Donald Trump’s slide into unhinged despotism has shifted from gradual to sudden in the last few days.
First, the he suggested—after being reminded by a reporter that the punishment for treason is death—that the former FBI Director, the former FBI Deputy Director and at least two FBI agents had committed treason by daring to investigate him. Then he gave his toady Attorney General unprecedented power to selectively declassify any and all materials related to the probe into his campaign’s ties with Russia, thereby not only retaliating against his own Justice Department but also endangering the lives of its agents. He posted a doctored video of the speaker of House, falsified to make it appear as though she were drunk or mentally impaired. He stormed out a meeting on infrastructure, calling an impromptu press conference in which he forced cabinet members to stand by and attest to how calm he is.
And then there’s whatever this is, written during an official state visit to Japan:
North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me. I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me, & also smiled when he called Swampman Joe Biden a low IQ individual, & worse. Perhaps that’s sending me a signal?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019
In what may well be the most reckless and bizarre tweet of his entire presidency, Trump did the following: 1) made light of provocative saber rattling by the biggest immediate threat to the host nation of his state visit; 2) cozied up to the brutal dictator of the world’s most repressive autocratic regime, Kim Jong Un; 3) made himself out to be braver than his staff and advisers in the military and diplomatic corps; 4) commiserated with said brutal dictator against the former vice president of the United States and his potential political opponent in the next election; 5) almost certainly lied about the interaction with the dictator, who is very unlikely to have said or done anything like what Trump described; and 6) wrote about the dictator “sending him a signal” in the context of said commiseration as if he were a middle-school student writing in his or her diary about a first crush.
As Dan Rather said:
We have a president of the United States wink at a murderous dictator to mock a former vice president? As what? A campaign surrogate for 2020? This is despicable in too many ways to count.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) May 26, 2019
At some point, even Republicans are going to have to decide how much more of this they can tolerate. Trump is displaying increasingly dangerous and unstable behavior with unpredictable impacts on American national security. Mike Pence is odious to liberals and progressives for many reasons and would make a horrible president in all the ways for which the conservative base would love him, but he wouldn’t be a Mad King threatening to take the entire country down with him in decompensating fits of destructive narcissism.
Trump isn’t fit to have control of the nation’s nuclear codes or state secrets. Even his closest allies know this, and there will have to be some sort of political intervention by Republicans to avert disaster. We are unlikely to make it through to January 2021 without serious repercussions if nothing is done in the meantime.