Agent of Chaos
To say the first eight months of the Trump presidency has been a little chaotic, is like saying Hurricane Harvey dropped a little water on Houston. It’s been fairly obvious. Last August CNBC polled some 13,000 business people, asking them what one word best describes Trump’s management style, and overwhelmingly the words were chaos or chaotic. Metaphors like train wreck and dumpster fire were most popular. Sixteen White House officials were fired or resigned in the first six months. There were constant rumors of backbiting and infighting. You’ve heard about the TV promotion called “Shark Week?” In Trump’s White House, every week is Shark Week. We’re not that surprised by all this, because his campaign was exactly the same way.
It’s not as if he were stupid (which he is) or incompetent (which he is). It’s that Trump not only likes chaos, he thrives on it. In fact, he creates the chaos himself; as we just saw, it’s his management style. “The prince of chaos,” writes Trump biographer Gwenda Blair. Bruce Nobles, who was once fired by Trump, says “I’m not surprised by anything I’m seeing. He’s always liked chaos.” Former Trump Organization VP Barbara Res: “He’s spent his life creating and surrounding himself with chaos so that he can be the one person who can emerge in charge.” CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein says Trump “likes chaos. He enjoys a situation in which no one totally feels the ground secure under them.” Joshua Green, who writes for Bloomberg Businessweek, has a new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. In it he argues that most politicians like calm and organization, but Trump thrives in a reality show format (within the industry it’s known as the tabloid model). He believes that if you put people at each others’ throats, it causes the best and the brightest to rise to the top. I’d say that just one look at his administration disproves that theory.
Does anyone think this is the way to run a country? Outside of his base, I mean. You know, the “poorly educated. We love the poorly educated!” Does Trump somehow believe he can apply his chaos principle to the whole nation? So maybe the best and brightest rise up. What about the rest of us? No one in his right mind believes crap like that. Well, I think it’s pretty clear that our Dear Leader is not in his right mind, if he’s in any mind at all. Let’s look at Trump’s chaos theory in practice.
Seven days into his presidency he issued the first travel (Muslim) ban. He did it suddenly, without notifying senior advisors or anyone in Homeland Security who would have to begin implementing the policy. There was worldwide chaos in airports, as people were detained or sent back home.
In late July he tweeted a new policy: transgender people would no longer be allowed in the military. The Pentagon was not consulted, nor was anyone else. It caused instant chaos throughout the armed forces.
In early September he announced an end to the DACA program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. The ensuing nationwide chaos caused him to backpedal. How about the chaos in these people’s lives, to say nothing of the lives of their parents, who are here illegally? ICE is haunting schoolyards and courthouses, to bust and deport any brown-skinned people they can. People are afraid to go shopping, for God’s sake. And for those who would say, “So what? They’re here illegally,” I would tell them to be fruitful and multiply with themselves. This is not what America stands for, or at least what it used to stand for.
His constant threats to Little Rocket Man, Kim Jong-un, has the military on pins and needles, not knowing if we’re going to war, or just having smoke blown their our asses. Is he crazy, stupid, or just bluffing? All indications lead to all of the above. It’s also obvious that he’s an attention whore (no offense to sex workers). The spotlight must always be on him.
With tension high with North Korea, and after multiple hurricanes devastated Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, what does he do? He picks a fight with the NFL by going after black athletes taking a knee during the national anthem, reframing the narrative of protesting brutality against minorities into disrespect for the flag. Now the NFL is in chaos, as some players continue taking a knee, others link arms, while some teams remain in the locker room until after the anthem (as they used to do until 2009).
It would be easy to conclude from the above that Trump’s chaos is intentional. Maybe he’s trying to break us down. He enjoys it, but I’m not so sure that it is intentional. Trump isn’t that smart, for one thing. There’s no evidence of cognitive thinking in him; he automatically reacts to stimuli. If you could look inside his head, I think you’d see a walnut over in one corner; that’s his brain. Everywhere else is swirling wind. I’m a big fan of Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post Recently he wrote: “Chaos in traditional politics is bad. It suggests a president who doesn’t really have control over his people and a White House that resembles a roller coaster . . . Remember that for Trump, appearances matter most.” I rather like the metaphor I heard just the other day — Shakespeare meets the Keystone Kops.
Luckily for me, as I was writing this, there was another development. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and has announced he will be retiring at the end of his term. He’s made some snarky comments about the president in the last few months. In August he openly questioned Trump’s stability and competence. And so it was the beginning of Trump’s latest pissing contest. As I was writing this, Corker got two more shots in. He called the White House an adult daycare center. Then the next day he said that only (Secretary of State) Tillerson, (Secretary of Defense) Mattis, and (Chief of Staff) Kelly “help separate our country from chaos.” There’s the magic word again.
I know I’m dating myself (no one else will go out with me), but I remember the comedy spy series “Get Smart.” The enemy organization was called Kaos. In one on the interminable Batman movies, the Joker calls himself an agent of chaos. These guys are all amateurs compared to Donald Trump. I’ve known people like this; people who seem to be surrounded by a little tornado of chaos. It affects the environment of everyone they’re around. Most of the time, it’s unconscious. These people seem to be so rudderless they’re just all over the place; in their thoughts and actions, and even their speech sometimes. In no one else is this more apparent than with Trump.
There’s an ongoing controversy within the mental health professionals. Since 1973, part of the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of professional ethics, known as the Goldwater Rule. It says it’s unethical for mental health professionals to diagnose a public figure they haven’t examined personally. It was the result of an article in which over 1000 mental health professionals said Barry Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president. He sued and won $75,000. So psychologists and psychoanalysts are hesitant to state publicly that they think Donald Trump is crazier than a shithouse rat. Lately, though, a new principle has entered the discussion, which would appear to “trump” the Goldwater Rule. It’s called the Duty to Warn. It’s for the good of the public, and maybe the world, that more and more people in the field are finally stating the obvious — Trump is a clear and present danger.