There is a kind of mania sweeping Washington and beyond these days and unsurprisingly it’s about Donald Trump. It’s not just about whether he’s fit to be president. It’s about whether he’s downright crazy.
“Is Mr. Trump Nuts?”
This was the headline over a recent lead editorial in the New York Times. Just about everybody who doesn’t like Donald Trump – and more than a few who do – are asking the same question.
Michael Wolff, whose book “Fire and Fury” quotes West Wing insiders as saying the president is an “idiot” and a “dope” and pretty much insane, himself says “this is 25th amendment kind of stuff,” referring to the provision of the Constitution that allows for the removal of the president if he becomes unable – for mental or physical reasons – to function in office.
Then there are the psychiatrists who weigh in — without ever examining him — and pretty much conclude that’s he’s mentally unstable and a danger to America and the world.
And there’s President Trump himself sounding more than a little irrational when he responds to the North Korean dictator with a tweet that says my nuclear button is bigger than yours.
And even when he tries to convince us that he’s playing with a full deck, he just makes things worse. In a series of tweets aimed at defending himself he tells the world that I’m “like, really smart,” and that I’m “a very stable genius.”
Anyone who says he’s a stable genius probably isn’t a genius and might not even be stable.
And we haven’t even gotten to your everyday ordinary American friends, who used to ask you what you thought of the Knicks, who now are asking, “Is this guy crazy or what?”
On the same day the Times ran its editorial, the Wall Street Journal ran a column under the headline, “Trump Proves He’s Sane,” a column about how presidential Donald Trump has been acting lately.
One way or another all this talk about whether he’s nuts or sane isn’t good – not for Donald Trump and not good for the country. We ought to take it as a given that whether we agree with any president’s policies or not, we all accept that’s he’s not a madman.
Now, however, a sizeable portion of the electorate isn’t so sure.
Which brings us to another celebrity who, as with Donald Trump, also made a name on TV and who now may have ambitions to be president. But one whose mental stability is not even vaguely an issue.
When Donald Trump was campaigning, the liberal elite reasonably believed that anyone running for president should have foreign policy credentials; should grasp the intricacies of important domestic issues; and certainly needs to understand something as basic as how government works. And, they made clear that unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump flunked each and every category.
But yet … they love Oprah.
After her speech at the Golden Globes they practically began making arrangements for the coronation. But she’s not exactly a policy wonk, either. You think she knows more than Donald Trump – at this point – about foreign policy? You think she knows more about tax policy and infrastructure? You think she could name 10 Republicans – or even 10 Democrats — in the House or Senate?
But that’ not why they like her. Politicians can handle the boring stuff of government, they figure. They like her because they believe she’d make a great head of state — someone who won’t embarrass America in front of the rest of the world. And even if she tweets, they know it won’t be the kind about having a bigger nuclear button than “Little Rocket Man.” They know she won’t be vindictive and hostile and petty and vengeful.
And that’s why if she decides to run she’d have a good chance of winning. In a word, she’s likeable. Not to Trump supporters, of course, but to ordinary Americans who aren’t especially political – especially to women. Never underestimate the power of likeability!
Policy is important but it’s not as important these days as charisma and personality. As Ben Shapiro put it in National Review: “Policy simply isn’t enough. If it were, Oprah wouldn’t be anywhere near the conversation, and Trump wouldn’t be anywhere near the White House.”
That’s harsh. It’s also true.
Oprah Winfrey is clearly smart. The question is, is she smart enough not to run for president. Because if she runs, for the first time in her life, she’s going to be asked the kinds of things she hasn’t been asked before. Yes, liberal reporters would go easier on her than on Mr. Trump, if he decides to run again (and I’m not sure he will). Still, does she really want to bone up on tax policy and tell us what she would do with Kim Jong Un? Does she really want to answer the inevitable questions about her private life?
For what it’s worth, I don’t think she’ll run – which would be good news for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and about 20 other liberal Democrats. I think she’s smart enough to know she doesn’t need the grief that would come with running.
But an Oprah vs. Donald race in 2020 would be a lot of fun. Right up until the moment one of them wins.