Andy Schmookler: To Trump supporters: Do you want to take so great a risk?
A word, please, with you who still support President Trump.
Let us momentarily set aside our political differences and talk at a different level: our shared concern for the lives of our children and grandchildren.
That sounds dramatic, I know. But let me ask you two questions:
Would it be acceptable to you for the person with his finger on the American nuclear trigger to have poor impulse control?
And would it be acceptable to you if the person who navigates our relationships with other nations in this dangerous world lacked the cognitive ability to understand anything complicated?
These questions actually do arise from what has lately been observed in President Trump’s behavior.
Republicans are among those who have expressed concern about Trump’s apparent inability to control his impulses. His attacks on the cable news host Mika Brzezinski are but the latest reminder that this president’s repeatedly acts on aggressive impulses — even when he hurts himself with such behavior.
Some who work with him reportedly wring their hands over Trump’s self-destructive impulsiveness. One hears commentators saying, “He can’t restrain himself.” Which seems true, doesn’t it? It’s hard to see how his outbursts are part of any thought-out plan.
Is someone who apparently can’t control his aggressive impulses someone you want as America’s commander-in-chief?
Perhaps it’s unlikely that Trump’s uncontrolled impulses would embroil us in a war. But, in an age of nuclear weapons, how much chance are we willing to take?
There’s something else that compounds these risks concerning “impulse control”: Trump’s apparently diminished cognitive capacities. It’s not easy, from a distance, to tell just what is going on, but that his mental functioning is impaired is becoming increasingly clear.
During the recent Republican efforts with their health care bill, Trump shocked not only reporters but also Republicans in Congress at how little he seemed to understand about the bill he was pushing. He seemed to know less about what was in “Trumpcare” than reasonably well-informed citizens.
One assumes Trump was well-briefed on this major piece of legislation, but he apparently was incapable of getting the picture. He seemed able to speak about it only with some simple and mostly meaningless catch phrases and talking points.
It’s true that the particulars of policy don’t seem to interest him. But there’s additional evidence of cognitive decline.
There have been some studies that have come out that show Trump’s language (and presumably thought) has deteriorated in a major way since, say, the 90s. These studies explore the way Trump puts sentences, thoughts, and words together, and discovered a change from well-constructed to sloppy, from reasonably cogent to simple-minded and incoherent. (Google “Trump” “language” “deterioration” to read about these apparently reputable studies.)
I am the same age as Trump. But while I may go into the kitchen and wonder what I had in mind to do when I got there, what Trump seems to be showing is not part of normal aging.
The fact that he used to be smarter than he is now -apparently a lot smarter – should alert us to the likelihood that there’s some kind of organic deterioration happening with Trump’s brain. Who knows what kind of effects deterioration of that sort could have on this president’s decision-making?
Any student of history knows that managing international affairs, and making good decisions about war and peace, requires having a grasp of matters far more complex than the Senate health care bill that about which Trump seemed so clueless.
When FDR and Churchill worked to win the war, and then the peace, they needed to see a many-dimensional chess-board, and compose complex strategies to deal with many levels. Not every leader brings their greatness to the task. But how dangerous is it for us Americans if the man at the helm of our international relations is conspicuously lacking in such intellectual capabilities?
My guess is that we’d probably avoid irreparable disaster if Trump is left to complete his term as as president, despite his apparent condition. (Even if we might have to rely on the Chinese and the Russians to do what is necessary to avoid a catastrophe.)
But we cannot know for sure. And all Americans – those who like Trump and those who do not — must recognize the risks.
In some entirely plausible scenarios, we and the rest of the world would pay a terrible price — or perhaps even beyond terrible — for taking the risk of leaving the presidency in the hands of a man lacking in impulse control and unable to master a complex picture or to think strategically.
What will future people think of us, if we take such a huge gamble, and it works out disastrously for us and them as well?
But more immediately: with your children’s lives on the line, how much chance are you willing to take?
Finally, let the point be made: the responsibility is yours for how long we gamble with having Trump’s finger on the nuclear trigger. So long as you support him, the Republicans in Congress – out of fear of you – will protect him. And as long as they protect him, the United States will be playing a kind of Russian roulette on a global scale.
Andy Schmookler is an award-winning author, and was the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia’s 6th District in 2012. His newly published book is “What We’re Up Against: The Destructive Force at Work in Our World – And How We Can Defeat It.”