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Fear In America

Before the election, some people worried out loud about our new President’s ability to steer with a steady hand.  There were few who had the courage to speak out then, and their impact small. 

Today, there are even fewer.  And, that is not because the President has assuaged anyone’s concerns.  Quite the contrary.  Today, there is even greater fear on the part of many that this President could easily create a major incident that could threaten our country, the world, our very existence.

Throughout, America’s psychiatrists have been particularly silent.  At a conference held at Yale Medical School recently, however, mental health experts came together finally to weigh their role in warning the public about the dangers posed by this President.  It was surprising that the meeting took so long to happen, given the potential import of their professional judgment.  But happen, it finally did.  And, the outcomes were even more alarming, not so much for what they discussed, but for what they were unwilling to say.

A number did speak up, arguing that the symptoms were visible to all, professionals and the least informed; that it was the duty of mental health professionals to warn the public of very real danger.  But not all spoke up.  A good many hid behind an outmoded Goldwater Rule, insisting that they could not speak out.

But, what was most pronounced at the meeting was fear itself.  Fear of speaking the truth.  Fear that the President is now so powerful and that he can and has already been ruthless to those who dared to speak out against him. 

And, so the silence is even louder today.  Psychiatrists who have never been very bold are cowering even more today.  They have let us all down, worried most about their own hides, they are unwilling to share their informed assessment of the seriousness of the President’s illness. Gripped by fear, they are letting the country and the world down, standing by in silence for fear of retribution.

That’s what happens in situations like this.  That’s what happened in Nazi Germany: fear took complete hold and silence reigned.  

Who is Managing The Store?

A couple of days ago, as North Korea was parading it’s latest missiles, Donald Trump announced that he had sent “an armada” to the Sea of Japan as a clear signal that “we are strong” and “not to be played with.”  Others in the government described it as a large strike force (the Carl Vinson and three other warships) steaming to positions in striking distance of North Korea.  Coverage of all this was widespread in the country and throughout the world.  Some cheered at its boldness, some worried about what it might mean, and many prayed.

The press pushed for more from the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor, and the Press Secretary.  All sang from the same music sheet and all confirmed the story, adding useless detail.

The only problem was that it was a story and not true.  The “armada” was nowhere near the Sea of Japan.   Indeed, there was no American war ship or even row boat in striking distance of North Korea.  Instead, the Vinson was and always had been off the coast of Indonesia, thousands of miles from the Korean Peninsula.  The President’s strike force had been streaming south, not north the entire time.

This is, of course, not very funny.  In fact, there is no comparable example of anything like this throughout American history.  Never before had an American President made a public statement of this kind, only to learn later that it was a total fabrication.  It is mind numbing to think that the President and his people could have been so wrong or, worse, could have been playing so carelessly with its credibility and with a very dangerous and rogue nation. 

How we, as a nation and world power, recover from this is hard to see.  Clearly friend and foe alike will wonder about the next and the next pronouncement from the American government.  This event has caused nothing short of a major erosion of confidence in America and the credibility of it leaders.

Teresa May Wants to Lose on June 8

Teresa May has called for a snap election in Britain on June 8.

Having already triggered Article 50 to begin the two-year period negotiating Brexit, May could easily see England through this process.  Her current mandate as Prime Minister lasts until 2020.

When she announced the election on April 18, her stated objective was that she wanted a stronger mandate as she negotiates the UK’s exit from the EU.  She stated: “The only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election.”  She then laid down a challenge for those opposing Brexit, saying “this is your moment to show you mean it and that you aren’t just playing politics for a game.”

While May is very forceful, one needs to look carefully at these words, and to respect the fact that May is an incredibly bright and strategic woman.

When you do that, it is clear that May now realizes how dire the consequences of Article 50 can be for the British economy, including real isolation should negotiations not go as well as hoped and should Scotland secede from the UK.  She is probably also receiving strong counsel from members of her own party opposed to Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson as well as outside sources (that may include Prince William - the smartest member of the royal family) encouraging her to roll back on the risks to England’s economy and UK’s very existence.

And, the truth is that the only way out of this – or at least the easiest way out - is to lose control of government or at least to be able to point to gains by the Liberal Democrats, the opposition, on June 8 as grounds for slowing down the process.

Those of us in the US are familiar with this strategy of trying to give power to internal opposition in order to slow down an international position.  Barack Obama pursued it multiple times, including in 2013, when he allowed Congress to vote on whether to attack Assad after Syria violated the Geneva Convention by using chemical weapons on its civilians.