41 thoughts on “Trump: Competence, Character, and Mental Stability

  1. Trump’s Attitude and Treatment of Women

    Edit (2/9/2018)

    I’m not 100% sure if Trump said every one of these quotes, but I’m fairly certain he said them (or something very close to it).

    Edit (2/20/2018)

    Response from the woman making this accusation:

    Also,

    and this

    9/21/2018

  2. Intelligence and Competence

    Edit (2/18/2018)

    I don’t know if this is a sign of incompetence, but this does not inspire confidence, and it seems worrisome.

    From Axios: Skirimish in Beijing Over the Nuclear Football

    3/2/2018

    Daniel Drezner’s ongoing thread “I’ll believe Trump is growing into the presidency when his staff stops treating him like a toddler.” These are comments from Trump or his staff. The thread is below, starting with the most recent and 252nd tweet:

    3/8/2018

    3/14/18

    “Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in – ‘Donald we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed. …

    “So he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well in that case I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said ‘check because I can’t believe it.’

    ‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn’t include energy and timber … And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

    The United States trade representative office says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.

    He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and he’s making up stuff.

    On North Korea:

    Trump described his decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un through the prism of making history and besting his predecessors while lamenting his media coverage, questioning the United States allies and labeling his presidency as “virgin territory.”

    “They couldn’t have met” with Kim, he said, after mocking former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. “Nobody would have done what I did.”

    “It’s called appeasement, please don’t do anything,” he said of other presidents.

    “They say, maybe he’s not the one to negotiate,” he said, mocking a voice of a news anchor. “He’s got very little knowledge of the Korean Peninsula. Maybe he’s not the one … Maybe we should send in the people that have been playing games and didn’t know what the hell they’ve been doing for 25 years.”

    The through-lines of his meandering speech were simple: Trump was tougher than all the rest, and the United States was not going to be laughed at or taken advantage of.

    Does anyone buy that Trump knows more than previous presidents?

    3/20/2018

    Another reason to worry about Trump meeting alone with Kim Jong Un:

    4/23/2018

    6/7/2018

  3. I read the original WaPo story but didn’t look at any of the following buzz. My overwhelming impression, though, is that people are going to read this wrongly. Different people DO receive and process information differently, and there’s nothing that says a person who does so off the written page is more competent than the person who does so aurally or through conversation, or through physical manipuation of some sort. I’m extremely sensitive to the way we Americans tend to misunderstand this.

    Nowhere in any of the public’s campaign vetting is it ever emphasized in the slightest that an American president should be a book-reading person. In fact, we put a ridiculous, disproportionate amount of importance on a candidate’s ability to listen and orate, a completely different skill. Nobody seems ever to have handed a candidate a book and asked him or her while at the lectern to break down the contents.

    Anyway. Thanks for sharing that. It’s a case of the story actually providing some decent context that I think most readers aren’t going to hear. Which means I’m annoyed and slightly peeved at something that I haven’t confirmed is happening.

  4. I think the reaction you describe is more likely if they don’t read the article, and only rely on the headline.

    Nowhere in any of the public’s campaign vetting is it ever emphasized in the slightest that an American president should be a book-reading person… Nobody seems ever to have handed a candidate a book and asked him or her while at the lectern to break down the contents.

    To me, this isn’t a persuasive argument against vetting a candidate’s book-reading. If we could find practical ways of doing this, I think the information is valid and worth knowing.

  5. Right. I’m just saying we don’t. And if we care about a President reading that thing every day, we should vet for it, which we don’t.

  6. I suspect there are a lot of things I care about–that I think the most voters should care about, too–that is not really vetted. The vetting process itself (e.g., “debates”) is kinda lame as well. I’m not sure what this has to do with the article, though.

  7. Corrupt Administrators

    (Note: I didn’t read the article)

    From former director of United States Office of Government Ethics:

    3/6/2018

  8. Brown M&Ms Category

    This is a reference a stipulation in Van Halen’s contract–namely, the group required M&Ms candy in their dressing room–but without the brown ones. My understanding is that Van Halen put this in their contract as a way to gauge the people they hired. If they found brown M&Ms, it meant the people either didn’t read the contract carefully or failed to deliver. Bottom line: the people hired would likely mess up on something big. A Darmouth poli-sci professor will occasionally tweet news items under the brown M&M heading. His explanation is slightly different. This post will function in the same way.

    3/21/2018

    The article below is basically about this subject, or at least it collects many of the examples in one place

    These last two paragraphs, preceded by comments by Obama’s communication director, expressing the opinion that what came out of her office was the “ultimate voice:”

    That voice was a bit garbled last month when, according to the White House daily guidance, Trump was planning to address the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in “Oxen Hill.”

