Editor’s Note: Mr. Dean decided to interrupt his series on the recently discovered historical evidence corroborating Richard Nixon’s sabotaging the 1968 Vietnam peace initiative because of the importance of this day in history.
Today, January 20, 2017, only those Americans with no knowledge or who are self-deluded celebrate the start of the presidency of Donald John Trump, the most unqualified man ever to be elected to our highest office. To wit: There is no evidence anywhere that Donald Trump has even a good newspaper or television news knowledge of the American presidency; nor is there any evidence he has ever read a single autobiography or biography of any of his forty-four predecessors in our highest elected office. To the contrary, the evidence suggests he does not have sufficient concentration power to read a book, or even listen to an audio edition, not to mention receive an exhaustive briefing of the duties of his job.
Ready or not, at noon today begins the first day of 1,461 days of Trump’s (first and hopefully last) term as President of the United States—barring his death in office, or his removal from office because of a physical or mental inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office (under the 25th Amendment), or his impeachment and removal by Congress for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. Death, disability or impeachment are not likely, however.
More specifically, as president, Trump will have the best medical care available to any person in the United States, for that comes with the job. While Trump appears overweight, and a connoisseur of junk food, many modern presidents have become healthier in the job. Actuarially speaking, Trump has over 14 years of life expectancy, and the Secret Service is very good at making sure the president’s life is not cut short while in office. While there is troubling commentary about Trump’s mental suitability—for example newsman Keith Olbermann questioned his sanity with the “Hare Psychopathy Checklist” for Vanity Fair—it is doubtful Trump’s cabinet would petition Congress for his removal under the 25th Amendment, or that a Republican Congress would tolerate such an insurrection from his top appointees. (It should be noted, in passing, that President Reagan’s first chief of staff advised his replacement that he might need to invoke the 25th Amendment process because the president was “inattentive,” “inept,” and “lazy” in carrying out his duties; thus, if Trump does go off the deep end, it is not likely someone like Gen. James Mattis, Secretary of Defense, will tolerate it long.) Finally, impeachment is unlikely because Republicans control both the House and Senate, and so long as Trump signs their legislation, they will not cause him any problems.
For these reasons I expect Trump will serve at minimum one term as president, and as I recently told McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, that is enough to give me nightmares, largely because Trump is so unprepared for the job of being president. Not only does he not understand the job, he has been pushed to the hard right during the transition because he is a man with no firm political beliefs of his own.
Preparedness for the Unexpected
Presidential campaigns do not truly focus on the capability of candidates to handle unexpected events should they become president. It is doubtful George W. Bush would have been elected president had America known how imminent the attacks of September 11, 2001, had been, given that Bush II had little grasp of national security. After 9/11 occurred, many Americans were pleased his father had pushed him to have former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his vice president.
Post-9/11 the issue of preparedness to handle such unexpected events has morphed into a secondary campaign issue, the so-called “3 AM telephone call”—or the preparedness of a presidential candidate to deal with difficult national security issues that arrive at the White House in the dead of the night. This issue played out during the Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton campaign, with Mrs. Clinton’s ads claiming Trump was not ready to handle such a call, and Trump claiming Hillary had slept through such a call as secretary of state during the attacks on the Benghazi embassy. The matter never arose to be a serious issue. Polling showed most all voters felt Hillary had all the experience needed to be president, while few felt Trump had such experience. In the end, Trump voters did not care.
People knowledgeable about government, Washington insiders, do care that Trump is totally unprepared to deal with the unexpected matters that will make their way to the White House because they cannot be resolved at a lower level of the executive branch. Trump, of course, claims he is prepared because of his “gut instincts,” or “common sense,” but many issues that arrive in the Oval Office call for actual knowledge and experience, which Trump lacks. In addition, Trump has made it clear he is not one to study or read briefing books, or for that matter sit through lengthy meetings necessary to make himself familiar with issues.
