Who pulls the plug?

Peter Arango
9 min readDec 1, 2017


OK, now I am terrified.

The phrase, “We are entering unchartered territory”, no longer serves to describe the mayhem Donald Trump creates on a daily basis. He has skidded well beyond insensitive self-promotion, beyond impulsive and petulant posturing, to flat-out mental illness.

Am I suggesting that our president is truly nuts? Yeah, I’m starting to believe that the President of the United States is bubble buggy gonzo, never a happy conclusion and downright terrifying in a week that raises the possibility of nuclear war. The rush of curious initiatives landing without discussion is more than enough to keep most folks off-balance, but the grotesqueries of the last few days should frighten even those who have used the President’s lack of attention to governance to push their own agendas.

Let’s see. What’s happened this week?

The President once again asked the American people to believe that he will be hurt by the proposed tax reform, and began the public shaming of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who will have the dubious distinction of having served the shortest term as Secretary when Trump jettisons him. Tillierson probably should not have called the president a moron, but … Trump could use a little help from State as today he tweeted the wrong Teresa May, contacting a woman on the Isle of Wight rather than the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Oh, and Trump candidly admitted that a government shutdown would help him convince his rabid anti-immigration base, that he won’t play ball with Democrats, He’s assured reporters that he absolutely intends to blame Democrats for the shutdown.

About this shutdown. The only people hurt are those dependent on social security, Medicare, Medicaid, recent retirees, those selling homes and those seeking mortgages, government contractors, veterans, retail businesses and the stock market.

So, there’s that, and …

Trump tweeted Egyptian snuff films posted by discredited racist right-wing anti-Muslims in Britain, horrifying Muslims, Prime Minister Teresa May (probably both Teresa Mays) , British Parliament, most of the Western world, and some in the U.S. The State Department, or what is left of it, will deal with the blowback in the Middle East.

A day earlier the tweet — “Meeting with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ today about keeping government open and working, Problem is they want illegal immigrants flooding into our Country unchecked, are weak on Crime and want to substantially RAISE Taxes. I don’t see a deal!”

This hours before a scheduled meeting with the Democratic leaders, upending a meeting intended to prevent the government shutdown. We’ve seen this kind of insulting tweet to members of Congress before, but this one was followed by a truly wacky attempt to shame Pelosi and Schumer by holding a press conference with two empty seats.

While the president still refers to Kim Jong Un as Rocket Man, short and fat, citizens in Hawaii test nuclear attack warning sirens, recognizing that the latest ICBM test by North Korea puts them in immediate peril.

In a ceremony honoring the Navajo Code Talkers, Trump drops a leaden crack again referring to Senator Elizabeth Warren as Pocahontas. This following his characterization of those in the NFL who kneel as sons of bitches. Disrespect is one thing; racial slurs and obscenity from the White House speak to hubris and a disordered mind.

Trump now suggests that the widely viewed Access Hollywood tape in which he boasted that he could grope at will was yet another piece of fake news; apparently, he now contends that the voice on the tape is not his. This statement is at odds with the public apology he issued at the time of the tape’s release. At virtually the same moment, Trump gloated over Matt Lauer’s fall from grace while continuing to withhold condemnation of Judge Roy Moore.

All of this accompanies his reanimation of the Obama birther issue and the allegation that former Florida representative Joe Scarborough played some part in the death of Lori Klausutis, an aide who died when an abnormal heart rhythm caused her to fall striking her head. And, we now know, in addition to obsessing about LaVar Ball’s failure to appreciate his efforts to have UCLA shoplifting basketballer released from jail in China, Trump continues to find ways to squash investigations linking his campaign to Russian political operatives.

These gaffes are no longer simply unattractive evidence of narcissistic pique, not simply inappropriate. They are inexplicable. The needle has moved for me from disapproval of Trump as a man and as a political leader to the conviction that his presidency is dangerous.

OK, so what will it take, and who pulls the plug?

In an article in the Daily Intelligencer, Andrew Sullivan put it more succinctly:

This past week was, in some ways, the most potent distillation of the Trump era we have yet encountered. This is not because any single incident is worse than any previous one over the past year. It’s because the last few days have brought all of them together in a new, concentrated way — a super-storm, as it were, of liberal democratic destruction. We have deranged tweeting; truly surreal lies; mindless GOP tribalism; evangelicals making excuses for the molestation of minors; further assaults on the free press; an unprecedented attack on the most reliable Atlantic ally; the demonization of personal enemies; stupendous tribal hypocrisy with respect to sexual abuse; the White House’s endorsement of a foreign neo-fascist hate group; the vengeful hanging out to dry of a Cabinet member; and the attempt to pass a catastrophic omnibus piece of legislation in one mad, blind rush in order to get a “win.” And all in a few days!

At its center is mental illness. It radiates out of the center like a toxin in the blood. And this, again, is nothing new. On Trump’s first day in office, with respect to the size of his inauguration crowd, he insisted that what was demonstrably, visibly, incontrovertibly false was actually true. At that moment, we learned that all the lies and exaggerations and provocations of the previous year were not just campaign tools, designed to con and distract, but actually constitutive of his core mental health. He was not lying, as lying is usually understood. He was expressing what he believed to be true, because his ego demanded it be true. And for Trump, as we now know, there is no reality outside his own perfervidly narcissistic consciousness.