    The proper spelling of the suburban Maryland jurisdiction is Oxon Hill, a mistake made more pronounced by the fact that the Gaylord resort is the home of the National Spelling Bee.

    4/30/2018

  9. National Security

    From CNN: Trump still unconvinced Russia meddled in 2016 election (2/14/2018)

    Even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President’s thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.
    While this issue is separate from the question of whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian officials, to Trump the issues are interwoven, the sources say. He views the notion that Russia meddled in the election as an argument that he had help to win, and that he didn’t win the election on his own.

    (emphasis added)

    Doesn’t this essentially mean that Trump is putting his ego ahead of protecting the upcoming elections (and deterring Russian interference)? It seems petty and childish, not to mention irresponsible and a dereliction of his duty as POTUS. Can an individual adequately do the job of president if they’re not willing to put aside their ego for the country’s interests? (I would say no.)

    Edit (2/15/2018)

    From USA Today: Rob Porter Mess Reveals Broken White House, Not Broken Security Process

    Porter now appears to be one small symptom of a larger problem. According to NBC News, more than 130 White House political appointees, among them President Trump’s daughter, son-in-law and White House counsel Don McGahn, were operating with interim clearances as of November. Forty-seven of them were in positions that report directly to Trump.

    Some of the interim clearances may be related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between Trump’s team and Russia. Still, that’s an astounding number.

    The story deals not only with national security, but competence and credibility (e.g., Trump WH kept lying). Porter’s domestic abuse is an issue because it’s something that can be used to blackmail him. With that threat, adversaries can extract classified information or maybe even turn Porter into an agent. My understanding individuals who have a background that makes them vulnerable to blackmail generally don’t receive security clearance.

    7/28/2018

  10. Foreign Policy and Foreign Relations

    From WaPo Top U.S. Officials Tell the World to Ignore Trump’s Tweets

    According to the article this message is coming from both congressional Republicans and Democrats, and Trump appointees (e.g., McMaster). Advising other world leaders to ignore Trump’s tweets seems awfully close to saying not to take the POTUS’s words seriously. Think about what that says about the Trump’s credibility–about what these people think about Trump’s competence and fitness. If something disastrous happens because of the Trump presidency, this will be one of many warning signs that will prevent people from saying, “We had know way of knowing.”

    By the way, here’s another sign that this is a serious matter:

    The question of whom they should believe — the president or his advisers — has befuddled European officials. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel confessed Saturday that he didn’t know where to look to understand America.

    “Is it deeds? Is it words? Is it tweets?” he asked.

    He said he was not sure whether he could recognize the United States.

    Away from the glare of television cameras, many European diplomats and policymakers echoed the same concerns.

    Edit (2/27/2018)

    7/26/2018

    Trump considers himself his own best negotiator with world leaders, and has boasted of his ability to size up the person across the table, forge a personal bond, and strike the best deal. He often saunters into phone calls and meetings with foreign presidents and prime ministers, paying little attention to history, protocol and a pile of briefing papers prepared for him by his foreign policy experts.

    and

    The angry outbursts by both sides raised questions about how the impasse would be resolved — and whether there was any way left for Erdogan to release Brunson without seeming to cave in to American demands.

    “Pence and Trump have left him no graceful exit,” said Soner Cagaptay, a Turkish American political scientist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who said the feud amounted to the worst political crisis between Ankara and Washington in at least four decades.

  11. Mental Stability/Fitness

    Below are some of some of the recent tweets I believe Stelter refers to:

    4/13/2018

    4/26/2018

    7/6/2018

    8/6/2018

    8/29/2018

    Grandchild: “Granpa, in class we read many of President Trump’s tweets. I was amazed.”
    Grandpa: “Yeah. Many of those tweets revealed how immature and unfit he was; and sometimes I questioned if he was all there. But I also thought those tweets attacking the media were dangerous. He was trying to get people to not believe anything the press said, so that when they reported on the bad things that Trump did, people wouldn’t believe it. It was working, too.”

    1. This is how the “crazy” part sounded like:

      Uh….

  12. Picking the Best People

    Edit (2/27/2018)

    I could have put this under corruption or national security, as well. Even without the information in this article, Kushner having security clearance, being given important tasks (Middle East Peace negotiations!) really seemed like a sign of terrible judgment by Trump. Indeed, the information isn’t surprising at all. The people who thought Hillary Clinton was unfit because she jeopardized national security should be going crazy right now.

