Roundtable – Unfit for Duty

The Roundtable is Torchlight staff’s discussion of news and events. The text has been lightly edited for clarity, and some links were added after the fact. This conversation happened on January 14, 2018.

Tom Rich, Editor-in-Chief

Welcome to the Roundtable, Torchlight’s discussion of news and events. President Trump had a bad week, contradicting his own administration on several fronts and referring to a wide swath nations as “shitholes” while questioning why we would want immigrants from them. The fiasco, coming hot on the heels of the Fire and Fury spectacle, has mainstream media outlets openly calling the president a racist and questioning his mental competence to hold office. Let’s start the day off right by addressing that question: what do the week’s events reveal about President Trump?

 

Christopher Dahlin, Politics Editor

It’s a crystallization that Trump doesn’t know what foreign policy is, much less how it works.  It also shows yet again that we can’t afford 4 years of bad policy. Will the world go back to what it was before Trump? Probably not. The president’s childish petulance is a completely different dire issue that must be addressed

 

David Spitzley, Contributing Writer

Top of the list:  he is racist.  Putting aside all his prior history, the “shithole” comment  writes off entire countries, of including plenty of people who might meet the very requirements he’s been pushing in his “merit-based” immigration mutterings.  The fact he followed it up with a call for more Nordic immigrants just reinforces the point:  if you’re not descended from white Europeans he clearly doesn’t credit you with real worth.

 

Christo

Not just European descended, but white.

 

Josh Kyu Saiewitz, Senior Managing Editor

This didn’t reveal anything about Trump we didn’t already know. But it did shift the conversation, so that even people who haven’t been paying attention, or who can dismiss the Muslim ban being racist as just sensible policy, have to notice. It’s just too hard to ignore “shithole.” The long arc of Trump bends toward public disgust, and this is a nice long slide down that road.

 

David Schmitz, Junior Managing Editor

The ‘shithole’ comment reinforces Donald Trump’s bonafides with the likes of David Duke. Something the White House has not refuted as of yet.

 

Josh

It’s the case with every one of these blatantly racist remarks—the more the Landlord in Chief tries to kick the unwanteds out of our country, the more his racist base responds. Hopefully he’s slowly pushing the uninformed middle away by just shouting at dogs instead of whistling at them.

 

Tom

For me, it’s the dismissal of such huge places that’s galling. There are plenty of lovely places in Africa, for example, with dynamic economies and bustling cities, and I’m sure there are poor and depressed parts of Norway. But in the President’s mind, we have shitholes and paradise; no room for any nuance. The chief executive needs to be smarter than that.

 

Christo

There is also the issue of midterms coming up. Rick Scott, who is his own monster, has decried the comments, because approximately 400k voters or so just got another poke in the eye. An extremely high number of Reps are retiring. We’re going to see shithole comments from here to breakfast, or at least November. Or whatever shithole is in Spanish. Also, they aren’t even bothering with German for their white nationalism, actually.

 

David Spitzley

It’s worth noting that at the same time Trump is denigrating an entire continent, we’re battling China for influence there, and they’ve been pumping investment funds there like nobody’s business.  This is going to have consequences beyond our elections.

 

Tom

I think that leads us nicely into the second half, Dave. We’re pretty much in agreement here that the shithole comment is both racist in and of itself and fits a pattern of racism in Donald Trump. Does it also tell us anything about his mental fitness to occupy the highest office in the land?

 

Christo

He doesn’t have any.

 

David Spitzley

Racism may be stupid, but is not insanity itself.

 

Christo

But to be president you need a grasp that your words have consequence

 

David Spitzley

So that gets to competence, not mental fitness.  If he feels there are no potential consequences, being wrong about that indicates incompetence, but his actions are not irrational given that initial error, just disgusting, and crassness is not mental illness.

 

Josh

Trump tweeted against the FISA renewal because Fox News confused him. He’s mentally unfit.

