A significant step downward

James Fallows is scathing – and James Fallows is not a guy who scathes easily.

[Trump’s] Twitter outburst this morning — as he has left Washington on another trip to one of his golf courses, as millions of U.S. citizens are without water or electricity after the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria, as by chance it is also Yom Kippur — deserves note. It is a significant step downward for him, and perhaps the first thing he has done in office that, in its coarseness, has actually surprised me. (I explained the difference, for me, between shock and surprise when it comes to Trump, in this item last week.) Temperamentally, intellectually, and in terms of civic and moral imagination, he is not fit for the duties he is now supposed to bear.

That’s been both true and obvious all along, but by god this Twitter outburst does underline the fact.

His first tweet [the one about the mayor being told by the Democrats to be mean to Trump] dramatized his inability to conceive of any event, glorious or tragic, in terms other than what it means about him. People are dying in Puerto Rico; they have lost their homes and farms; children and the elderly are in danger. And what he sees is, “nasty to Trump.”

What he sees, what he reacts to, what he cares about, what he takes deeply to heart.

Then there’s the one about “such poor leadership ability” in the mayor and others who can’t get “their workers” to help – you know, the workers who are struggling to survive and help people near them survive just like everyone else in PR, and who are cut off just like everyone else.

This is an outright attack on the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, whose passionate appeals for her people would evoke compassion and support from any normal person — and from other politicians would stimulate at least a public stance of sympathy. I can think of no other example of a president publicly demeaning American officials in the middle of coping with disaster. There were nasty “God’s punishment!” remarks about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, but they did not come from the White House or George W. Bush.

And finally there’s the blockbuster about wanting everything done for them.

Want “everything to be done for them.” It is impossible to tell whether this is a conscious racist dog-whistle by Trump—these people! always looking for a handout—or whether it is instinctive. Either way, it is something that no other modern president would have said in public, and that no one who understood the duties of the office could have done.


A man who can say these things—from a golf course, while millions of his fellow citizens are in dire straits, and during an emergency that is worse because of his own narcissistic inattention—does not understand the job.

This has not happened before. It is not normal. It should not be acceptable. The United States is a big, resilient country, but a man like this can do severe damage to it and the world — and at the moment, he is leaving many Americans in mortal peril.

It is not acceptable. I can’t begin to express how not acceptable it is.

He should be removed from office.

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