As a pretend-novelist, I should be the last person to find fault with delusion. I pretty much live on it. Still, when I hear Donald Trump boast of his tremendous success speaking to the Boy Scouts of America last week, or how he has eliminated chaos from the White House, or how he wants to reopen an investigation of an opponent he has already defeated, I don’t find delusion nearly so charming.
Even less charming is the formal definition of the term: according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5—my go-to source for all aberrant behavior and general lunacy), delusions are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change even in light of conflicting evidence. They become bizarre delusions “if they are clearly implausible and not understandable to same-culture peers and do not derive from ordinary life experiences.”
(So Mr. Trump, how many people (1) were at the inauguration? (2) voted illegally? (3) had their jobs saved by you? (4) cheered the destruction of the WTC?)
Which brings us, via a circuitous route, to John F. Kennedy and his 1961 promise to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth “before the end of the decade.” To many those were the words of a delusional man, but there really was no widely accepted conflicting evidence; in fact, the space program had been progressing, Kennedy’s words provided impetus, and eight years later (though he did not live to see it) his promise became actuality.
Which brings us again, via a much less circuitous route, to the delusional Donald Trump. As his “fixed beliefs” daily drift further from plausibility, it is time for us simply to admit that (1) we elected an irretrievably unbalanced person to run our country, (2) hoping for impeachment from a craven congress is as likely as stumbling across that castle in Spain, and (3) the 25th Amendment may turn out to be more than just the filler between the 24th and 26th.
The wild and bizarre mood swings that Trump has demonstrated this past week, along with the way he has literally abandoned the welfare of the country in order to wage (and lose) his own petty wars, illustrate clearly a president who (in 25th Amendment terms) is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. The country is in crisis, not because Trump made ignorant off-color remarks to the Boy Scouts or fired some vulgar sycophant, but because he is too inept o discharge those powers and duties. And while we casually discuss the problem and laugh at his complete ignorance and laughable irrationality, America continues to fall behind on the world stage: how many millions of tons of pollutants have fouled our planet since Trump and Pruitt initiated their war on the environment? How many of our relationships with other countries have been impeded because our Secretary of State lacks the requisite staff? On an individual level, how many gay men and women have been summarily disenfranchised by a few early morning tweets dashed off unilaterally and capriciously?
Impeachment is an admirable goal and I would vote for it—but I don’t have a vote. Besides, finding a halfwit guilty of high crimes may be a stretch even for a less cowardly group of legislators than we currently have. But finding a delusional halfwit guilty of imperiling the country may well be within reach. It’s not the kind of crime that sends someone to prison, but we don’t need Trump to be incarcerated; we simply need him to pack up the family truckster—with the rest of the family in it—and relish the view of Washington one more time.
Preferably in the rearview mirror.