    The following thread explains why the story about Kushner is a big deal:

    2/28/2018

    3/7/2018

    3/9/2018

    This guy might be become Trump’s top economic adviser. One of many things that makes me dismayed about Trump’s presidency.

    3/28/2018

    On Trump’s replacement for VA, Ronny Jackson, the White House physician:

    8/12/2018

    8/13/2018

    8/14/2018

    Today:

    1. Edit

  13. Demonizing Immigrants

    From what I understand, there is a history of demonizing immigrants–where certain themes come up over and over again (e.g., immigrants are criminals and rapists). Trump seems to be fitting that pattern, and I think he’s doing this to increase fear and animus toward immigrants, Muslims and non-whites as a way to gain and keep power. He’s acting like a demagogue.

    Here’s an example from his speech today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC):

    3/6/2018

    Given what Trump has said and done with regard to immigration, who he has selected in his administration (Bannon, Miller, Cohen, Sessions), it’s hard not to say the action below as both ethno-nationalism and a way to rile up his supporters to support him more.

    Let’s say Trump believed that slowing immigration was the best thing for the country. If he were a good leader that cared about unifying the country, would he do things like this, especially at a time where he has tacitly acknowledged that Russia is trying to sow discord in our nation. I believe a good leader would hold off on this sort of action or do so with more care and savvy. This just seems to be poking his non-supporters in the eye.

    4/18/2018

    “Breeding concept.” I’m not sure what he means by that, but it sounds creepy, racist even. He seems unhinged here.

    5/16/2018

    8/2/2108

    1. Went to the home page, as far as I can tell this is the official White House twitter account. The families’ losses are horrific and sad, but the Trump administration is using them to demonize immigrants.

  14. Not a Well Run White House

    From Axios: In Trumpworld, every day is yesterday

    Here’s what the title means:

    Some aides feel the place is unraveling, that they can’t trust their colleagues, that they don’t know what’s going on, that there’s no path upward.

    But you know what? That sentence was as true in February 2017, in the frenzied weeks after the inauguration, as it is today.

    3/1/2018

    I didn’t read the following, but the headline, if true, doesn’t sound good.

    3/2/2018

    From NYT: Trump’s Chaos Theory for the White House Taking Its Toll and Trump Management Style, Year 2: See Year 1 (the latter contains remarks from management experts).

    Those articles reminded me of this 2016 Politico article, The Executive Mr. Trump, which drew on former employees and Trump’s biographers about Trump’s management style. The article isn’t all negative by any means–many former employees say positive things–but there are negative things as well–things that point to current problems.

    From op-ed from CNN: The great unraveling: Trump’s allies are really worried about him

    3/14/2018

    Why this matters: This acute level of uncertainty — and these rapid fire executions, especially the security clearance issues — are shredding an already devastated morale inside the building.

    Be smart: This makes it harder than ever to attract top-tier talent. They’re going to have big problems replacing the next wave of vacancies.

    6/21/2018

    I have a lot of comments and links in the “Journal(2)” thread, but this post is appropriate for Kayem’s comments:

    A combination of heartlessness and incompetence, with the possible consequences of parents never seeing their children again. This is self-inflicted–Trump chose this policy (to deter immigrants from coming), and if Kayem is correct, he could have planned better to be able to reunify parents and children. He did not.

    9/11/2018

  15. Moments of Hilarity

    There are incredible moments of unintentional comedy from the Trump administration, often the type of of thing that is so over-the-top that you can’t help but laugh. Sometimes the matter is so over-the-top that I’m initially, profoundly stunned. I just can’t believe what I’m hearing; it’s almost too over-the-top for satire. This is a post for moments that made me laugh.

    The first one involves the tweet, specifically the last line.

    7/3/2018

    Also, I believe all of Trump’s books have been ghostwritten.

    7/6/2018

    I saw a headline that said Secretary Pompeo is bringing a cd of Elton John, which includes the song, “Rocket Man” as a gift to Kim Jong Un. If that’s not surreal and ridiculous enough, I also read that Trump autographed the CD.

    Here’s Senator Tim Kaine’s response:

    8/27/2018

    8/31/2018

    What’s sad (funny) is audience booing when Trump says this.

    9/26/2018

    Like something from South Park.

  16. Staff Exodus at Historically High Levels

    Or that’s what I’ve heard, in terms of the number of people who have left the Trump administration within the current time frame.

    Here’s another:

    3/13/2018

    Another one bites the dust.