Think of the Trump White House this way: A president is like the captain of an airplane that inevitably finds itself confronting endless storms of varying danger, or even under fire by heat-seeking missiles. Most people, like passengers, are not even aware of the difficulties, or existential threats, because the skill of the captain averts them, drawing upon his experience to avoid the dangers along the way.
Trump is now our captain, and he is flying the ship of state with no experience whatsoever in the operations of government. Not only is it going to be a bumpy ride, there is no assurance we will land safely, given his lack of knowledge, experience and skill, not to mention his unwillingness to acquire them. In fact, he has hired to assist him a team that in some cases is totally ignorant of the jobs they are taking on, so it may get terrifying, and it will be something of a miracle if we survive 1,461 days of a Trump presidency.
Trump Is an Empty Vessel
Following the November 8, 2016, election, NBC News prepared an analysis of Trump’s positions on some 23 recurring issues during the campaign, noting that he had taken 141 different stances. This NBC study concludes: “After more than a year and a half of stadium rallies, around-the-clock interviews, sweeping primary wins, and one stunning general election victory, the Republican president-elect has the most contradictory and confusing platform in recent history.”
If placed in an even broader context of his long public career, Trump has no carefully considered and long-held core beliefs whatsoever, rather he has been on all sides of many of the most important issues facing the nation. Trump appears to believe anything and everything is negotiable. Given the fact he has no real core beliefs he has been susceptible to the thinking of others.
It will be recalled that Trump had several campaign managers, first Corey Lewandowski and then Paul Manafort before his final team, which assembled during the last 90 days before the election: Stephen Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. Lewandowski, Manafort, Bannon, and Conway clearly realized Trump was an empty vessel into which they deposited ideas, which explains how some of his conflicting stances developed. Bannon and Conway, however, are fronts for billionaire hedge fund operator Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who have strong beliefs. As a result, Rebekah directed much of the transition.
The Mercer agenda is radical right-wing. It is not difficult to trace Donald Trump’s sudden turn to the hard-right, which occurred during his transition. Rebekah Mercer is a direct link to the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers, Betsy DeVos and her family’s foundation, along with countless other conservative causes. The Mercers’ fingerprints can probably be found on nominations who want to abolish departments and agencies like EPA, the SEC, Department of Energy, Department of Housing, and the like. Because Trump has no strong feelings about any of these matters, and he needed all the help he could get during the transition, he has given those who came to his assistance at the end of his campaign to help him win a free hand in organizing his administration.
Authoritarians Are Not Good at Democracy
Trump’s authoritarian personality is also very troubling. Authoritarianism does not work well in a democracy.
In the first column I wrote about Trump’s candidacy in July 2015, I explained his authoritarian nature. As I noted at the time, authoritarian leaders are “dominating; they oppose equality; they desire personal power; and they are amoral.” In addition, they are “usually intimidating and bullying, faintly hedonistic, vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheat to win, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, tell others what they want to hear, take advantage of ‘suckers,’ specialize in creating false images to sell self, may or may not be religious, and are usually politically and economically conservative and Republican.” These traits may work well in the military or law enforcement but have not worked well for American presidents. Richard Nixon, who kept his authoritarian personality behind closed doors, makes the case against these personalities doing well in a democracy.
Other than the gold in Fort Knox, it has been clear from the outset that what Trump wants (read: demands) is attention. I recently re-read the psychological profile done by Northwestern Professor of Psychology Dan McAdams for The Atlantic. Professor McAdams noted Trump’s authoritarian personality in his analysis, and his appeal to authoritarian followers. More importantly, as the professor looked for what might be behind his bid for the American presidency, he found a striking answer. It was a giant ego trip, my words not the professor’s. Here is how Professor McAdams concluded his findings:
Who, really, is Donald Trump? What’s behind the actor’s mask? I can discern little more than narcissistic motivations and a complementary personal narrative about winning at any cost. It is as if Trump has invested so much of himself in developing and refining his socially dominant role that he has nothing left over to create a meaningful story for his life, or for the nation. It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why. [Emphasis in original.]
