Trump's Unpremeditated Authoritarianism
Trump rages about the consequences of not repealing Obamacare.Credit: Screen shot
April 11, 2018

I'm really struck by this passage from Gabriel Sherman's latest Vanity Fair post about President Trump:

There have been times during Robert Mueller’s investigation—Mueller’s subpoenaing of Trump business records, for instance—when White House advisers worried Trump seemed on the verge of triggering a constitutional crisis by firing Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The stunning Cohen raid is another one of these moments. “He’s sitting there bitching and moaning. He’s brooding and doesn’t have a plan,” a Republican close to the White House said last night. “I could see him having a total meltdown and saying, ‘Fuck it, I’m firing all of them,’” a Trump friend told me. “This is very dry tinder. If someone strikes a match to it, you could see it catching fire,” added a former official.

(Emphasis added.)

We know Trump has no respect for the rule of law or the laws or norms of governing in America, so it's frightening that he might set off a Saturday Night Massacre -- but what kind of authoritarian doesn't have a plan at a moment like this? The Michael Cohen raid may have been a surprise, but Trump has never appeared to have a thought-out approach to the investigation, and the focus in the White House seems to be primarily on how to manage the president emotionally so he doesn't do something rash on impulse.

This isn't how effective authoritarians operate. It's how a child operates.

The 71-year-old president is said to be emotionally at sea because former surrogate parents, one of whom is less than half his age, aren't around to pacify him:

In the past, Trump’s impulses could be tempered by the calming presence of loyal aides like Hope Hicks and longtime security chief Keith Schiller. But both Hicks and Schiller are gone, leaving Trump to operate largely unchecked.

This is echoed by Mike Allen at Axios:

* Until now, when storms hit, Trump could turn to Hope Hicks to explain things to him, suggest wording, simmer him down. With her departure from the White House, we saw the president working out his fury in real time.

* [A] source continued: "This is the first crisis post-Hope Hicks. ... This was different: I've never seen him like this before. ... This is the president you're going to see more of from here on out: unvarnished, untethered."

Trump may do something extremely reckless and dangerous to America, but if so, he's going to do it not out of a combination of calculation and ruthlessness, but because he has a massive amount of adult power but the impulse control of a five-year-old. If there's anything he's actually worked out in his infantile mind, it's how to manipulate aides into being his pseudo-parents. He really has a well-honed talent for that.

Except now he has no substitute parents in place to mollify him. So he's going to wing it. It's unplanned authoritarianism. Trump isn't a schemer. He's just driven by pure childlike id.

Originally published at No More Mr. Nice Blog

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