality in a column that is perfect distillation of right-wing anti-intellectualism:
Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He’s normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He’s not exotic. But if there’s a fire on the block, he’ll run out and help. He’ll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, “Where’s Sally?” He’s responsible. He’s not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, “I warned Joe about that furnace.” And, “Does Joe have children?” And “I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it’s formidable and yet fleeting.” When the fire comes they talk. Bush ain’t that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain’t that guy. Americans love the guy who ain’t that guy.
Yet neither of these men ever exhibited anything close to the complete train wreck that is Trump’s mind, if you want to call it that.
This isn’t some snarky joke about stupid right-wingers: it’s a physiological-political crisis that is rapidly reaching, if it hasn’t already reached, levels that ought to bring the 25th amendment into play.