In short, we have a captain lifting off for 1,461 days of flight, a man with no prior experience in such an undertaking who, in fact, is on a colossal ego trip. The world media, along with people everywhere, are thrilled to be watching this very dangerous high-stakes political reality TV show, because it could result in the end of the end of the United States of America as we know as this empty-suit ego-maniac fights for any of many crazy right-wing ideas that he has only recently embraced and which only a fringe of Americans support.
For some of us it is more troubling than captivating.
Thank you, sir, for your astute perspective, your honesty and experience. We are living in a time when none of those are seen as important in leaders. Our future as a nation will depend on the courage of those who will openly oppose his narcissism.
There are a couple of typos near the end, but no lack of clarity. #PresidentTweety is just an apprentice, but it’s going to be rather hard to fire him.
Russia, Iran, and China are so happy they are liable to fall down, go boom. John Dean didn’t talk much about them, but they are the BIG winners now. Russia for the obvious and direct reasons of discrediting American-style democracy and having some unknown amount of leverage over Trump. Iran continues their local winning streak funded by American tax dollars, continuing to grow and strengthen their sphere of influence (and look for Yemen to collapse next).
China is the most interesting case, however. They couldn’t keep up the growth, but now they can blame the Donald. They may even decide to neuter him by invading Taiwan largely to demonstrate Trump’s impotence on the largest possible international scale. They want to do it, and now’s the best possible time. The economic chaos is going to hurt everyone else much worse than China suffers, and their main priority remains on getting back to what China regards as the normal situation, with China as the #1 civilization in the world. From the Chinese perspective, they’ve merely had a couple of bad centuries, and it’s time to get back to normal.
However, I’m not so sanguine about Trump’s survival in Washington. He could still get Bill-Cosby-ed out of town. The market value of the other Donald stories is skyrocketing…
The only comfort I get is reading at CNN that not only did Trump win with only 46% of the vote, but that percentage represented 23% of eligible voters. Voter turnout was about 50%, lowest ever – And, I think we can thank the Russian interference for the MSM coverage that was so demoralizing.
That means there are 75%+ of potentials to work with for 2018 and 2020.
One more thing. I live in a Red state. The MSM has done an abysmal job of covering the semi-hostile takeover of the Party of Lincoln, particularly over the last 20-30 yrs by the Federalist/States’ Rights Koch Libertarians in the state capitols. It ain’t funny and, if you didn’t know it, Koch Libertarianism is very authoritarian. That’s what made the Republican Establishment’s acceptance of Trump so easy – They are totalitarians together.
Mr. Dean relies upon the extreme liberal Keith Olbermann (who was fired from MSNBC for his radicalism) (and the very biased NBC, for that matter), for this piece. Enough said. Also, he complains that Mr. Trump does not have enough experience, this coming after eight years of Barack Obama in the White House, a person who spent two years in the Senate but spent most of that time campaigning for President, and a short period in the Illinois General Assembly where he mostly voted “present”, and time as a community organizer; no time in business, which is where the majority of America’s jobs are created and where most people work, unlike Mr. Trump. He also chides Mr. Trump for alleged authoritarianism, again after eight years of Barack Obama using executive orders to such unconstitutional degrees that several federal judges ruled that several of them were unconstitutional when challenged. (The criticism of Mr. Trump’s diet and weight are a bit odd; Bill Clinton was famous for his junk food diet and being overweight while in office although I’m sure Mr. Dean found no problem with that.) And there is no doubt that Barack Obama has a large ego, which Mr. Dean claims is a trait of Mr. Trump. He further labels Mr. Trump “hard right” and “crazy right-wing”; he is not as far right as Barack Obama is far left. And what is so “far right” about wanting to get the economy moving forward, after eight years of the lowest economic growth of any president in U.S. history? Or getting the unemployment rate down that has been stagnantly high for eight years? Or creating more opportunity for minorities and the lower-income folks? Or restoring America’s strength in its national security? Or securing our borders in an era of increased terrorism and known threats of terrorism within our borders? Or decreasing the out of control federal government debt? Or decreasing the addition of millions on welfare the last eight years? Or decreasing the addition of millions on food stamps the last eight years? Or addressing the sweetheart deal given to Iran which gave them a path to nuclear weapons? Or improving race relations after the hit they’ve taken the last eight years? Or stopping the recent policy of attacking Israel, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, which is very important for America’s security?
