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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 15 The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 15
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-09-23 09:03:57
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lino1

Week 15 - Columns 98-104 (September 17-23)
On the subjects of:Trump’s mental sanity, Trump’s reliability, the GOP’s lack of indignation,
Trump’s skeletons in the closet, Trump’s Russia contacts, Trump’s obstruction of justice,
Trump’s betrayal of Social Security campaign promise.

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Column 98

Is He Really All There?

 lino101_400

“This is, unfortunately, not a learning curve. This is a man in decline” was the recent scathing comment of Joe Scarborough of MSNBC referring to the observable decision making abilities and general mental state of president Donald Trump. His state of mind has alternatively been described by the press as: paranoid, delusional, erratic, vengeful, chaotic, deceitful, impulsive, deranged, unbalanced, disorderly, narcissistic, dangerous, similar to that of a Frankenstein monster, psychopathic; in short, to use the designation that most journalists hesitate to use, mad.

But then one needs to keep in mind that journalists are not armchair psychiatrist proffering diagnosis from afar based on hearsay and conspiracy theories. That is a dangerous tendency, in fact unworthy of a journalist who honors the printing ethos of “confirm-before-you-print.” And yet press commentators, reporters and politicians claim that what they are doing is not playing the game of armchair psychiatrist but analyzing and observing carefully and then reporting, as indeed they were trained to do.

What they do observe is an erratic behavior, a history of lashing out in anger at foes or anybody who dares to criticize or contradict past or present claims, lying about those claims, the embracing of outlandish conspiracy theories, one self-inflicted crisis following another in rapid succession.

But the question arises: are those closed-door concerns of those around Trump really newsworthy? Some famous journalists, one such being Carl Bernestein who helped unravel a past corrupt presidency (that of Richard Nixon), believe that they are, they are part of the story just as the reign of mad emperor Caligula of Roman Empire fame remains part of the story of that empire. The chaotic character of Caligula reign of close to four years was a reflection of the emperor’s mental state. His psychological health is certainly part of the historical narration. When an emperor orders his generals to dismount their horses and collect shells for his private collection on a beach in Normandy as they approached the invasion of England, that is not an inane anecdote but an important event for the proper understanding of the emperor’s disorderly mind. The madness of the emperor is part of the story, as in the famous story of Andersen “The Emperor’s Clothes.” Were that madness be omitted, it would invalidate the coherence of the story, fictitious or real as it might be.

The same applies to Trump. If he appears deranged, or delusional, living in an alternate universe, that needs to be openly reported, it cannot be tiptoed around; to do so is to fail as a journalist. The duty of journalists is to search for the truth and then report it courageously as they see it, especially when what is observed constituted a proximate threat to the common good.

It is dangerous to keep up the pretense that Trump is completely sane, as Roger Stone, whose own sanity is questionable, strongly maintains; or that unhinged babbles are the equivalent of interviews; that Trump is a sane well-balanced adult, that he is not psychologically damaged and consequently a clear and present danger to the Republic whose Constitution he is sworn to uphold. At some point the analysis has to be synchronized to the facts as they are, not as we wish they were.

But what should be the foundations of one’s assessment of the president’s mental state? Late night tweets? Can one arrive at a diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder by analyzing tweets and off-the cuff comments? Do journalists have a duty to do so?

Consider this question: were we to construct a Frankenstein monster, could we think of one more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump, a presidency I have dubbed “The Caligula Presidency” (this one being one of those) dominated by the antics of psychopathic narcissist divorced from reality lashing out impulsively at his imagined enemies?

As the more perceptive historians have already pointed out, in the history of tyrannies, there is a small window of opportunity to get rid of the tyrant via legal democratic ways. Once that is missed, it becomes increasingly difficult to do so later. We have the examples of Hitler and Mussolini. The formula seems to be this: the longer one waits, the more difficult it becomes to rid a democracy or a republic of a tyrant. In fact, the tyrant usually proceeds to destroy it. Impeachment procedures are already overdue in this particular republic called The United States. Democracy, as we know it, hangs in the balance.

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Column 99

Donald Trump's Staff Weary of Leaving him alone
with World Leaders and Diplomats

 lino102_400

It has surfaced recently that Donald Trump’s staff are afraid to leave him alone with world leaders and diplomats lest he reveals things he shouldn’t.  As per New York Times, national security adviser McMaster often has to insert caveats and/or corrections into conversations when he thinks the president is going off on some tangent.

Most on the staff have seen their statements on behalf of the president contradicted only a few hours later.

Considering the above revelation, the satirical question arises: don’t we all feel more secure now that we know that US national secrets and security apparatus are well protected by a deranged personality and in serious jeopardy? What is even more disturbing is that a good 36% of American citizens would probably answer the question with a yes. In 1935 Germany that social phenomenon was dubbed mass psychosis. Unfortunately a democratic constitution does not guarantee a sane society as Erick Fromm well taught us in some of his books, one such being Escape from Freedom.

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Column 100

Where is the Republicans’ Indignation at Trump's Scandals?

 lino103_400

As scandals involving Trump and his administration keep mounting, a funny thing is noticeable: one can count less and less republicans willing to appear on major networks for comments or defense.

Fox News too, although reporting much less coverage of the president’s scandals, is having trouble booking GOP guests for commentary.

There are various accounts of the White House being in total chaos, as per Politico. Administration officials seem reluctant to appear on TV. They don’t seem to know what to say and how to defend the scandals. The only ones who appear before the Press come out of the Oval Office marching out like marionette soldiers as if under strict orders.