    The article says that Trump was thinking about this for a long time, and there were reports that Tillerson would either leave on his own or Trump would replace him last fall. The article also mentions that Trump the firing was imminent last week, but it’s hard to not see this decision based on Tillerson’s comments yesterday, pointing at Russia for the poisoning of a former spy in the UK:

    On the flight from Nigeria, Tillerson appeared to break with the White House in his assessment of the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He singled out Russia as responsible for the attack, echoing the finger-pointing of the British government.

    “It came from Russia,” Tillerson said, according to the Associated Press. “I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action. But this is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely.”

    Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders condemned the attack as “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible,” and expressed solidarity with Britain, but would not say whether the United States believes Russia was behind it.

    3/15/2018

  17. I’m not entirely convinced that this is that big a deal, or that it necessarily means bad things. It’s super interesting, from a spectator perspective, but then I’m rooting for a specific outcome.

    My dad was certain that removal from office was never going to happen, just a few months ago. Now he says there’s no way the incumbent finishes his term, although I didn’t press him on whether he thought he would resign or be removed, and I wasn’t in the mood to talk about it. I seldom am.

  18. If the people leaving are the more reasonable and competent indivdiuals–people who have prevented Trump from doing really foolish things–then I would be worried–worried especially since I have little faith that the GOP Congress would step in and act as a check. I get the feeling like they’re hoping nothing catastrophic will happen from now until mid-terms, and then if they get wiped out, the Democrats will deal with Trump.

    If so this is really awful on at least two levels: 1) They’re taking a huge gamble in my view; 2) If a few Republicans join Democrats now, and stand up to Trump, this can mitigate the ire of Trump supporters, which will be bad even under these circumstances. The idea that a Democratic Congress will impeach Trump with little or no Republican support is very worrisome to me. I can see this being really bad for our country.

  19. I was speaking in more general terms, not predictive terms in this specific case, but I see your point. Just high turnover in the White House by itself doesn’t seem like a big deal to me, necessarily. Like, I get concerned if I have a bad stomach ache, but if just because I ate too much pizza I know it’ll pass. If it’s because my appendix is about to burst, that’s more worrisome.

  20. Right, but you don’t think these departures/firings stem from “appendix” problems? I tend to think that’s the case. (Also, do you think a lot of people want to work in this White House, or do they have a hard time getting qualified people? I think it’s the former, and that’s linked to problems with an “appendix.”)

  21. I do think it’s an appendix-level situation, but the appendix itself is being examined all over the media, and that’s (mostly) what I’m concerned with. I just haven’t heard a lot of people say what I think, which is that high turnover all by itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or necessarily symptomatic of something dire. Although yeah, in this case I’m sure it is.

  22. I’m a little confused. You’d just like to see more acknowledgement that high number of turnovers, by themselves, isn’t necessarily a bad sign?

  23. Mike Pompeo Said to be New Secretary of State

    Interesting thoughts on that:

    Also, this, with a summary of Tillerson’s performance as well:

  24. I think the more interesting thing about this is what the CIA might look like. For the directorship, I never thought career politicians were the best choice. Seems to me you need a career bureaucrat, which the new director would be. Plus, the new likely director (whose name escapes me), has been in the agency for a long time, meaning she’s not attached to the current White House the way Pompeo has been.

    What this all means for safety, security, and the CIA’s ability to do its job is a complete mystery to me, since I won’t pretend to know the first thing about intelligence management, but just based on these shallow things, I feel a little better.

  25. The feedback I’ve seen from the new CIA director, from other intelligence professionals, has been positive. The biggest negative seems to be her involvement with water-boarding in the Bush administration. (Most of the professionals I’ve seen have not held that against her, though.) Like you, I feel pretty good about her selection.

  26. Scorecard for Trump’s claims vs Media and Others

    I’ll try to track claims made by Trump and media, keeping track of how often either are right or wrong. The purpose is to see if we can identify patterns relating to credibility and trustworthiness of either. I wish I started this a long time ago, but I guess it’s better late than never. Here’s one I saw today:

    Here’s the tweet Alexander is referring to:

    It’s possible that Trump only decided to add a new lawyer now, so perhaps this isn’t slam dunk against Trump.

    3/22/2018

    The above refers to John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, who resigned today.

    Also, announcement that McMaster leaving as National Security Adviser. Here’s what White House spokesperson, Sarah Sanders said last week, responding to reports that McMaster was on his way out. (Kelly, too).

    4/6/2018

    Just putting this here:

    4/7/2018

  27. Great Businessman

    2016 article from USA Today: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills

    Developers with histories of not paying contractors are a very small minority of the industry, said Colette Nelson, chief advocacy officer of the American Subcontractors Association. But late or missing payments can be devastating for small businesses and their employees.

