For Trump, the Reality Show Has Never Ended

Mr. Trump’s West Wing has always seemed to be the crossroads between cutthroat politics and television drama, presided over by a seasoned showman who has made a career of keeping the audience engaged and coming back for more. Obsessed by ratings and always on the hunt for new story lines, Mr. Trump leaves the characters on edge, none of them ever really certain whether they might soon be voted off the island.

“Absolutely, I see those techniques playing out,” said Laurie Ouellette, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied reality television extensively. “Reality TV is known for its humiliation tactics and its aggressive showmanship and also the idea that either you’re in or you’re out, with momentum building to the final decision on who stays and who goes.”

.. dismissed Mr. Corker on Tuesday by mocking his height and suggesting he had somehow been conned. “The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”

.. Mr. Trump later denied that he had demeaned his secretary of state. “I didn’t undercut anybody. I don’t believe in undercutting people,” he told reporters, in a comment that must have amused the many people he has undercut since taking office.

.. “With Jemele Hill at the mike, it is no wonder ESPN ratings have ‘tanked,’ in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

.. Andy Cohen, the creator of the “Real Housewives” reality television show franchise, found that too rich. “This is actually happening,” he wrote on Twitter. “All the wives are fighting. Even I AM SPEECHLESS.”

.. This has exceeded what would have been allowed on ‘The Apprentice,’” she said. “It’s almost a magnification. It’s like reality TV unleashed. Yes, he was good at it, but I always felt like he had to be reined in in order not to mess up the formula. Here, he doesn’t have that same sort of constraint.”

Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America? Psychiatrists weigh in.

Review of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” by Bandy X. Lee (ed.), “Twilight of American Sanity” by Allen Frances, and “Fantasyland” by Kurt Andersen.

“The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” features more than two dozen essays breaking down the president’s perceived traits, which the contributors find consistent with symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, sociopathy and other maladies.

.. In his new book, “Twilight of American Sanity,” psychiatrist Allen Frances asserts that Trump is not mentally ill — we are. “Calling Trump crazy allows us to avoid confronting the craziness in our society,” he writes. “We can’t expect to change Trump, but we must work to undo the societal delusions that created him.”

.. And those delusions, Kurt Andersen contends in “Fantasyland,” have been around for a long time. “People tend to regard the Trump moment — this post-truth, alternative facts moment — as some inexplicable and crazy new American phenomenon,” he writes. “In fact, what’s happening is just the ultimate extrapolation and expression of attitudes and instincts that have made America exceptional for its entire history.”

.. The volume’s contributors take solace in Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, a 1976 case in which the California Supreme Court held that mental-health experts have a responsibility to speak out when they determine that someone poses a physical danger to others.

.. “The majority of mental health professionals tend to be liberal in their leanings,”

.. Noam Chomsky makes an odd cameo in the book’s epilogue, warning that the Trump administration may stage a fake terrorist attack.

.. Allen Frances wrote the criteria for narcissistic personality disorder used in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and he doesn’t think Trump qualifies. In “Twilight of American Sanity,” Frances says the diagnosis requires the patient to experience significant distress because of his condition. But throughout his life, Trump “has been generously rewarded for his Trumpism, not impaired by it,” Frances writes. “Trump is a threat to the United States, and to the world, not because he is clinically mad, but because he is very bad.”

.. He trashes Trump as a “secular antichrist,” a “two-bit, would-be Mussolini,” even an instrument of divine vengeance. “If you were assigned the task of punishing humanity for its original sins,” he thunders, “you could do no better than invent a Donald Trump and give him extraordinary power.”

.. America is delusional not just because it elected Trump, but because it doesn’t conform to Frances’s views on climate change, population growth, technology, privacy, war, economics and guns.

.. Kurt Andersen is here to tell us that America has featured magical thinking and nutty impulses for centuries. Thanks to our mix of religiosity and Enlightenment values — plus the do-your-own-thing vibe of the 1960s and the super-powered distribution channel known as the Internet — Americans have developed a “promiscuous devotion to the untrue,”

.. he chronicles those he considers purveyors of secular and religious pipe dreams, from Cotton Mather to P.T. Barnum, from Walt Disney to Oprah Winfrey. And, of course, from Donald Trump the real estate huckster to Donald Trump the commander in chief.

.. “Fantasyland” reads like the work of an author who comes up with a catchy idea and then Dumpster-dives his way through history for anything supporting it.

.. “Fantasyland” reads like the work of an author who comes up with a catchy idea and then Dumpster-dives his way through history for anything supporting it.

.. “Trump waited to run for president until he sensed that a critical mass of Americans had decided politics were all a show and a sham,” Andersen explains.

At that point, Trump fit right in.

.. writing books lamenting America’s generalized insanity — and the delusions of Trump supporters in particular — may not be the ideal first step to win that trust. For all their expertise in human behavior, these psychiatrists don’t seem well-equipped to coax us out of our current political madness.

Bonfire of the Insanities

Satire, commentary, analysis—throw it all out the window. What’s happening in Washington is beyond parody, beyond fiction. What will happen tomorrow, what will happen in the next hour? No one knows.

.. Trump doesn’t want stability, he wants motion. He isn’t interested in details or arguments, he’s energized by accomplishments, achievements, placards on the wall. He doesn’t have a cabinet, he has employees. And the primary job of those employees is to protect their boss.

.. Which is what Anthony Scaramucci understands. Like Trump, he’s a showman. Larger than life. He’s familiar with grand gestures. He’s not a D.C. guy.

.. So the man whom the voters brought in to disrupt Washington brought in Scaramucci to disrupt his own White House. Well, mission accomplished.

.. I have been reading past issues of National Review, including bound volumes from 1977-1981. I do not know whether Donald Trump fits the historian’s model of a “disjunctive” president like Jimmy Carter, but the two chief executives do share this in common: Both campaigned as outsiders, both brought fellow outsiders with them to Washington, and these coteries of trusted advisers did not mesh with the institutions and personalities and manners they found in the city. In both cases there was a culture clash, apparent from the beginning. It soon became apparent that Carter’s presidency was not only dysfunctional, but a failure.