Trump’s Deliberative Processes
As a child, I often lay awake at dawn conceiving of fanciful notions like this: I blow into the air in my room, and some dust on my night table is swept up in the breeze and sent sailing about the room, and then an alternate breeze from the window carries that dust out of the room, followed by subsequent little gusts throughout the house finally moving the dust right out the door and onto the street, where perhaps it settles on the windshield of a moving car, and so on and so forth, until, eventually, perhaps six months later, the very same dust I sent flying in my bedroom at dawn reaches the other side of the globe, perchance landing silently, at a certain moment, on the nose of a man who twitches at the slight sensation, thereby losing his concentration just long enough to distract him from the regrettably cruel thing he was about to say to his friend, or to make him forget the words of the wedding proposal he had been planning all afternoon, or to undermine the posture of bravado he was trying to strike during a lecture, thereby making him suddenly seem a more openminded and sincere teacher than he would have seemed without that speck of dust touching his nose at that very moment.
As a boy, I thought such musings were very clever, and imagined, in my groggy dawning mind, that they might have a hint of the profound in them. Today, I believe I have discovered their true, and distinctly unphilosophical, realm of applicability at last. The dust in the wind of my childhood imagination is, it turns out, nothing less — and sadly nothing more — than a true and scientifically accurate description of the deliberative processes of Donald Trump’s mind.
Take the example of background checks for gun purchases. Five days ago, he was insisting that “something has to be done,” and praising the efforts of a bipartisan committee trying to come up with that “something,” with special emphasis on the urgency of keeping guns out of the hands of “the mentally ill.” This week, he is insisting that the current background checks are more than sufficient, there is no need for universal checks of the sort he was touting five days ago, and what is needed instead is merely more funding for “mental health.”
What changed? You could theorize all day long — perhaps Ivanka hypnotized him last week, and then Wayne Lapierre read him the riot act. I have concluded, after trying to “read” Trump this way for three years, that nothing in his thought processes is ever so cut and dried, and we have all been misreading him all along, due to one simple error: We are persistently imagining that Trump’s thought processes are to be found in Trump’s head. They are not. What we describe, at our peril (i.e., euphemistically and optimistically), as Trump’s deliberative reasoning, is in fact just so many swirling currents and countercurrents in the atmosphere around him; and the “results” of this “deliberation” merely the specific flinch, tickle, or distracted stare instigated by whichever bit of particular matter happens to alight on his nose at the exact moment, most often no doubt in his bathroom, when his thumbs are about to start typing.
This is the President of the United States, the leader of the so-called free world, and the man above all others, in this age of centralized power and unequal republican branches, upon whose “mind” rests the immediate fate of whatever embers of civilization remain aglow in the quickly darkening twilight of our age: a man whose mind, whose definitive substance, is nothing but the sum total of all the billions of competing gusts emitted by man and nature at any given moment, and of all the specks of random dust temporarily settling where they will, under the sway of those billions of gusts.
This is the mind of the man whose whole soul is vanity. Vanity and vacuity, an empty cavern in search of admiration, and therefore at the mercy of the particles that present themselves, beyond which “he,” which is to say the presidential vacuum, is aware of absolutely nothing. “Will they love me for this?” is his only consideration. No content, no principle, no purpose, no plan. Just this: “Will they love me for this?” where “this” means only the apparent direction or trend of the current plurality of dust particles touching his nose, tickling his ears, and drying his eyes at this moment.