The last few weeks have confirmed that Donald Trump, who has fashioned himself "a stable genius," lives in a misconception that is perilous for the rest of us.
In the early morning of January 6, 2018, he tweeted: "Actually, through my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart ... I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV star to President of the United States (in my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but a genius ... a very stable genius, at that!"
Setting aside his brief lapse into, like, Valley Girl colloquialism, can you picture a stable genius tapping out such self-praise on his phone from the confines from his Oval Office before most other Americans have had their morning joe?
In the nearly 20 months since that tweeted self-endorsement, Mr. Trump has continued his basic strategy of stirring resentment over race, ethnicity, gender and social division. It has fueled his boiling pot of distrust and hatred, aimed unequivocally at sustaining the support of his fear-wrought political base.
Apparently not satisfied with random shots at individual and groups of immigrants from Central America and other places he branded “s---hole countries,” President Trump has now taken on Congress as a whole, for daring to challenge his authority.
He not only called on Israel to bar two American congresswomen from traveling there, he repeatedly instructs members of his administration to defy House committee subpoenas to testify about his behavior.
The principle of separation of powers among the executive, legislative and judicial branches seems at times to have escaped him, especially in terms of his determined effort keep the Supreme Court in the hands of his conservative Republican faithful.
The issue of this president's mental state goes beyond whether he is a very stable genius to merely whether he is capable to handle the everyday responsibilities of running the world's greatest democracy. Indeed, it's questionable whether the country can tolerate his demonstrable ineptness another 15 months, let alone a second term if he should be re-elected next year.
Congressional Democrats are weighing now whether they have sufficient evidence of Mr. Trump’s malfeasance and bungling to seek his impeachment, or whether they need, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued, to pursue more fact-finding to establish obstruction of justice. Retired Special Counsel Robert Mueller has suggested as much in his report’s road map of 11 potential grounds for charging President Trump.
In any event, as long as Trump's party holds its narrow majority in the Senate, where any House impeachment would require conviction by a two-thirds vote, the Democrats' best hope to oust him remains the ballot box in November 2020.
The question of an American president’s mental state has sometimes been raised in jest or in wishful thinking. But probably never before has a president’s repeated lying offered such a wide range of speculation regarding his stability and judgment.
Presidents undergoing political crisis often are suspected of mental illness. Richard Nixon was an example. During the Watergate scandal, psychologists cited his slurred words late at night as suggesting possible alcohol abuse.
But Mr. Trump is said to be a teetotaler and a rigid protector of his personal habits and health. Rather than any mental illness as an argument for removing him, there is his demonstrable failure to govern in accordance with Article II of the Constitution: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”
There, alas, may be the rub. Donald Trump may well be running the country to the best of his ability, and hence may not be impeachable on those grounds. Thus, in the end, the only legal and sure way to end his reign of incompetence, peppered with endless lies and misrepresentations manufactured by this "stable genius," is to unambiguously vote him out a year from this November.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and a former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.