New rule: Once a political dispute reaches the Rudy Giuliani stage, there’s nothing left but punchlines. I’d say the same of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband/wife team of Washington lawyers with a practice limited to right-wing talk shows. A desperate Boss Trump has recently added all three to the legal team striving to reverse his near 6 million-vote loss in the 2020 presidential election.
In related news, “Meet the Press,” the venerable Sunday political talk show, was unable to find a single Republican U.S. senator to appear on its Nov. 15 broadcast. Host Chuck Todd reports that he invited every last one, but they all had something more important to do.
Under normal circumstances, GOP politicians would be crowding the studio door like a rugby scrum, struggling for a guest spot on national TV. However, it’s the very definition of a no-win situation.
Otherwise, it’s all over but the whining. Boss Trump’s real attorneys have resigned, while the flub-a-dubs replacing them are getting shot down in courtrooms like mallards on the opening day of duck season. It turns out that “some guy told me he overheard some other guy say ‘let’s throw all the Trump ballots in the river’” isn’t actually evidence.
Who’d have thunk it?
Georgia’s Republican secretary of state complains that a laborious hand-recount of his state’s 5 million ballots isn’t enough for Trumpists. Partisans including Sen. Lindsey Graham have been urging him to find a way to discard thousands of perfectly legal absentee ballots. Brad Raffensperger has been shocked that he and his wife have received death threats. “You better not botch this recount,” somebody texted him. “Your life depends on it.”
I doubt Trump actually sent it. He’d have typed in ALL CAPS.
That said, persons suspecting some deep, hidden motive behind all this foolishness are mistaken. Is what we’re witnessing either a cunningly plotted coup attempt or merely a temper tantrum Trump will eventually get over? It’s neither. I agree with the invaluable Kevin Drum, writing in Mother Jones:
“The real answer requires us to take seriously what so many of us have been saying all along: Donald Trump is mentally unbalanced. To put it a little more conventionally, he’s such an extreme narcissist that he can’t believe he lost. He literally can’t believe he lost. So his brain makes up stories for him, and the only plausible story in the face of hard numbers is that his enemies cheated. So that’s what he believes. And he’ll believe it forever.”
In short, the man is actively delusional; he’s a textbook case of malignant narcissism, which his niece (and clinical psychologist) Mary L. Trump has diagnosed in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough.” He is literally incapable of facing reality. And so, it appears, are millions of the most far-gone adepts of the Trumpist cult of personality.
How far gone? Here are two COVID-19 related examples:
An emergency room nurse in South Dakota speaks sorrowfully of treating Trump supporters who rail at her with their dying breaths that COVID doesn’t actually exist. “Their last dying words are, ‘This can’t be happening. It’s not real,’” Jodi Doering told CNN. “And when they should be ... Facetiming their families, they’re filled with anger and hatred.”
Of course, South Dakota’s governor is also among the nation’s premier COVID denialists. No masks or social distancing for Gov. Kristi Noem. Along with the super-spreader Sturgis motorcycle rally, she hosted Trump’s patriotic wingding at Mount Rushmore in July, where she bestowed upon him a 4-foot replica of the monument with his face on it. South Dakota now has among the highest infection rates in the world.
Fat chance. Nevertheless, when people are prepared to die denying reality, they definitely belong to a cult—one that can’t help but call to mind the hundreds who drank the Kool-Aid at Jonestown in 1978, the most astonishing example of mass delusion during my adult life.
Another related example: an email I received from a sometime correspondent determined to explain away the fact that the United States, with 4% of the world’s population, has accumulated 25% of its fatal COVID cases.
“You can lay every death at the feet of the Democrats,” he explains. “Obama paid the Red Chinese lab 3.7 million to research it. Fauci was right in the middle. The communist Chinese spread it world-wide.”
No, Trump didn’t invent this brand of nativist paranoia. In one form or another, it’s as old as the republic. Just as he didn’t invent “birtherism,” the related superstition that President Obama was a Kenyan-born terrorist. But he knew how to exploit fool bait when he saw it. In that respect, he’s a political genius, with an unparalleled gift for exploiting ignorance and fear.
Alas, short of kidnapping and waterboarding, there’s no known cure for political cultists. Except to make Trump a loser, and that’s been done.
The next step is to start ignoring him altogether, from the moment he’s dragged kicking and screaming off the national stage.
© 2020 GENE LYONS