We now have a president whose actions are governed by emotions: envy, vanity, guilt, hatred and, chief among them, fear.
Donald Trump seems to have become shaken by fear that his base might abandon him because of his inability to deliver on his signature promises, like the construction of a border wall between this country and Mexico. (Completely gone is the suggestion that Mexico would pay for this ridiculous boondoggle.)
So he has been on a tear, resurrecting the even more nationalist, isolationist Trump of the campaign.
He has pushed us to the teetering verge of a trade war, has suggested that we hasten withdrawal from Syria, has recommended that we send “the military” to the southern border and railed against caravans of brown people heading our way.
To a large degree, he appears to be making policy from the podium, responding to the propaganda organ Fox News and bouncing ideas off a small circle of loyalists. His Cabinet and the White House are left to respond to what Trump says on the fly and develop that into a quasi-coherent policy.
This is no way to run a country, unless your intention is to run it into the ground.
This is now the American quandary: The wheels of government are being forced to turn on the erratic whims of an egomaniac.
This is a man relying more on emotion than government intelligence or personal intelligence. Everything with Trump is about grit and gut, sensing the energy of the room, the crowd, the aching masses, and saying whatever he thinks will energize and animate them, anything that will cause them to suspend disbelief and vest faith in a sham.
Nothing need be true. Nothing need be effective policy. Nothing need be rooted in data. The only requirement is that he says whatever he says with conviction and that he commands unending fidelity from those who have already abandoned all principle to stand with him.
But a man with Trump’s gaping insecurity and consuming fear is not a person who can be a stable steward of the national trust and the national interest.
Trump is afraid of abandonment, so he tosses his base red meat.
Trump is afraid of the optics of a bad meeting, so he says whatever he believes the other attendees will find agreeable.
He is afraid of failure, so he touts everything as a victory, even if he has to lie.
He is afraid of not being adored, so he revs up his rallies.
He is afraid of diversity of thought – or complex thought, for that matter – so he churns through members of his administration.
He appears to be afraid of Russia and Vladimir Putin, so he hesitates to criticize and condemn that nation or the man.
He is afraid of the Robert Mueller investigation and what it may reveal about him, his family and his associates.
And he is probably afraid that the Democrats could gain control of the House, which would increase the possibility of impeachment proceedings should Mueller reveal something damning. At the very least, a Democratic House could begin its own investigations.
In every corner there is a shadow, and within every shadow there is a threat. The irony is that the threats are real and all of his own making. Trump isn’t smart, savvy or sophisticated enough to run this country.
He has a skill for demagogy and emotional manipulation, and he exercised that skill in its full power at precisely the right time to convince enough of America that he should be president.
But Trump has only one mode – inferno.
He starts fires, fans flames and also throws them.
At the risk of laboring the metaphor, burnout is inevitable.
Not even the most ardent Trumpsters can maintain their enthusiasm, even if they maintain their support. There is just too much chaos, too much noise, too much lying, too little coherence.
I have never thought I would be quoting the hideous Ann Coulter in agreement, but one thing she told my colleague Frank Bruni last week was correct: His former supporters, whom he has disappointed, will feel betrayed and vindictive.
The man who is consumed by fear is, alas, justified in that fear.