 

David Spitzley

I’ll agree with that…

 

Christo

He also said he wanted a clean DACA bill the sentence before he said he wanted one with security funding.  There’s a difference between not caring about the effect of your words and not knowing.

 

Josh

Not to mention the WSJ interview where he forgot the difference between Daca and Dreamers.

 

David Spitzley

Arrogance:  I don’t care

Ignorance: I don’t know

Infirmity: I don’t understand

 

David Schmitz

The question gets muddied because mental illness is a very broad term. I wouldn’t say Trump is schizophrenic but I’ve been convinced for a long time that he’s the strongest candidate for narcissistic personality disorder. Something I’m sure is not surprising, but the inability and unwillingness to learn and adapt to political situations in the President of the United States is alarming. He needs to be able to actually do the negotiating he claimed to be able to do, but he can’t because he won’t learn about the people on the other side because his brain is wired in such a way to not ever care about anyone who isn’t named “me”.

 

Tom

I’m skeptical about distance diagnosing the President with a mental illness, and I think it’s a bit of a red herring: the man doesn’t need anything diagnosable to be demonstrably unfit for the office. And his inconsistency, incuriosity, and bullying, thin-skinned bluster is more than enough to convince me that he doesn’t belong in the White House. Even that wouldn’t be completely disqualifying if it was coupled with the ability to build a loyal team that could shore up his weaknesses, but that’s clearly not the case, either. Diagnosable or not, he’s a collection of traits perfectly unsuited to a position of great power.

 

David Schmitz

Well said Tom, I agree.

 

Christo

Exactly. We have had presidents with problems before (from FDR to JFK to Nixon to Reagan etc). The thing is, they either had the ability to do the basics of the job, or they had people who could do it.  Even Dubya was basically competent, although his agenda was awful.  The problem here is multifold 1)his agenda is awful, 2) he can’t do the job, and 3) he doesn’t have people who can help him and (this is important)  4) he wouldn’t listen to them anyways.

 

Tom

So the week reinforces what’s been pretty clear from the get go: Donald Trump is a racist, and even if he wasn’t he doesn’t have the characteristics of a good or even mediocre president. We’ve got just a few minutes left; final thoughts?

 

David Spitzley

I think the reason every one of these incidents gets so much airtime is the sense that something will eventually break through to Trump’s supporters and they’ll finally abandon him.  I suggest that he probably doesn’t think much better of the rural states most of his support comes from than he does Africa, so perhaps he’ll end up calling them “shithole” states and the curtain will finally fall.

 

Christo

We didn’t even get into everything this week. Everything is piling on, and the pressure is just ramping up.  I think the president is going to look on the last year as easy, if what we’ve seen so far is any indication.

 

David Schmitz

I’ll leave with this thought. On September 20, nearly 4 month ago, the Americans living in Puerto Rico suffered Hurricane Maria. They have yet to receive appropriate response from Donald Trump concerning their loss of life, dignity, and electricity. On Saturday, Hawaii was sent into a panic for 38 minutes due to an erroneous alarm of an imminent ballistic missile threat. In the moments immediately after the message was sent to about 1.5 million Americans in Hawaii, there was no response of assurance from Donald Trump or any officials in his White House. There has yet to be an indication of concern for the well being of the people in Hawaii. Now, neither of these events are attributable to Donald Trump, but his response or lack thereof sure is. There’s something terribly similar about the people of Puerto Rico and Hawaii and it is something they do not share with the people of Norway. They are Americans and Donald Trump doesn’t care about them because his racism far outweighs his patriotism.

 

Josh

This is nothing new. We could have hummed this tune, if not sung the words, in January 2016. And yet the election went the way it did. This is yet another reminder that we can still take all of this back, throw him out of office and reclaim the government for kindness and competence and sanity and decency. 2018 is coming, and no election in your lives will ever be as important. Get it right, America, or you’ll be the shithole in the end.

 

Tom

And we’ll have to leave it at that for now. Thanks as always, everyone, for a lively conversation!

 

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