If there were anything in your rant that was true, I’d have to argue it,….but you’ve gone off the deep end.
No verifiable facts, easily fact-checked false claims, bashing Obama. Yep, yet another useless rightwing screed.
If you don’t like the facts presented in the article, make up your own.
Oh, you’re one of those kick-the poor FoxNews type guys….
You do have to wonder about his true agenda.
You may want to consider putting down the bong.
I don’t think I read one actual fact in your entire post. From the reason Olbermann was fired, to the number of years Obama was in the Illinois Senate, to the number of years Obama was in the U.S. Senate, and on and on and on. No facts and stuff entirely made up. No wonder you’re a Trump fan.
Obama isn’t Far Left. You don’t have ANY far left politicians in the USA. The idea of real socialism , in itself only Left rather than far left as any real socialist government has mixed economics, is oddly repugnant to US citizens – I look to 60 years of associating Socialism with Communism.
Without thinking about it, Trump is far right. He’s authoritarian, secular and promotes an almost exclusive privatisation of all national assets. He also invigorate privatised nationalism and doesn’t like the press; nothing to do with being right wing, but worrying if only because of his very low skill set in communicating effective strategy. He’s a failed businessman – yes you heard right; I said failed. The man hasn’t turned a gross profit from n one amortised assets since he inherited a $4billion asset fortune all those years ago. He has essentially lived off the cash gains at a base interest level and succeeded in now growth. His profits are merely from investment return rather than real growth. I expect the same form any national strategy for the USA.
As for “increased terrorism”… reading too many oligarchical news sources. Terrorism has always been with us…. its part of extremism which has no place in the world at all. I don’t think Trump is the enemy of the people; he barely knows what the people want, but I do think he is completely incompetent and the stooge of much cleverer and calculated individuals. He;s in because of a 35 year break down in governmental politics replaced by a disruptive movement as used in day to day economics.
You are so incredibly misinformed. Former President Barack Obama endeared 8 years of racism and an unpresidented lack of respect from Congress. He was given no support, his laws were rejected, most without discussion JUST BECAUSE HE WAS BLACK! He had no choice but to use his executive orders as a means to allow business to be carried out. He went through 8 years of trump questioning his right to be president. He was chastised and belittled at every turn. YET! he maintained his composure, dealt with many issues including multiple killings in school. (ALL were carried out by white, boys born and raised in this country). He handled those incidents over and over with such grace and compassion. He REDUCED the debt given to him by Bush by 2/3. He DECREASED unemployment. The reason more and more people are on are on welfare is because many states opted out to the financial aid they could’ve received in order to develop their own plans to help get people off of it! Please note I DO support developing programs that trains or retrains welfare recipients to get back to work. On matters of terrorism, there has been only one so called terrorist attack on in our country, all of the others were carried out by individuals who were terrorist wanna be’s. You have no clue as to the many, many attacks that were thwarted by our national security. And one more thing, he is going out of office with highest approval rating in history. Trump one by cheating, lying, insighting riots, bringing back racism, exploiting women and especially with the help of the Russian puppeteers. DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THE FACT THAT HIS DISGUSTING CAMPAIGN ONLY GOT HIM A WIN BASED UPON 23% OF AMERICAN VOTERS. He won do to a corrupt and outdated electoral college. HILLARY WON THE POPULAR VOTE BY FAR!
