Editorial

Theatre of the absurd: on Donald Trump’s response to 'Fire and Fury'

Donald Trump’s response to a new book strengthens concern about his temperament

The office of the President of the United States took on the air of a Shakespearean farce as Fire and Fury, a tell-all, insider account of dysfunction, bitterness and chaos within the White House, was shot-gunned across the Internet. Although the book was released on Friday, its author, Michael Wolff, and publishers, Henry Holt & Co., were perhaps taking no chances in disseminating it thus, given that Donald Trump had reacted furiously on Twitter to its impending release, and his lawyers reportedly sent them a cease-and-desist notice. Mr. Trump’s anger was evident when he earlier said that former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who allegedly provided much of the inputs used in the book, had “lost his mind” and had been “dumped like a dog”. Mr. Trump had uncharitable words for Mr. Wolff as well. It is relevant to ask what the book is and what it is not. In the view of most White House analysts, it is a collection of statements that amount to gossip by members of Mr. Trump’s inner coterie. It is not, according to many who cover the White House, a work of journalistic merit, or a rigorous factual account backed by catalogued evidence. Yet, even if one discounts many of the claims made in Fire and Fury, it paints an unmistakable picture of profound instability in Mr. Trump’s office.

Consequently, the debate has circled back to the question of his mental health and his ability to discharge the duties of his office. If he is found wanting in this regard, his Cabinet and Congress may, under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s 25th Amendment, remove him from office. Twenty-seven psychiatrists, including those from top universities, have described Mr. Trump’s mental state as “dangerous”; some have called for an emergency evaluation of his mental capacity. Mr. Trump’s weekend tweet that he was “a very stable genius” indicates that he is conscious of the growing clamour around the mental health question. Beyond this, however, what the embattled state — as described by the book — of White House functioning indicates is that Mr. Trump may not have expected to win the presidency at all. And that he only joined in the race for the mind-boggling publicity — and by extension commercial gain — that it could bring him and the Trump Organization. This theory would indeed explain certain broad trends witnessed since his inauguration, including a shortage of broad, programmatic or ideological approaches to policy issues and sudden policy shifts — particularly in the realm of foreign policy — which do not seem to factor in knock-on effects. Whatever the truth, this was the leader that the American electorate chose. The world must now live with the consequences of the decision.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 31, 2020 4:16:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/theatre-of-the-absurd/article22399181.ece

Next Story