Why did mass shootings increase under Trump?
How dangerous is Donald Trump?
Jeffrey D. Sachs, Bandy X. Lee, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an economist, a psychiatrist and an expert on authoritarian regimes and their rulers warn of the US president's destructiveness. In the guest commentary, they list five measures that they believe should be taken immediately against Donald Trump.
Since his election as US president, psychotherapists and others have tried to warn the public about the dangers posed by Donald Trump. Trump's extreme narcissism, sadism, a lack of empathy and his admiration for despots are part of everyday media life. Some would like to see him as a selfish clown, but he is an obvious and omnipresent threat to the world and he must be prevented from leading (or misleading) it into disaster.
With the submission of the report by special investigator Robert Mueller, the dangers have increased many times over. While we didn't see the actual text - just a summary prepared by the President's political ally, US Attorney General William Barr - Mueller's alleged conclusion that Trump had not made collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump encourages the attack.
What makes the assessment of the Mueller report particularly disastrous is the obvious fact of tacit collusion. Meanwhile, when Trump was campaigning in 2016, he was quietly trying to close a huge real estate deal in Moscow (and, as usual, lied to the public about it). While trying to get this deal off the ground, he publicly believed that sanctions against Russia should be lifted.
Vengeance and megalomania
Trump will feel empowered in his vengeance and megalomania. Over the past few weeks, Trump has repeatedly mocked a deceased U.S. Senator and never uttered a word of regret over the 50 Muslim deaths slaughtered in New Zealand by a white nationalist who made explicit reference to him in a manifesto justifying the massacre. When criticized, Trump spends days on Twitter handing out against his enemies. He uses rallies and other public events to forge a policy that sees humanism and compassion as weaknesses rather than basic human values.
Trump's rising tantrums may be due in part to cognitive decline. For example, his ability to form sentences, use complex words, and maintain a coherent train of thought seems to have decreased over time. His father's dementia is documented.
What is certain is that Trump is putting the world in danger. He has since withdrawn from two nuclear treaties, one with Iran, on which the entire UN Security Council had agreed, and from the treaty with Russia on medium-range nuclear systems that has existed since 1988. His absurdly incompetent diplomacy towards North Korea is in ruins, and Kim Jong-un is now threatening a new round of nuclear tests.
Under Trump, the US administration, the only one of the 193 United Nations member states, has rejected global efforts to combat climate change, leaving Americans without proper leadership as climate crises intensify. His response to Hurricane Maria, which killed more than 3,000 people in Puerto Rico, was a disdain and neglect of the victims, as was his response to the huge fires that struck California last year, killing dozens, and the floods historic proportions that are currently causing catastrophic losses across the American Midwest.
Trump's worldview is being picked up by white extremists around the world. Data shows an increase in hate crimes in the U.S. since the day after his election, including a doubling in the number of white racist murders, widespread schoolyard bullying on his behalf, and a record number of mass shootings and gun killings. The mass murderer in the Pittsburgh synagogue, the "pipe bomber" who tried to assassinate prominent Democrats, and the gunman in the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, are all examples of the influence of Trump's echo chamber of violence. During his campaign, he boasted that he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone" and not "lose voters". Since then, he has repeatedly endorsed violent behavior through ridicule, incitement and, more recently, a warning that his armed supporters could take action on his command.
This type of sadistic leader-follower relationship has cost millions of lives in the past and plunged countries into war and doom. But it has never before taken its course in a country with thousands of nuclear weapons and troops in more than 100 countries around the world. But even now, many mistakenly believe that the attraction violence exerts on Trump is a political tactic and not the product of a disturbed psyche.
Authoritarian leadership style
Since taking office in his administration, Trump has pursued an authoritarian style of leadership and has tried to govern by decree, most recently through his frivolous declaration of a national emergency in order to be able to build a wall on the border with Mexico. It must be stopped before it starts a war, perhaps with Venezuela or Iran, or before its armed supporters intensify the violence against its political opponents. The 2020 election campaign could easily turn into street violence at Trump's instigation.
That assessment - and Trump's own behavior - implies five actions that should be taken immediately.
First the House of Representatives should initiate impeachment proceedings and appropriate hearings. Trump is responsible for the same campaign finance illegality that his former attorney Michael Cohen is jailed for. He has repeatedly and carelessly broken financial and tax laws through money laundering, the incorrect valuation of fixed assets and underpaid taxes for a long time. The publication of the full Mueller report could add further reasons for impeachment.
Secondly Should Congress urgently recover the clear and unambiguous constitutional right to declare war. Unfortunately, Congress has effectively ceded that power to the executive. But the authority to start a war, especially in the case of a nuclear armed power, must never be conferred on just one person. The same would be true if the US had a mentally healthy president.
Third Mental health professionals must live up to their responsibility to protect the health and safety of society by publicly declaring, if necessary, that Trump is not just a sneaky politician or a staunch leader, but a mentally unstable person who is capable is to cause extensive damage. It is both their right and their professional duty to provide crucial information that will enable lawmakers to protect the country.
Fourth the media have to report on his psychological instability beyond Trump's mood of the day. The real story is not just that Trump is incessantly lying or being cruel and bigoted, but that he is a danger to others.
Fifth Americans must organize themselves politically to prevent another debacle in the 2020 elections. Perhaps Trump will try to heat up the mood by alleging election fraud and calling on his supporters to violate the rules of democracy. Unless Trump is charged with misconduct (which he should), everything must be done to preserve democracy and protect society from his destructiveness. (Jeffrey D. Sachs, Bandy X. Lee, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Translation: Sandra Pontow, Copyright: Project Syndicate, March 31, 2019)
Jeffrey D. Sachs is Professor of Sustainable Development and Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University.
Bandy X. Lee, a forensic psychiatrist at the Yale School of Medicine and an expert on violence, chairs the World Mental Health Coalition.
Ruth Ben-Ghiat is Professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and an expert on authoritarian regimes and their rulers.
All of them gave lectures at the large interdisciplinary conference "The Dangerous State of the World and the Need for Fit Leadership" in Washington.
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