And another “crazy right-wing” idea to add to those I mentioned in an earlier comment: repealing and replacing the failed Obamacare with something that provides help for those who truly need it and is not as expensive as Obamacare (My example is one of millions: in 2015 my healthcare premiums were $292 per month with a whopping $6,000 annual deductible, with only an annual exam covered before the deductible is reached, in 2016 it was a $415 month premium for the same coverage, now in 2017 it is a $733 monthly premium for a $7,150 annual deductible with only an annual exam covered before the deductible is reached. This is out of control. And the salt on the wound is that Barack Obama lied by saying that health care insurance would become cheaper, that if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor (mine is not on the same plan), and that if you like your plan you can keep your plan (my plan is not the same, certainly not financially, and not with the providers offered through it). No one can possibly argue that these are positive changes.).
If the country had gotten on board with the plan, it could have worked.
Good luck with getting coverage NOW, dude!
Blame the insurance company, if in fact this story is true.
It was all a lie. Obama admitted to but didn’t try to rectify. Tried of Libs claiming Trump is doing away with health care. It will be reformed but without the penalties.
Healthcare in the USA is and always will be a global joke. It should be based on income tax sources and paid for by everyone. But that wont happen in the USA.
Well, let’s wait to see the “plan”, if there even is one. It was reported today that their “plan” is to issue block grants to the states. That’s not a plan, its an abdication. But then right wingers never liked the idea of any health care plan, given that they believe in survival of the fittest.
Oh, and one more thing, Obama care rates increased due to the insurance companies raising their rates. What Obamacare did was get ALL of Americans insured. The INSURANCE COMPANIES created the plans with only a few must haves. The states that refused the Federal money to help develop their medical assistance programs caused misuse and abuse of the system causing insurance companies to raise their rates!
The initial deal with insurance companies was to allow you to keep your plan, of which you did only the plans had to adjusted to assure that everyone had access to the same plans. Again all of the rates and plans were established by the insurance companies NOT by Obamacare.
As you see already, trump has repealed only a couple of things within Obamacare, destabilizing the plans where rates could and will go so high that the industry collapses and NO ONE will be able to afford healthcare. Should this happen our economy will collapse as well. So hang on to your boot straps cause it’s a comin!
Obamacare was a compromise, an agreement that makes all parties equally unhappy. The only thing that will make our health care system “right” is to go to a single payer, universal coverage system like every other developed nation in the world.
Wow. Made a non-nasty comment earlier & it has disappeared.
Only people it ‘attacked’ with no obscenities was Koch Libertarians.
Let’s see if this one disappears.
Still trouble making, I see. Some never learn.
Everything said about Trump could be absolutely true but the American voters were given a choice. The question is, “Who among all of Trump’s challengers, primary and general, would have been a better choice using the same criteria”?
Funny how 3 million more Americans made a choice that wasn’t Trump.
That 3 million voter edge was from California and New York. Both Democrat strongholds and essentially written off by Trump. Under the circumstances the popular vote margin should have been larger for Hillary.
I thought Killary was going to be the next Pres. Shutter at the thought. And had she won…I wouldn’t be rioting in the streets. I would consider running for a state office perhaps.
A very interesting question!. It only boiled down to Clinton in the end – and she was not the right choice given all the scandals (proven or others) around her. This really was a one horse race all the way.
So if this and other diatribes over a election won by the rule of law and Constitution continues to produce such tears, there will be no lack of water in four years.
Mr. Dean was a Dick Nixon and Watergate enabler and had a ringside seat when the White House sank to the depths, so he provides a unique perspective on the upcoming and worrysome trump “presidency.”
Mr. Dean correctly observes herr trump’s authoritarian proclivities. I would therefore appreciate a column in which Mr. Dean ties in these proclivities to adolf hitler’s, because I fear the country may head in that direction.
Thanks for your opinion, coming from your experience in the White House, it far outweighs the opinion of mooks like me who try to pay attention to the news, but are stuck with the poor quality of those sources.
