White House: Another government shutdown possible

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and Director of the Office of Management, listens during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The White House is not ruling out another government shutdown, as lawmakers continue to negotiate funding for President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

In Sunday talk show appearances on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and “Fox News Sunday,” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said “you absolutely cannot” rule out the possibility that the government may shutter again on Friday. But Mulvaney also said that Trump was willing to explore funding alternatives.

The president has asked for $5.7 billion. Talks are centered around far less, around $1.6 billion. Mulvaney said that if Congress approves a lesser amount, Trump could make up the difference from elsewhere in the government or, if needed, the president could declare a national emergency.

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The not nearly normal president this week. (Updated)

Dec. 23, 2018 Update: Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker have a new piece in The New York Times today that portrays Trum as “a puddle of fondue getting ready to evaporate into God’s blessed ether.” Reportedly he rants at his advisers, calling them “fucking idiots.” He’s obsessed with the media’s criticism of him, wondering, “Why is it like this?” From the NY Times: “Longtime associates said Mr. Trump’s relationship with his children has grown more removed and that he feels he does not have a friend in the White House. He disagrees with Mr. Kushner and Ivanka Trump much of the time, but cannot bring himself to tell them no, leaving that instead to Mr. Kelly, according to former aides.” Read story


Dec. 22, 2018

Trump is not able to accept that the reason he isn’t getting his way is his fault. It is now a cliché to point out that he often behaves like a child having a tantrum. At a some deeply buried level  he may realize this if he as any ability to step back and observe himself when he is having a uncontrolable outburst of anger. This may be why he is reported to resent it whenever there’s a media reference to members of his White House team being the adults in the room. Most recently, for one example of many “Jim Mattis’ resignation officially ends the ‘adults in the room’ era of Trump’s presidency” (NBC News)

With  all the furor of the Mattis resignation and the shutdown we also discover that the president is asking advisers if he can legally fire the Fed chief 1(he can’t without cause) because he has to find someone to blame the stock market crisis on. He lashed out at Whitaker at least twice blaming him for the explosive Cohen revelations.

Here are a few random headlines with the word “lashed” from the past few days: Report: Trump lashed out at Whitaker after Cohen revelations (CNN), Michael Cohen: What Trump lashing out at his ex-lawyer reveals (BBC), Trump Lashes Out Over Foundation Shutdown (US News and World Report), Trump lashes out on Twitter after James Comey’s testimony: ‘All lies!’ (Insider), for example.

Jim Acosta said on CNN that Trump is “irritated by this notion here in Washington that he is sometimes in need of adult daycare.”

This is not nearly normal. Neither is this: The Washington Post said Trump was isolated in bunker mode, was in a tailspin, was acting totally irrationally, and was flipping out over criticisms in the media.

Oddly, Ann Coulter had him pegged when she said in an interview this week, that if Trump didn’t get his wall built, he will “just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he’ll have no legacy whatsoever.” In point of fact he has been a joke president who scammed and amused his supporters in order get elected and kept their loyalty.

What a brilliant ploy this turned out to be for Coulter since she managed to insult his manhood and prompt him to shut down the government. She knows Trump far, far better than he knows himself.


Footnote:

  1. Rawstory points out that “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin attempted to quell talk of the firing, which may not be legal and could send markets into a tailspin, with a quote he attributed to Trump.” It seems that many people don’t believe him because the quote attributed to Trump is too articulate.

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Dissecting Trump’s failed presidency

If Trump runs in 2020 the Democratic presidential candidate and the party leadership will have more scientific data about Trump and his most zealous supporters than has been available to use against the opposition than in any other election. Trump already has been studied by more mental health professionals than any other still serving president. The most recent article about Trump’s mental health was just published in Rolling Stone: “What happens when the walls finally close in on Donald Trump.”

Generally historians dissect a president after they leave office, or even posthumously. Now they are opining after he’s only been in office for two years. See Is Trump America’s worst-ever president?