And yet, apologists continue to scramble to contain the fallout, blaming the hostile media for these scurrilous attacks on the president.

What is happening and why is it happening? This new normal is more confusing day by day.

A relatively rudderless and ineffectual Republican majority in the House and Senate appears determined to operate in the interest of corporations and billionaires at the expense of ordinary people, including those who put them in office. Mean spirited partisan contempt for compromise and paranoia has brought legislation by fiat, the business of government seeping out of closed chambers. Broad changes in Health Care and Tax Reform are apparently the work of a few men operating in secret. Discussion and debate have been jettisoned; attempts to question the president or Congressional leadership are ignored or squashed.

The Trump administration, operating in reflexive fury against any program tainted by connection with Barack Obama, has gutted the agencies created to protect the public good. At war with the press, obsessively reacting to what he believes are slights or unfair attacks, the Commander-In-Chief leads his nation by tweeting angry recriminations of Lavar Ball.

Partisan political bullying has been more than dispiriting enough without the antics of an addled Commander-In-Chief. The work of Congress is now done behind closed doors; political steamrolling has taken the place of debate and compromise. Presidential appointments continue to undermine the efficacy of the bureaus they now lead.

Net neutrality is about to end.

Loyalist, Thomas Brunell, the author of Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America, has been tapped to act as Deputy Director of the Census Bureau. Brunell is neither qualified for the post or free of political bias. In running the day-to-day operation of the Census bureau, Brunell has the ability to direct of the resources of the bureau in the collection of census data, an undertaking that has historically under-reported Black and Hispanic citizens as well as other minorities.

Time Magazine is now the property of the Meredith Corporation, a purchase made possible by the “passive” ownership of the Koch brothers who brought six hundred and fifty million dollars to the deal. Ardent opponents of government regulation of any sort, the Kochs have been eager to purchase the media enterprise, a prospect made more likely by the Justice Department’s determination to clip the AT&T merger with Time Warner, an eighty-five billion dollar merger, arguing that a merger of that size is untenable until AT&T divests some assets, by which, it seems, the Justice Department means Turner Broadcasting, and more particularly, CNN. Worst case? Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News would certainly not be permitted to snap up CNN, but the Koch brothers could. Time Magazine, longtime champion of environmental stewardship could change direction, and CNN, the most annoying thorn in the president’s side, could lose its capacity to report as freely it has.

In this busy week, the administration has decertified the Iran nuclear agreement, repealed the Clean Power Plan which had limited greenhouse gas emissions and introduced a proposal to subsidize the energy sector, particularly power plants dependent on coal. This only a week after the recently approved Keystone Pipeline spilled 210 gallons of oil in South Dakota.

“We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Walt Kelly’s comic creation, Pogo the Possum, passed on that observation as he stood amidst a heap of litter on a poster advertising the first Earth Day back in 1970. He wasn’t wrong

The election of Donald Trump lifted a veil that had obscured the judgment of liberals and progressives for a very long time. The assumptions and imperatives that propelled social change over the past two decades are inimical to the convictions of enough people that Trump was elected despite concerns about his character and capacity for leadership. It is easier to lump all who support Trump into the basket of deplorables, racist, homophobic, conspiracy laden angry White people than it is to consider the possibility that there are differences of culture so divergent that compromise may no longer be possible.

Some of us live a secular life, and some of us live a life of faith, and that reality is one that progressives still fail to acknowledge. I’ve written elsewhere describing the grievance that many American Christians and all Evangelical Christians felt as they experienced the political consequences of living in an increasingly secular state. It is their opinion that religious faith is discounted and mocked in a secular society. They have seen court decisions eliminate prayer in school, the presentation of the Ten Commandments and the celebration of Christian Christmas in public spaces.

But the ten ton elephant in our living room is what people of faith see as the killing of unborn children and what progressives see as the government’s responsibility to ensure that women have a choice in ending pregnancy.

To be clear: There is no convincing a person of faith that human life does not begin at conception and no convincing advocates of choice that a fetus prior to viability. is a person.

So, when accounts of Judge Roy Moore’s dalliance with fourteen year old girls hit the headlines, commentators on MSNBC and CNN, outraged that Moore might become a sitting member of the Senate, asked how anyone would vote for a pedophile rather than vote for a Democrat. However flawed Moore, or Trump for that matter, might be, for the Evangelical and many other people of faith, Democrats endorse what they see as the murder of children.

That’s the emotional landscape that underlies every attempt to bring contending political forces together. We can debate the national debt, climate change, crime, terrorism, but there’s no room for discussion about abortion.

We secularists do threaten a Christian nation; they are not wrong. The closest analogy is with the untenable series of compromises made before the Southern states determined that the Federal government was at war with their way of life. They too were not wrong; a nation could not long exist half slave and half free.

We’re close to that point today as the mechanism of government and the security of the nation have been placed in the hands of an imperious, vindictive, and disordered president as a last attempt to turn back the hands of time. It will take extraordinary leadership to paste this experiment in democracy back together.

Who is ready to step up and pull the plug?



Peter Arango

I’m the author of four novels and America’s Best Kept College Secrets, a retired teacher of the humanities, eclectic reader, and prisoner of popular culture.