The lunatic ruler Ivan the Terrible left Russia in a state of economic and political chaos after his bloody reign. Roman Emperor Caligula declared his horse a priest and a consul. King George III suffered from porphyria, a disease of the nervous system that eventually led to his removal and then replacement by his son. Among democratically elected leaders, the sainted Winston Churchill suffered from depression, which he called “the black dog,” from bipolar disorder, and, given the huge amounts of liquor he consumed, real or incipient alcoholism which can — and sometimes did — cloud his judgment.
The history of kings and emperors and rulers is replete with tales of madness, illness and general unsuitability for office. But should we add Donald Trump to that list? Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson thinks so. In an article titled “Is Donald Trump just plain crazy?” Robinson said he used to think that Donald had been crazy like a fox; now, he says, “I am increasingly convinced that he is just plain crazy” or at least his “grasp on reality seems tenuous at best.” Vanity Fair asked if Trump could pass a sanity test, and concluded that he probably could not.
We, however, should reserve judgment on this diagnosis, rather than succumb to the same kind of snap judgment shorthand that Trump himself used against his opponents — “lyin’ Ted,” “crooked Hillary,” etc.
More than one of Donald Trump’s many detractors have painted him as “Donald the Terrible,” a man who knows nothing of government, or of foreign affairs; who is tactless, xenophobic, and misogynistic.
Now, I did not vote for Mr. Trump … but I do see him as a legitimate holder of the office of chief executive. I would submit that the protesters we see throughout America’s cities — many of whom appear to have little grasp of the brief but hugely instructive history of the United States and its democratic underpinnings — are simply whistling past the graveyard.
If only Hillary Clinton, playing off her gracious concession speech, would calm the protesters and educate them about how the American democratic system works — and what steps might be available to them to influence their government. In a show of solidarity, her successor might join her.
Trump’s electoral success is something we should have seen coming. But the press missed it; the talking heads on radio and television missed it; and, perhaps most significant, his opponent missed it. Weeping and gnashing of teeth won’t make a difference to the electoral outcome.
Barring assassination or impeachment … or succumbing to the same fate as some of the historical rulers who lost their marbles, a President Trump will likely serve for at least four years.
So I say give him a chance — to succeed in cutting Washington red tape, and in improving infrastructure — or to fail by sticking to the same old bellicose political inertia.
As Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish put it:
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power; we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.”
So let’s try to turn Donald the Terrible into Donald the Bearable. At least for now.
David Woods is the author of four books and more than 100 articles, editorials, and reviews in peer-reviewed healthcare publications. His memoir, “Time and Chance,” appeared at the end of 2015. David has recently written a series of essays on eclectic topics that take his fancy.