    “Real estate is a tough and aggressive business, but most business people don’t set out to make their money by breaking the companies that they do business with,” she said, stressing she couldn’t speak directly to the specifics of cases in Trump’s record. “But there are a few.”

    and

    Despite the Trumps’ assertion that his their companies only refuse payment to contractors “when somebody does a bad job,” he has sometimes offered to hire those same contractors again. It’s a puzzling turn of events, since most people who have a poor experience with a contractor, and who refuse to pay and even fight the contractor in court, aren’t likely to offer to rehire them.

    There’s a pattern:

    The analysis of Trump lawsuits also found that professionals, such as real estate agents and lawyers, say he’s refused to pay them sizable sums of money. Those cases show that even some loyal employees, those selling his properties and fighting for him in court, are only with him until they’re not.

    Real estate broker Rana Williams, who said she had sold hundreds of millions of dollars in Manhattan property for Trump International Realty over more than two decades with the company, sued in 2013 alleging Trump shorted her $735,212 in commissions on deals she brokered from 2009 to 2012. Williams, who managed as many as 16 other sales agents for Trump, said the tycoon and his senior deputies decided to pay her less than her contracted commission rate “based on nothing more than whimsy.”

    and

    Even Trump’s own attorneys, on several occasions, sued him over claims of unpaid bills.

    3/29/2018

  28. Lying, Making Stuff Up, and Conspiracy Thinking

    4/5/2018

    4/9/2018

    5/18/2018

    If someone from the Trump campaign witnessed wrongdoing and informed the FBI, and then worked with them to provide further information, that’s not a “spy.” And the key here is if wrongdoing and suspicious behavior occurred (e.g., cooperating with Russians to interfere in the election). If it did, that’s the big story.

    Also, notice the word “apparently.” This is important because Trump and some of his supporters (like Rep. Devin Nunes) are attempting to discover the identity of this informant. DOJ and FBI are saying that this could endanger the life of the person and their family. There’s also this:

    6/16/2018

    6/21/2018

    7/31/2018

    “According to data provided by the Department of Justice, the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.”

    Donald Trump, speech before a joint session of Congress, February 28, 2017

    “On June 12, 2018, you reached an agreement with [the Justice Department] to resolve certain issues in dispute in this litigation, whereby [Justice] would conduct a search for records containing data of (i) all individuals convicted of all terrorism-related offenses (domestic and international) between 2001 and the date of the initial search, or (ii) all individuals convicted of all domestic terrorism-related offenses between 2001 and the date of the initial search. . . . [N]o responsive records were located.”

    Justice Department letter to Benjamin Wittes, July 24, 2018

    8/2/2018

    8/26/2018

    8/29/2018

    edit

  29. Domestic Leadership

    9/12/2018

    A reporter asked Trump how he’d bridge divisions in our country. Trump’s answer is pretty bad in my opinion.

  30. Statements/Tweets that Make Trump Seem Racist

    I might have a post for these links and comments, and I know I’ve posted them in other threads, but I’m going to start one just in case.

    Tapper on the tweet above:

    7/14/2018

    “Allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame,” Trump said. “I think it changed the fabric of Europe and, unless you act very quickly, it’s never going to be what it was and I don’t mean that in a positive way.

    “So I think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad,” he continued. “I think you are losing your culture. Look around. You go through certain areas that didn’t exist ten or 15 years ago.”

    That argument — that immigration changes existing “culture” for the worse — is a staple of white nationalist rhetoric in the United States.

    8/4/2018

    8/22/2018

    Yep, I think he’s trying to rile up his base and provoke the left. (Hope the left doesn’t fall for it.) “Militia-directed stuff too.” Chilling.

    8/23/2018

  31. Economic Policy

    1. For the record.

      Edit

      I’m not expecting Corker or other Republicans to do much. 50-49 Senate right now. One Republican could vote with Democrats to do something.

      8/2/2018

      8/8/2018

      10/15/2018

  32. Handling Disasters

    It’s possible that the federal government did as best as they could in helping Puerto Rico deal with Hurricane Maria, but even if this is true, the POTUS should brag and sound like a used car salesperson:

    Also, consider:

    Death toll from Hurricane Katrina: 1,833.

    9/13/2018

    It’s unreal that he’s saying this. It also supports my hypothesis that in Trump’s mind, truth is whatever is favorable to him, while anything that is unfavorable to him are not true or lies.

    Republican Governor of Florida.

    9/14/2018

    Trump is doubling-down.

    This guy is awful.

    11/10/2018

    Several hours later:

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