a blog, newsletter, and kaleidoscope notebook about politics, the media, and culture
by tom bunting, a Real Journalist

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What to do with a strung-out President?

October 8, 2020 7:38 AM
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President Trump is feeling great!

We know this because he is saying so—incessantly—on Twitter, along with a number of proclamations about California, technology regulation, whether or not Congress should pass a economic stimulus bill, his potential third term of office, and the personal qualities of former John McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt*. It’s been a particularly chaotic few days of Trump Twitter, and a lot of activity for a 72-year old man with an acute respiratory condition.

The New York Times is reporting that Trump’s aides are concerned that the President’s behavior may be influenced by dexamethasone, a powerful steroid Trump was prescribed that can create manic energy and feelings of euphoria. That’s a thesis repeatedly raised by medical professionals since Trump checked himself out of Walter Reed hospital two days ago.

A President being yaked out is not completely unprecedented. John F. Kennedy’s chronic pain forced him to take a steady streams of painkillers and stimulants while President. Nixon was reportedly a recreational user of phenytoin, an anti-seizure medication with a number of mental side-effects.** Upon losing his party’s nomination, incumbent President Franklin Pierce joked that “there is nothing left but to get drunk,” something he did a lot while in office.

Like many Trump sins, his behavior is not completely unprecedented in American history. What is unique, however, is the openness with which Trump is displaying his possible symptoms and the complete lack of control his staff is maintaining over him during his illness.

Henry Kissinger had to talk a drunk and possibly high Nixon out of a nuclear strike against North Korea in 1969. The difference is that Nixon at least had a Kissinger. No one in the White House is able to talk Trump out of dooming thousands of furloughed Americans to permeant job losses.

Instead of telling the President that he should absolutely not return to work carrying an infectious disease that has killed over 200,000 Americans, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is spending his day today donning a PPE suit to accompany Trump in the Oval Office.

For the first time in the Trump presidency, all the guardrails are finally off.

*To be fair to Trump, Steve Schmidt is the guy who tried to get Howard Schwartz to run for President, so perhaps he is a bit of a dumb-dumb.

**Nixon had no diagnosed history of seizures.

What to do with a strung-out President?