All this followed the array of conflicting explanations for Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI director Comey and Trump’s revelation of classified information to Russian officials the very next day during an Oval Office meeting where only Russian journalists were allowed in.

However on Capitol Hill, one hears “concerned” and “disturbed” lawmakers as the growing revelations from Trump’s White House surface. But these disturbed concerns are rarely followed by calls for any definite plan of action. Some, in fact, continue to remain silent or simply dismiss the scandals as “fake news,” a fabrication of the media. Is this the ostrich burying its head in the sand? One wonders.

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Column 101

The Latest disclosures of Trump-Russia Contacts: At least 18 Identified

 lino104_400

Advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race. That record is now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.

The 18 calls and electronic messages took place between April and November 2016 as hackers engaged in what U.S. intelligence concluded in January was part of a Kremlin campaign to discredit the vote and influence the outcome of the election in favor of Trump over his Democratic challenger, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Six of those contacts were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Conversations between Flynn and Kislyak accelerated after the Nov. 8 vote as the two discussed establishing a back channel for communication between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that could bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, which both sides considered hostile to improved relations. Initially the Trump White House denied any contacts. It continues to downplay them and deny any collusion.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. Flynn's lawyer declined to comment. In Moscow, a Russian foreign ministry official declined to comment on the contacts. One of the 18 contacts was by Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian oligarch and politician.  It was not clear with whom Medvedchuk was in contact within the Trump campaign but the themes included U.S.-Russia cooperation, the sources said. Putin is godfather to Medvedchuk’s daughter. Medvedchuk denied having any contact with anyone in the Trump campaign.

Trump has fired Flynn in February after it became clear that he had falsely characterized the nature of phone conversations with Kislyak in late December - after the Nov. 8 election and just after the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Russia. Flynn offered to testify to Congress in return for immunity from prosecution but his offer was turned down by the House intelligence committee.

Beyond Medvedchuk and Kislyak, the identities of the other Putin-linked participants in the contacts remain classified and the names of Trump advisers other than Flynn have been “masked” in intelligence reports on the contacts because of legal protections on their privacy as American citizens. However, officials can request that they be revealed for intelligence purposes.

The plot thickens and the circus becomes more entertaining with pooper scoopers lawyering up expecting further disclosures of skeletons in the closet from DOJ special Counsel Mueller. Stay tuned; the best is still to come when special counsel Mueller come out with the evidence he has been gathering.

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Column 103

Why did Trump ask Intel Chiefs to deny Russia Collusion?

 lino105_400

President Donald Trump asked two top US intelligence officials in March to help push back against the FBI investigation into his campaign's possible links with Russia.

In the newest report suggesting the White House sought to tamp down the Russia probe, The Post said Trump urged National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers and to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to publicly deny any evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia during last year's presidential election. Both Rogers and Coats, who was appointed by Trump, did not comply with his request.

Already in February, Trump had asked several senior congressmen and intelligence officials to contact journalists and tell them there was no evidence to support the allegations of campaign links to Russia.

The president made the requests after then FBI director James Comey revealed that the agency had been investigating Russian interference into the election since July 2016. It was then reported that Trump had pressed Comey himself in meetings and phone calls to pull back on the investigation. That was denied by the White House. The problem is that the FBI director, whom Trump has fired, wrote detailed memos on his discussions with the president. The plot thickens.

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Column 104

Trump Betrays His Pledge not to Cut Social Security:
Is Trump a Fake Populist?

 lino106_400

Trump’s proposed budget for next year would cut Social Security Disability Insurance by $72 billion over 10 years, despite Trump’s campaign promise not to make any changes to it. The budget would make significantly larger cuts to Medicaid, which Trump also promised not to cut at various junctures on the campaign trail. Trump already broke that promise, however, by backing Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill, which would cut over $800 billion from the program over a 10-year period.

More than 10 million Americans receive Social Security Disability Insurance. Monthly benefits average about $1,000. People become eligible for the program after working for years and suffering a debilitating medical condition or injury. Although Republicans claim that the disability rolls are swollen with malingerers, only about 28 percent of people are awarded benefits when they first apply, and appeals can take years. The Social Security Administration inspector general testified to in 2014 that the program has less than a 1 percent fraud rate.

The budget would reduce disability spending primarily by testing new ways of enticing disabled workers back into the labor force. Bob Greenstein, director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said similar efforts in the past “have consistently shown limited results or proved not cost-effective.”

Although they are part of the same social insurance program, Social Security Disability Insurance pays out benefits from a trust fund that is formally independent from the fund used for retirement and survivors benefits. Since many members of the massive baby boomer generation are becoming disabled before they’re old enough to receive retirement benefits, the disability fund faces more immediate financial challenges than the program as a whole.

In October 2015, a budget deal in Congress diverted some revenue from the retirement insurance trust fund to avert a near-imminent funding gap. If Congress fails to act, the program will again face a shortfall in 2022. Most of the proposals in Trump’s budget are unlikely to become law. Presidential budgets are generally position statements for Congress to consider when it sets spending levels each year.

Mulvaney has been very open about his desire to get Trump to consider cutting Social Security. Mulvaney hinted in April that the White House would specifically target the disability program, which he claimed had become a “permanent unemployment program.” Republicans in Congress have said they hope Trump comes around to the idea of cutting Social Security, which they have long believed is too generous. No great surprises here except that there are naïve people who voted for Trump who still expect him to keep his campaign promises. Good luck.

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End of Week 15

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The "CALIGULA PRESIDENCY" Columns

Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8 - Week 9 - Week 10 - Week 11 - Week 12 - Week 13 - Week 14 - Week 15 -

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Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!

 life_91_400

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Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!
 
 life_46_400
 


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