Monday 10 December 2018

Trump's madder than Lear - he doesn't have a Fool

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

When we see those remarkable pictures of Trump being praised by each member of his cabinet in turn, we are inclined to say that he really mustn't care what anyone thinks of him. That anyone who would indulge himself in such a display, anyone who has moved so far beyond self-parody, must be in a place of utter indifference known only to the blissfully deranged.

And yet we also know that at some level the opposite is true: that he must care - because he spends a lot of his time complaining bitterly about how he is perceived.

It's just that he believes the problem is in the people doing the perceiving.

Which is probably one of the reasons why a number of mental health professionals who have come together in the Duty To Warn group, have declared that he is suffering from acute paranoia, and malignant narcissism, and a number of other serious personality disorders - all of which have persuaded them that they cannot stand idly by, that they are no longer bound by what is known as the Goldwater Rule.

And, of course, they are right to move beyond these pseudo-ethical strictures which were introduced in the 1960s after various psychiatrists rightly adjudged the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater to be "psychologically unfit" to become president of the United States, only for hacks in their profession to react by imposing this concept that it is wrong for a psychiatrist to offer such an opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination of the individual concerned.

Which in itself is a kind of madness - as if a trained professional observing the public behaviour of Donald Trump would need to speak to the president personally in his private rooms in order to make an intelligent assessment of the situation. After all, if the enthusiastic amateur can make a correct diagnosis from a distance of 4,000 miles, just by watching that cabinet meeting on TV, or by checking out Twitter, why should people who do this kind of thing for a living be excluded?

There is indeed a Duty To Warn - though it must be said that there was a most eminent amateur who got there a long time ago, and he too was not overly concerned with the Goldwater Rule, nor its Elizabethan equivalent.

No, Shakespeare called it - and he called it again in King Lear, foreshadowing Trump with the scene in which the ludicrous old king demands that his daughters declare their love for him, leading to later scenes of extravagant madness on the heath with no one left to tell him the truth but his Fool.

But there is an important difference here - Trump has no Fool. He is madder than Lear, because he has nobody who can tell him things he doesn't want to hear. He would see such a person as the enemy, as somebody else's Fool.

So it should be a simple matter of signing him in for the appropriate treatment regime - if it weren't for the slight complication that Trump was elected to this position, and that there are many Americans (including the relevant members of the Republican party) who don't mind the fact that Trump is obviously quite unwell. Indeed they are rejoicing in the opportunity that this is giving them for plunder.

But old "Shakes" was there too, with that thing about "method" in the madness - the Trumper's method here being to behave as he does, in order to establish in the people's minds the idea that they are now indeed living under a dictatorship, and will be for the forseeable future.

Clearly he is by temperament and even by interior design a dictator, who loathes the "checks and balances" of democracy with such fervour that he can't bear even to be in the company of democratically elected leaders of strange old countries like France or Germany - enjoying only his meetings with sheiks and "strongmen" and other such characters who are in the enviable position of running their countries entirely for their own enrichment and that of their associates, without the input of judges and journalists and mental health professionals. And without elections, in any meaningful sense.

This is where he wants to take it, but things being the way they are in these politically correct times, Trump can't just declare himself President-For-Life without getting a lot of grief from various losers.

So he carries on anyway, exactly as if he was running some high-maintenance junta, sitting there in authentic Latin American style, smiling radiantly as he is being flattered by his "Cabinet".

But he has woken up the world, too, helping to bring out the young to vote in France and in Britain, and they will be voting in America the next time, if there is a next time.

If there is a next time... with so many Americans deeply motivated to take him down, there is probably no way that he can win anything resembling a free and fair election in 2020. But sometimes you don't have such elections, and sometimes you don't have elections at all, and when you look at the smile on the Trumper as everyone around that table declares their devotion to him, you'd have to say that by 2020, such a man could quite easily find a very good reason to postpone all that voting for a while.

In which case the Goldwater Rule may not seem so important after all.

Sunday Independent

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