Donald Trump’s fairly obvious mental deterioration has been the impetus of calls from many people — “Never Trump” conservative GOP attorney George Conway among the most vocal of them — for those cabinet officials with the power to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution which allows for the Vice President to assume office if a majority of “the principal officers of the executive departments” attest in a written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
While many would argue that Trump — by his very clear signs of suffering from severe narcissistic personality disorder — has long since met the criteria sufficient to remove him from office, his strategy of surrounding himself with lackeys and sycophants has meant that no one with the power to initiate the 25th Amendment process has the cojones to do so.
While some of Trump’s mental decline could be organic in nature — with Alzheimer’s disease baked into his genes from his father — some of the president’s memory lapses seem to be quite intentional.
Take Trump’s response to the resignation of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly whose disgraceful remarks to the crew of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt about the ship’s fired captain Brett Crozier inspired incredulous responses from the sailors whom the concerned captain was trying to protect and from veterans across the political spectrum.
In typical Trumpian fashion, the minute that one of his associates or appointees is faced with disgrace or scandal, suddenly the president’s memory begins to fail him and he can’t seem to recall ever knowing the person in question.
President Trump today after the resignation of Navy chief Tom Modly: “I don’t know him.”
Trump and Modly at the Army-Navy game, four months ago: pic.twitter.com/83GGveTmsH
— Jack Detsch (@JackDetsch) April 7, 2020
Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly forced Navy Secretary Modly to issue an apology after public outcry over his profanity-laced address to the sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt — an audio recording of which quickly went viral on the internet — became overwhelming.
When Modly’s apology failed to quell the growing controversy, he proffered his resignation late yesterday to Defense Secretary Esper who said that the acting Navy Secretary “resigned on his own accord” and that his decision would allow the aircraft carrier and its sailors to “move forward,” according to The Washington Post.
The Post also reported the president’s response to Modly’s resignation, where he combined his denial of knowing the official who had been photographed sitting next to him with a perverse compliment to the now-former Navy chief for his “unselfish” act of resigning to help quell the outrage over the issue.
“President Trump, asked at the White House about the resignation, said he had no role in it and did not know Modly, but would not have asked him to resign,” the newspaper wrote.
“He did that, I think, just to end that problem,” Trump said. “I think . . . really in many ways, it was a very unselfish thing for him to do.”
Trump manages to refute any responsibility whatsoever for Modly’s actions by disclaiming any familiarity with their perpetrator while implicitly supporting them by saying that he himself would not have asked him to leave his position and praising the kind of self-sacrifice that the president would likely never consider for himself.
While some would say that such a devious thought process is proof that Trump’s mental faculties remain intact, it’s more likely that — while his higher thought processes may have seriously declined —the president’s reptilian brain retains its instinct for political survival.
A lifetime of habitual shirking of responsibility doesn’t fade away quite as easily as advanced mental capabilities, apparently.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.