In Need of a Patriot To Volunteer

At dinner last night with a friend who, as it happens, runs the European end of a global media empire (he picked up the bill, because he’s filthy rich and it was his turn anyway), we pondered which, and whether, descriptions of the president’s fitness for office were accurate. “Where is Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn,” I asked? If they’re patriots and Trump is unfit, do they not have a duty to come forward to say so, to explain, in detail, what is going on.

There was no argument that he wasn’t a vulgar, amoral ignoramus, or that he had any motivations beyond self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. But that much was obvious when he was elected. Is he senile? Does he suffer from mental illness? Is he just lazy and shallow?

These aren’t questions asked because of his policy choices. Love them or hate them, there will always be disagreement over policy, and even if you are absolutely certain his choices are wrong, even horrible, that’s the nature of democracy and elections. We get to elect bad people to office if we choose. This choice is exacerbated when the other choice is, to voters, worse.

But there are hard indicia that there is something very wrong here, and it comes out in ways that are entirely within Trump’s control and can’t be explained rationally. Some look to his rambling and incoherent statements during press conferences, but many people ramble and make little sense, not because they suffer from some illness but are just not very good at speaking coherently.

There are the lies, particularly the ones that are obviously, blatantly, laughably false, but politicians lying is the punchline of jokes. But there remains one thing, put together by Axios, that can’t be ignored or wished away.

President Trump this week revealed yet another subject matter in which he claims to have expertise: drones and drone technology.

“I know more about drones than anybody. I know about every form of safety that you can have.”

Absurd hyperbole? Cringeworthy? Obviously. But this isn’t a one-off assertion.

  • Campaign finance: “I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do, because I’m the biggest contributor.” (1999.)
  • TV ratings: “I know more about people who get ratings than anyone.” (October 2012.)
  • ISIS: “I know more about ISIS than the generals do.” (November 2015.)
  • Social media: “I understand social media. I understand the power of Twitter. I understand the power of Facebook maybe better than almost anybody, based on my results, right?” (November 2015.)
  • Courts: “I know more about courts than any human being on Earth.” (November 2015.)
  • Lawsuits: “[W]ho knows more about lawsuits than I do? I’m the king.” (January 2016.)
  • Politicians: “I understand politicians better than anybody.”
  • The visa system: “[N]obody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. … Nobody else on this dais knows how to change it like I do, believe me.” (March 2016.)
  • Trade: “Nobody knows more about trade than me.” (March 2016.)
  • The U.S. government system: “[N]obody knows the system better than I do.” (April 2016.)
  • Renewable energy: “I know more about renewables than any human being on Earth.” (April 2016.)
  • Taxes: “I think nobody knows more about taxes than I do, maybe in the history of the world.” (May 2016.)
  • Debt: “I’m the king of debt. I’m great with debt. Nobody knows debt better than me.” (June 2016.)
  • Money: “I understand money better than anybody.” (June 2016.)
  • Infrastructure: “[L]ook, as a builder, nobody in the history of this country has ever known so much about infrastructure as Donald Trump.” (July 2016.)
  • Sen. Cory Booker: “I know more about Cory than he knows about himself.” (July 2016.)
  • Borders: Trump said in 2016 that Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he was endorsing him for president because “you know more about this stuff than anybody.”
  • Democrats: “I think I know more about the other side than almost anybody.” (November 2016.)
  • Construction: “[N]obody knows more about construction than I do.” (May 2018.)
  • The economy: “I think I know about it better than [the Federal Reserve].” (October 2018.)
  • Technology: “Technology — nobody knows more about technology than me.” (December 2018.)
  • Drones: “I know more about drones than anybody. I know about every form of safety that you can have.” (January 2019.)
  • Drone technology: “Having a drone fly overhead — and I think nobody knows much more about technology, this type of technology certainly, than I do.” (January 2019.)

Is it possible that Trump believes that his supporters believe this, that his claiming to know more about X than “anybody on earth” leaves some fellow in Iowa nodding his head, “Yup, he knows more than anybody. Yup.” Is this just some bizarre speech tick, cringeworthy in itself but otherwise harmless and silly?

Or does this manifest a grandiosity that exposes a more concrete problem? Is he “selling” himself or suffering from delusions? It’s one thing to argue that he’s playing the public when he twits, whether as distraction from failure or personal impropriety, but it’s entirely different to persistently make such bold and bizarre assertions such as this.

Former Trump officials, like Tillerson and Cohn, or Mattis and McMaster, have achieved personal success and reached that time of life when they no longer need to prove their worth. They have spent time with Trump, worked (to the extent that word applies) with Trump. Sure, there have been words circulating, “moron, idiot, dope,” but it’s whispers and, well, who we elected.

But is he competent? Not ignorant or too lazy to read briefing reports, not so impetuous that whatever pops into his head comes out of his mouth with neither a clue nor a thought. Is he unfit.

There is a critical mass of former officials who, whether you like them or not, have established their bona fides over their careers. If they are patriots and put the nation first, they should come out of the shadows, speak on camera either individuals or as a group, and express whether the President of the United States of America is fit for office.