I’ve never been more fearful for the future of our nation. I felt that GWBush was a moron before he was elected, and my hunch turned out to be correct. This threat is farrrrr beyond even that level of stupidity. Thanks for having the courage to speak out about this terrible turn this nation has amused itself with. The outcome is not going to be funny, at all.
The article is all personal bias with no facts, and presents observations and bias of others with no provable facts.
Every name and insult thrown at Trump is exactly what Obama is. The author is Projecting – it is what Communists and Fascists do, and do very well. Especially when all media is weaponized against the citizens and used to push a certain agenda, false narratives, and out right lies, which has happened in the entire Western world media. Got to keep the status quo – Globalist Communism.
Obama was a community organizer which is a nice way of saying Communist Activist. Obama was put in the Senate by unseen forces. His presidential race was kicked off in the living room of convicted bomber and Communist activist, Bill Ayers. His Senate record is nothing to be proud of. His records are sealed, and very little is known about him.
Obama was chosen to be president. His run was well planned, well financed (by Communist organizations ), and he was put in by fraud. He was put in the Senate by fraud and corruption.
All my thoughts written here. Thank you. I so wish Hillary hadn’t gotten into so many messes. She did at least have the experience to make many less mistakes than Trump. In short, we have had had an actor as a president before. I worry more for my children’s country. Imagine the mindset of the people who elected him knowing and seeing his inabilities. Now I pray for 4 years that he would listen to advisors that have knowledge on the topic of running a country like ours.
This is reality not a reality show.
Their’s one thing you are all leaving out an it’s the most important thing about all of this. God put Donald J Trump in the President seat, All the Christians that go vote did. When God is in control people and decision are made by God, people are not following their ways any longer. That’s the difference between a Man an Women being lead by self or being lead by God.
Well, I think your god is a lousy judge of character.
I love being lectured by an ex convict. Serve Nixon, then bash him. Go to jail for your activities, then pontificate on a new president whom you have never worked for. Please, sit down, shut up and bear in mind your criminal misconduct while working in the White House.
OMG…such a crock of shit. Isn’t he old enough to even know the qualifications to be the President? Must have flunked History 101.
Honestly who cares what this synchophant-turned-snitch has to say? Grammatically and logically, this article reads like it was written by a high school student.
A good read but have to ask, if your advice is good advice, how did our country end up where it is today? Why did the people vote for This change?
Thank you Mr. Dean. Your insights are invaluable.
A robust polemic, but Dick Cheney was not someone that I was happy to have taking the 3am calls. But then I am not one of the ‘many Americans’ – not even an American!
This is a great article, I hope somewhere in the wings, there is a political Sully Sullenberger, to guide this plane in, when the doofus in chief realizes he can’t fly. God help us all!
The populations of Congressional districts vary widely across the United States. You have chosen two examples while ignoring those states with one Representative and over 1,000,000 people. It is further complicated by the “one person, one vote” Supreme Court ruling that decreed all people, not just registered voters, was the basis for determining Congressional districts. The reason California is a Democratic stronghold is because the California legislature draws Congressional District boundaries. They are drawn in such a fashion to insure Democrat majorities. Both parties practice this but in states affected by the original 1965 Voting Rights Act they require federal permission to change any voting practices. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act as amended, California could well be in violation of federal law. That Act requires positive voter identification in any state or district where voter participation is less than 50%. When the Republicans controlled California there wasn’t much clamor for the popular vote. The thing about California that seems strange to me is that corporate farmers want alien labor, legal or otherwise, while rich computer folks send their jobs to China because of lower wages while demanding the person with a local shop or franchise pay a living minimum wage. Now they want to secede not realizing all benefits that flow from the United States would cease. First CA has to eliminate the no secession clause that was demanded when they became a state because most Californian preferred slavery since Mexico was a slavery nation. All Confederate states had to sign the same pledge before being readmitted to the Union. And we are a Republic, not a Confederacy or a Democracy and this is not the first time the popular vote getter didn’t win. Trump’s ego is not near the danger that popular vote national elections would be.