Likewise, social scientists have studied the characteristics of Trump’s ardent supporters. One of them endeavored to summarize all their conclusions in one article which I will summarize below. It should be required reading for the Democratic Party establishment.

If Trump runs, he will be the adversary and as Sun Tzu wrote in “The Art of War,” the classic book which is required reading at all our military academies, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

It behoves Democrats to understand Donald Trump’s psychopathology because it is his Achille’s Heel. He can be lured into revealing how unstable he is and how unfit he is to be president by triggering his irrational anger by refusing to show deference to him. Consider how easy it was for a mere CNN correspondent, Jim Acosta, to get Trump to behave like a six year who is old barely able to contain a tantrum.

Congressional Democrats have already been briefed by Bandy Lee, MD, the editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.” In that   best seller, 27 authors, mostly mental health professionals, explained in chapter and verse the elements of the president’s personality that makes him so unstable he is, as the title says, a dangerous case.

If Hillary Clinton had been schooled on how to deal with Trump’s pathological narcissism by being more confrontational she might have handled him more effectively in the debates. For example, when he stalked her on the debate stage nobody will ever know what would have happened if she turned on her heels and got into his personal space, put her hands on her hips, and demanded he return to his podium.

Now Bobby Azarian, a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist whose research has been published in journals such as “Cognition & Emotion” and “Human Brain Mapping,” and who has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American has published the definitive summary of all the scientific research into the psychology of Trump’s ardent supporters.

I can’t think of any group of voters who have been the subject of more in-depth scientific studies than those members of the MAGA hat wearing crowd, the “lock her up” shouters, the birthers, and many who act more like members of a cult.

In “This neuroscientist details the 14 distinct cognitive flaws that lead people to become hard-core Trump supporters: These supporters would follow Trump off a cliff” in Alernet, Azarian sumarizes and cites numerous scientific studies.

Going back to Sun Tzu, it behoves the effective general not only to know the strengths and weakness of the general he opposes, but to understand the strengths and weakness of the enemy soldiers.

The article analyzing Trump’s fervid followers should be required reading for the Democratic leadership.

Azarian begins by noting that his list “will begin with the more benign reasons for Trump’s intransigent support, and as the list goes on, the explanations become increasingly worrisome, and toward the end, border on the pathological. It should be strongly emphasized that not all Trump supporters are racist, mentally vulnerable, or fundamentally bad people. It can be detrimental to society when those with degrees and platforms try to demonize their political opponents or paint them as mentally ill when they are not. That being said, it is just as harmful to pretend that there are not clear psychological and neural factors that underlie much of Trump supporters’ unbridled allegiance.”

He then goes on to elaborate on these 14 reasons Trump’s devoted acolytes support him. Included are links citing supporting references.

1) Practicality Trumps Morality
2) The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump
3) America is Obsessed with Entertainment and Celebrities
4) Some men just want to watch the world burn
5) The fear factor – Conservatives are more sensitive to threat
6) The Power of Mortality Reminders and Perceived Existential Threat
7) The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise
8) Relative Deprivation — A Misguided Sense of Entitlement
9) Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others
10) Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable
11) Trump Taps into the Nation’s Collective Narcissism
12) The Desire to Want to Dominate Others
13) Authoritarian Personality Syndrome
14) Racism and Bigotry

 

Of course, countering these deeply ingrained personality characteristics, some which are hard-wired into individual brain functioning or crucially important to a person’s self-esteem, like the Dunning-Kruger Effect, may be impossible to change. Others may be changed and people may be persuaded to vote for a Democratic candidate. For example, in well produced advertising Democrats could try using non-condescending education to reduce the anxiety caused by Trump’s fear mongering. Humanizing the people Trump wants to depict as scary and dangerous “others” would help.

Ideally appealing to the better angels of morality in his voters would be effective at least in some people. Perhaps even finding ways to remind voters who want to think of themselves as religious of The Golden Rule would hit home with a few of them.

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