Or does he, in fact, know more than the generals? If he doesn’t, then there is something seriously wrong here and it needs a patriot with knowledge to say so. “Is there any reason you can think of why Tillerson or Cohn would be afraid to come forward and clear this up?” I asked my dinner companion. “No,” he replied, and then he ordered cheesecake for dessert.

28 thoughts on “In Need of a Patriot To Volunteer

    1. SHG Post author

      Not really Dunning-Kruger at all. It’s not his certainty in being correct based on inversely proportional ignorance, but express claims of knowing more than anyone on earth. It seems as if it’s a very different pathology altogether.

      1. BottledJuice

        His assertions are half of the pathological story and simply the result of his cognitive bias and the manifestation thereof. He doesn’t need any other yard stick, other than his fan base, to indulge his superior feelz.

  1. Rigelsen

    “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

    I think you’re dealing with a certain self-aggrandizing personality type, perhaps one that hasn’t been told often enough, if at all, how full of shit it is.

    By the way, that quote was from Obama as relayed by his erstwhile political director. In the case of Trump, however, does any serious person actually take his embellishments and exaggerations seriously? Trump has always been the wannabe showman, and there are good reasons to doubt he takes himself that seriously.

    1. SHG Post author

      Interesting Obama quote. While it certainly suggests a similar sort of self-aggrandizing personality (isn’t everyone who runs for president a flaming narcissist?), it’s still of a qualified measure different than Trumps.

      Bear in mind, us New Yorkers have been listening to him for decades, well before he became a TV celebrity, and he was always a “wannabe showman.” But to doubt that he takes himself “that seriously” is another matter.

      1. LocoYokel

        He might be right about the lawsuits though. Is there a time anybody can remember when he hasn’t been involved in at least one. He might not be very good at them (or at least at following his lawyer’s advice) but I would bet that he is certainly knowledgeable about them.

        1. SHG Post author

          A client once told me that he’s paid so much money to lawyers that he was as much a lawyer himself. I replied that if he was as much a lawyer himself, he probably wouldn’t have to pay so much to lawyers.

          1. LY

            Didn’t mean to imply he was lawyer grade knowledgeable about them, just that after going through a few hundred he has to have learned something about the process and events. Similarly to how a person with a chronic illness will eventually start to learn the medical jargon and hospital procedures just from being exposed to them repeatedly and extensively.

  2. Richard Kopf


    “. . . and then he ordered cheesecake for dessert.”

    I delighted in reading this ending and I can’t imagine the enjoyment of writing it. Wonderful.

    I have a question. Did this expression of how the dinner discussion ends come to you before writing the post, while writing the piece or as you concluded drafting the post?

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      It was there from the beginning, but when I first reached the end, I forgot it and left it out. When I realized my omission, I went back to inserted it. Just so it’s clear, I was so full from dinner (including the two additional “table” appetizers he ordered) that I had them prepare my cheesecake to go. It’s in the fridge at the moment.

  3. Phv3773

    I doubt the 23 bullet points taken together count for much more any two or three by themselves. It’s just something he says trying to make himself seem formidable, like a kitten turning sideways and arching its back. I’m more concerned with the utter lack of understanding of information security and rash decision-makering based on Fox News.

  4. B. McLeod

    I think nobody really knows what to do, because the theoretical mechanism for dealing with the issue has not been invoked to this point. Also, “unfitness” seems largely a political question for the electorate, given that the constitution only speaks to age and citizenship as qualifications for the office.

  5. Hunting Guy

    if I’m reading section four right, Pence wouldn’t agree. If it’s a body chosen by congress, I don’t think the Senate would agree to anything and I would think that any group put forward by Pelosi be so political biased as to be unacceptable to Trump voters.

      1. Hunting Guy

        It was suppose to be a reply to your comment about the 25th. I thought I had hit the reply button but apparently I missed it. Sorry.

        1. SHG Post author

          Nobody has mentioned (noticed?) that I’ve now been able to tweak comments to give people time to edit. Why did I bother?

  6. John Neff

    Your post made me refresh my memory of the “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” but that was intended to be humor.

  7. Ben

    Nobody could possibly take this sort of thing as literally true, so we ought to consider that it might not be intended literally.

    I think “I know everything about X” is just a rhetorical turn that basically means “shut up about X, I am not interested in hearing you talk about it”.

    Slightly less abrasive, and leaves the other party with no opening fo a follow up remark.

    1. SHG Post author

      The issue isn’t whether it’s to be taken seriously, but in the scheme of unserious things to say, there are some that so deeply reflect narcissistic grandiosity that they reveal a far more problematic pathology than mere rhetorical hyperbole. It’s not that it’s merely obviously “literally” untrue, but its nuts.

  8. Jim Ryan

    “Oral-formulaic composition” explains Trumps assertions. He has a number of formulas into which he inserts himself as the bestest, greatest, smartest and other “ests”.

  9. Jake

    It’s the system man. There are still enough people who can’t believe the system is so fucked up that it could elect a failed reality TV star to be president. So the wheel keeps on turning.

    People like your wealthy friend could fix this tomorrow. Just close the market for favorable policy outcomes in the US. No more purchasing political influence = no more purchasing political office.

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