FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Trump’s Mission of Distraction: Finding the Anonymous Author

The Trump presidency has proven to be a set of publicity driven punctuations and blows, riddled by distractions contrived and accidental.  Controversy and accusation characterise the next revelation, the next announcement that might throw journalists off the scent, confounded enemies off the trail. The presidency as spectacle, the White House as erratic film studio, is the means by which this particular president survives.  Assaults and accusations are missiles seeking to find their mark, missing at the last moment, and the publicity vultures do the rest.  Distraction is everything.

The latest of such distractions comes in the form of the anonymously authored piece for the New York Times (by a certain “senior White House official”), one outlining the dysfunctions of a “two-track presidency”.  It was banal on one level, stating the obvious, advancing the grounds that were already there: Trump has his opponents within the administration keen to foul the nest.

Striking in the account is its resounding note of subversion, a mutiny within designed to frustrate the designs of the chief executive officer of the United States; valiant agents keen to keep Trump from realising his designs.  “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”  While not being of the “left” resistance against Trump, the author explained that “many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”  The governing concern?  Amorality – Trump’s distinct absence of “any discernible first principles that guide his decision-making.”

Such antics will be lauded by Trump’s critics, who suggest that he is little more than unhinged, hedonistic orange beast in need of containment.  To frustrate the realisation of his inner child, in other words, is to achieve a high standing of nobility for the republic.

The article from the Times adds to a growing body of work speculating over the mental disposition of that man in the White House.  It all constitutes yet another obstacle to discussions of policy, a point that Trump has encouraged since he became a serious political candidate: discuss the man in totality, flaws and all.  The substance of governance can be left to others.  This says as much about the subject as the investigators.

The overall portrait of dysfunction has received heavy daubs from a range of sources of late.  Bob Woodward ventures into familiar territory with his quotidian Fear: Trump in the White House (an account of the “nervous breakdown of Trump’s presidency”). He quotes former chief of staff Reince Priebus on the decision making process that takes place in this particular administration: “When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody.  That’s what happens.”

Mental health experts, not wishing to be left out of this feast of commentary, sought to peer into Trump’s mind with The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, an account amusing for its evident compromise (the authors’ own words) of professional neutrality in favour of a vaunted “civic duty to warn”.

That work is instructive in how Trump has managed to pull the carpet from underneath the very individuals who describe him as hostile to rules and conventions.  To understand this repellent force, one must become a breaker of rules.  The Goldwater rule, as it is termed, requires mental health professionals to, as Brandy X. Lee describes it, “refrain from diagnosing without a personal examination and without authorisation.” This was no pressing encumbrance to Lee, who felt it necessary to observe that pressing social “responsibility to protect public health and safety”.

The anonymous article has presented Trump with another opportunity to generate column space and news cycle energy.  This is what an administration of insurrection subsists upon: furious activity signifying nothing.  Whatever mental complex professionals of mind and pen might attribute to him, Trump can claim to be under siege and persecuted; he can find enemies because his enemies will be more than willing to take up positions in the gallery.

On a flight from Billings, Mont. To Fargo, N.D., he outlined the next steps of retaliation against the unnamed White House official.  “We’re going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, and what he’s talking about, also where he is right now.”  A person with such security clearances would not be permitted to attend meetings “concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something.”

Trump has also urged Attorney-General Jeff Sessions to take up the case as the op-ed, in his view, was egregious enough to be a matter of “national security”.  The Department of Justice has been less than willing to clarify what any prosecution might entail, covering all necessary contingencies: “The department does not confirm, deny or otherwise acknowledge the existence or non-existence of investigations.”

Other props of speculation are also being placed in full view of the press: an acceleration of the trade war with China, Trump’s claimed possession of a letter from Kim Jong Un that will yield promising gold.  The show must go on, substance or not.  The insurrection must continue.

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail