Nixon’s Ghost Stalks the White House

On Thursday President Trump called Fox Business News and ranted for an hour, during which time he twice called Senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris a monster and four times called her a communist.

No one calls anyone a communist anymore. The accusation du jour is socialist, not communist. The accusation of communism has been essentially absent from the American political landscape since the break-up of the Soviet Union 30 years ago, and it has been essentially replaced by the accusation of socialism since Bernie Sanders, who had called himself a socialist, first ran for president in 2016.

In fact, Trump himself has repeatedly derided Sanders as a socialist, not a communist, in keeping with the vocabulary used by the rest of the right to attack Sanders. And now, all of a sudden, Trump is using the word “communist” to attack Kamala Harris. Why?

The election is getting closer and closer, and because of his psychological make-up Trump is desperate to win. He knows he’s well behind in the polls, with every day less time to close the gap, and his increasingly desperate and fevered mind is reaching back into his past for salvation, a lifeboat, for his increasingly dire position, and he has landed on Roy Cohn, his long-time mentor who cut his teeth and rose to fame and fortune by destroying people with accusations of communism.

It’s well known that Cohn played a big role in shaping Donald Trump. Cohn taught Trump to be ruthless, to go after people with everything you have and show no mercy, and in Trump’s fevered desperation, perhaps fueled by the steroids he is taking for COVID-19, that is exactly what Trump is doing. He’s like a cornered animal, and in his desperate mind he is reaching back to Cohn for answers to what is by considerable measure the most desperate moment of his life.

It is well known that Trump’s parents were essentially incapable of showing love to Trump, or to anyone. This was especially true of his father, for whom all human relations were, as they are to Donald Trump now, transactional. If one was no longer of use to Fred Trump, one was disposed of, kicked to the curb, thrown under the bus, frozen out. We have seen this in spades throughout the Trump presidency. When one is no longer of use to Trump, he not only fires them, he aggressively and publicly insults them.

Trump even insults them before he fires them, as he did many times with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who gave up his senate seat to serve Trump and has now seen his political career destroyed by Trump. Yesterday Trump attacked his exceedingly loyal attorney general, William Barr, who has staked on Trump the entirety of whatever tattered remnants of a reputation he may have left. In the last week Trump has attacked his own chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and yesterday he attacked his own FBI director, Christopher Wray. The list goes on.

Trump’s mother wasn’t much better than his father. As Trump’s niece Mary Trump recently revealed in her 2020 book “Too Much and Never Enough,” Trump’s mother was gravely ill and out of Trump’s life for a critical phase of Trump’s development, from age two and a half to four, and during this time Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was emotionally incapable of compensating for the emotional absence of Trump’s mother. Even after the health of Trump’s mother improved, she was psychologically incapable of giving Trump the love, support and even the physical contact the very young Donald Trump needed to develop as a psychologically healthy human being.

Trump’s brother Fred Trump Jr. was a grave disappointment to his father. Fred Trump Jr. wanted to be a pilot, a profession his father derided as a cab driver with wings. When Fred Trump Sr. decided his son Fred Trump Jr. was no good as a businessman and wasn’t a suitable heir to his real-estate empire, Fred Trump Sr. not only kicked Fred Jr. to the curb, he actively set out to destroy him. Throughout this long, tortuous process Donald was young and impressionable. He saw this happening and he absorbed it, he learned from it. The way to win approval from a father incapable of love was to destroy people.

And indeed Fred Trump Sr. succeeded in destroying his son and namesake Fred Jr. Fred Trump Sr. drove his son – a gentle, kind man – to drink himself to death at 42.

A little later in Donald’s life his father’s lessons were reinforced by Donald’s mentor, Roy Cohn. The world is a ruthless, unforgiving jungle, Cohn taught Trump, and the way to survive and get ahead is by destroying others.

Ever since his youngest days, Trump has been desperately trying to win the love of his now deceased father – a love that never came. That’s why Trump has a constant, desperate, utterly insatiable craving for public approbation. He is addicted to Twitter precisely because it provides instant approbation – he tweets something and within minutes he gets thousands of likes and retweets. His Twitter account is Trump’s crack cocaine, an instant high.

On Wednesday Trump tweeted 50 times in four hours. That’s once every 2.4 minutes. Trump’s one-day tweet record is 200. At what point does this fit the definition of an addiction, a psychological addiction, a mental illness?

Trump is in a psychological death spiral. As the election nears, the psychological pressure is building within him, causing him to become more and more erratic and irrational, which is causing his poll numbers to drop further and further, which causes the pressure to build further.

Don’t be surprised if Trump starts to talk about and mention by name his father and Roy Cohn, and don’t be surprised if Trump experiences a complete psychotic break, causing him to babble incoherently and to be involuntarily committed to a mental health facility – or to Walter Reed Hospital, which would be essentially converted to a mental health facility to accommodate Trump’s needs, and perhaps in a desperate attempt to conceal from the public Trump’s true condition, masquerading it as a physical ailment.

They may have to take away his phone and sedate him so his mental breakdown, his mental collapse, is not played out in full public view. The military, seemingly the only rational player still in the room, may have to step in to maintain the semblance of a functioning government, just as White House Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig did in 1974 when President Nixon, who had his own psychological issues, namely clinical paranoia, was staring his own premature political premature death, the utter ruin of his presidency, right in the face, and was, like Trump today, unable to sleep and roamed the White House at all hours.

Alarmed at Nixon’s mental state, General Haig famously took away Nixon’s nuclear codes. And now, 46 years later, according to Vanity Fair magazine, Don Jr. this week pleaded for a psychological intervention for his father, but his sister Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner said no.

In analyzing that, it might be helpful to remember Qatar’s $1.2 billion loan to Kushner to meet loan repayment deadlines for 666 Park Avenue, a colossal financial disaster for Kushner. According to Democracy Now, the loan was made, incredibly, with no conditions and no timetable for repayment.

But if Trump leaves the White House, and Kushner is no longer of any use to Qatar, or to anyone else, might this spell financial ruin for Mr. Kushner? And if Trump is forced to leave office in disgrace, could that also spell financial ruin for Ivanka Trump? For two people thoroughly accustomed to a life of great opulence, it’s not hard to see why they would be desperate to stop a Trump psychological intervention. Their only hope for averting financial ruin may lie in maintaining the illusion of a sane, functioning Donald Trump.

If Trump does suffer a complete breakdown and is to receive effective treatment, his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, may have to be switched out. By refusing to say when Trump last tested negative for COVID-19, Conley has made effective, comprehensive contact tracing difficult or impossible, thus putting at risk everyone who has recently been close to Trump, and thus risking secondary, tertiary and essentially infinite infections. Conley has also cleared Trump for public contact, possibly before Trump’s infectious stage has ended.

Given this, Conley has shown himself to be unable to withstand the pressure of a patient who

demands control of his own treatment, and this is the exact opposite of what is needed to treat an out-of-control, uncooperative, megalomaniacal mental health patient.

For sheer derangement, Trump makes Nixon look downright amateur. Nixon still had enough mental capacity to see and appreciate the writing on the wall and the need to salvage a shred of his life by resigning. Don’t expect that from Trump. He will go down in flames. He’s already well on his way.

Lawrence Reichard lives in Belfast, Maine, and can be reached at