In 1962, when President John Kennedy sent a diplomatic team to brief Charles de Gaulle on the Cuban Missile Crisis and show him photos of the Soviet rockets there, the French president said he didn’t need to see the pictures. “The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me,” de Gaulle said.
Sadly, that’s no longer the case. NBC News counted scores of positions taken by President Donald Trump on dozens of issues between the election campaign and his first 100 days in office.
First he “respected” and had “confidence” in the FBI and its director, James Comey; then they couldn’t find “the leakers”; then they were the leakers; then he fired Comey, giving conflicting reasons. First the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) had to go; later parts of it could stay. First he was going to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants; then he was going to focus only on criminals; then he returned to the earlier position. First, “I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid”; then he cut Medicaid by 25 percent. First he supported “traditional” marriage; later he was “fine” with gay marriage but reversed an Obama-era protection for transgender students. First NATO was “obsolete”; later, “We strongly support NATO.” First, “We should not be focusing on Syria”; later he bombed a Syrian air base. First it was “Drain the swamp” in Washington; then he named a bevy of lobbyists to his transition team. Hillary Clinton was “crooked” for being too close to Wall Street, but Trump filled Cabinet posts with Goldman Sachs alumni. China was “raping our country” with currency manipulation, but later said, “They’re not currency manipulators.” He criticized President BarackObama for playing golf, then visited a golf club himself at least 19 times in his first 100 days.
But it gets worse. We knew about the narcissism (Trump’s demanding, like some banana-republic dictator, that his top aides go around the table and heap praise on him); the self-delusion (insisting that his mediocre inauguration crowd was the biggest ever); and the juvenile outbursts (boasting about the size of his “Nuclear Button”) — but lately there have also been reports of slurred speech, an increased reliance on a handful of adjectives (“tremendous,” “fantastic,” “incredible”), and the frequent repetition of stories that may suggest the president is losing vocabulary and, perhaps, his faculties.
Are all these things — the things that, for better or worse, make Trump Trump -— simply pieces of an unpleasant personality, or is it a personality disorder? Are these symptoms of cognitive impairment that’s likely moving toward dementia?
According to published reports, more than a dozen lawmakers met in December with a Yale University psychiatry professor to discuss Trump’s fitness for office. Dr. Bandy X. Lee reportedly warned them that the president is “going to unravel” under the pressures of the presidency. The White House brushes off such questions, so I guess everything’s fine.
Just in case, though, we have the 25th Amendment, by which the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet could declare the president “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and remove him. The 25th has never been invoked.
But there’s always a first time.
Reach Glenn Richter at email@example.com.