Surviving America’s political meltdown

Aug 12,2017 – JORDAN TIMES –

The US is in the midst of a political meltdown, unable to manage a domestic economic agenda or a coherent foreign policy. The White House is in turmoil; Congress is paralysed; and the world is looking on in astonishment and dread. If we are to survive and overcome this collapse, we must understand its sources.

There are two power centres in Washington, DC: the White House and the Capitol. Both are in disarray, but for different reasons.

The dysfunctionality of the White House is largely a matter of President Donald Trump’s personality. To many experts, Trump’s behaviour — grandiose self-regard, pathological lying, lack of remorse or guilt, expressive shallowness, parasitic lifestyle, impulsiveness, failure to accept responsibility for his own actions, and short-term marital relationships — are symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder.

The consequences could be dire. Pathological narcissists have a tendency to indulge in violent conflicts and wars (think of Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam or of Andrew Jackson and the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans). At a minimum, Trump lacks the psychological characteristics needed for constructive governance: honesty, dignity, competence, empathy, relevant experience, and the capacity to plan. According to some observers, Trump also shows signs of diminished mental capacity.

The hope in Washington is that “adults in the room” will keep Trump’s dangerous tendencies in check. But the “adults” in Trump’s administration are increasingly military figures rather than civilians, including three generals (John Kelly, the new White House Chief of Staff, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defence James Mattis). Wise civilian leaders are the key to peace, especially given that America’s vast war machine is always revving. Recall John F. Kennedy’s military advisers, who advocated war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or consider Mattis’anti-Iran belligerence.

There are two other escape valves: the 25th Amendment, which charts a course for removing a president who is unable to discharge the responsibilities of office, and impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Both measures are extreme in the US constitutional order, and both would depend on the agreement of Republican leaders. Nonetheless, one or the other may prove necessary and even urgent in the event that Trump’s psychological instability or political weakness leads him to launch a war.

The political meltdown in Congress is less dramatic, but serious nonetheless.  …  MORE:

The writer, professor of sustainable development and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University, is director of Columbia’s Centre for Sustainable Development and the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.  ©Project Syndicate, 2017.

www.project-syndicate.org

MORE:    http://jordantimes.com/opinion/jeffrey-d-sachs/surviving-america’s-political-meltdown

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