So, are we at some point going to talk seriously as a nation about the not-so-minor problem we are about to be confronted with? That Donald Trump is manifestly unfit for office?
President-elect Donald J. Trump, expressing lingering skepticism about intelligence assessments of Russian interference in the election, said on Saturday evening that he knew “things that other people don’t know” about the hacking, and that the information would be revealed “on Tuesday or Wednesday.”
This would be the president elect declaring, outside his Gatsbyesque New Year’s party last evening, that he knows "things that other people don't know" about the hacking that leads he himself, as opposed to every single one of America's vast intelligence agencies, a collection of analysts and tech experts who for all their faults know hacking very very damn well, as they have for many years recruited from the top ranks of hackers themselves, to believe that each and every one of those agencies is wrong and Donald Freaking Trump, who does not himself know how to work a computer or even use email, has a clearer handle on the situation than any of them.
Oh—but while I go off to take a sip of rhetorical water after that last run-on sentence, let's also contemplate that Donald Trump either (1) has information the intelligence services do not themselves have, and knows that that information will be released to them "Tuesday or Wednesday", or (2) has listened to his security briefers at least enough to know that the intelligence services themselves will be releasing specific information that nobody but Donald Trump knows on Tuesday or Wednesday.
All right. Fine. So the new president has opinions that he believes override an entire nation's worth of collected technical expertise; this will of itself not be new, or a deal-breaker. But let's examine just why Donald Freaking Trump believes he has a far more accurate read of the technological situation than all of those other experts combined. Because he was more than happy to tell us:
He added: “And I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove. So it could be somebody else. And I also know things that other people don’t know, and so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
This is categorically false, and extremely super-duper stupid. Donald Trump does not, in any universe currently accessible to the rest of humanity, know "a lot" about hacking. Donald Trump knows zero about hacking. Donald Trump famously does not use a computer. Donald Trump knows that hacking is a very hard thing to prove—sometimes true—but would be completely unable to name any one of the top dozen ways experts can indeed identify the originators of individual hacking attempts. You may have also noticed over the years that the NSA appears to have their thumb on major elements of both individual networks and the internet backbone itself—the legality of those programs being a hotly debated topic—and, if you keep up on these things, probably are aware of the resources the various agencies can bring to bear to crack even many types of so-called "secure" communications, if the need arises.
Donald Trump does not know any of these things. Donald Trump could not himself successfully log into a gmail account without the help of a staff member. Donald Trump believes he knows "a lot" about hacking, and while actual knowledge in the field is unnecessary for office a sitting president must at the very least have the cognitive faculties to know what he does not know, and Donald Trump does not. Donald Trump has a mental condition that causes him to believe he knows more about any topic you can name than any expert you can produce, if he is deeply invested in what the answer is supposed to be, and Donald Freaking Trump is unfit for governance so long as that mental condition exists.
Mr. Trump, who does not use email, also advised people to avoid computers when dealing with delicate material. “It’s very important, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way, because I’ll tell you what, no computer is safe,” Mr. Trump said.
Osama Bin Laden is dead today because agents intercepted one of his "courier" shipments. While Scrooge McDuck here is probably quite certain his own courier shipments are safe, I hope to high hell that three weeks from now does not begin with an executive order to all the nation's government officials to from now on deliver all sensitive information to each other by bicycle messenger or a fleet of sturdy owls.
“I don’t care what they say, no computer is safe,” he added. “I have a boy who’s 10 years old; he can do anything with a computer. You want something to really go without detection, write it out and have it sent by courier.”
And here we get to the heart of it, the part that I probably should have put right up front because there are a lot of apathetic people in America today whose commitment to functional governance can't stomach a trip through a dozen short paragraphs before getting to the point. Here we get to the part that ought to make any even half-patriotic soul blanche, or perhaps dry heave.
Donald Trump, who does not himself use a computer or any technology more advanced than his greasy little phone, is basing his own executive veto over the nation's assembled government experts in matters of "hacking" and "national goddamn security":
On the computer expertise of his ten year old son.
Being able to use a computer.
Which therefore makes Barron's opinions on hacking, the implication clearly goes, the equal of the entire collected expertise of every major government intelligence agency put together, all the hackers and spooks and supercomputers and hidden routers and security analysts and [everything else combined], and on that hill Donald Trump will hoist his flag, hitch up his pants, summon whichever reporters have staked out his Florida club and declare yes, but Barron.
This is where we're at. The soon to be president is more invested in taking national security advice from his elementary school child than in all the arrayed security voices of the nation ...
So, we realize that is insane, right? That this is not a case of mere disagreement, but evidence of an actual mental malfunction? That this very rich but very stupid man is, in fact, incapable of critical decision making because he cannot even himself discern what constitutes evidence?
The comments on Saturday were a departure from a statement that Mr. Trump issued through transition officials last week, in which he said that it was time for people to “move on” from the hacking issue but that he would be briefed on the matter by intelligence officials early in the new year.
It's not a departure. It's the pattern we have been seeing since the first days of his campaign. He says a thing. A day or two passes, he says a completely contrary thing. A day or two passes again, he may say either of the first two things or pop up with a third. It is not based on new evidence. It is seemingly not even based on a willingness to lie; a congenital liar of otherwise non-impaired faculties would at the goddamn least be able to lie consistently from one day to the next.
This man can't, and he can't because, the evidence consistently suggests, he lacks the cognitive awareness to even know whether he's being dishonest. He doesn't believe the collected intelligence agencies of the United States haven't tracked down the election hackers merely because he doesn't want that to be true, he has constructed a version of not-reality in which all those experts combined are wrong, wrong, wrong because he has a son, Barron, and Barron has a computer of his own and is therefore an expert of equal expertise and so Barron Freaking Trump.
Will be directly responsible.
Our national security policies, at least when it comes to "the cyber", for the entire.
So here's the question, and it's a question for all of the people out there who have made either governance or the tracking of governance into careers of their own, the elected politicians, the government functionaries, the party hacks, the omnipresent pundits and think-tankers, the political journalists, the non-political journalists, and so forth:
Are we just not going to talk about this? Are we really going to sally forth, on this January 1st, 2017, continuing to simply ignore the rather plain reality that the man who is about to be sitting in the Oval Office is manifestly unfit for the task of governance? As in, he literally, cognitively cannot do it—that it is going to be akin to asking a Magic 8-Ball or a particularly ill-trained chicken to set national policies, and make the decisions of war or peace, and meet with foreign leaders, and give presidential proclamations?
Yes, he won the election. Yes, it's a real stinker that he did, and if any one of twenty different things didn't happen he wouldn't have—but he did. And now he's going to be president, in just three weeks. And there cannot possibly be, in either party or in any realm of journalism not currently occupied by foot-chewers themselves, any question that this man is not prepared or even cognitively capable of doing that job.
So what happens now? We're just going with that, right?
We're not going to bring it up? Too rude? Too unsettling? Too “partisan?” Too not-normal?
Is this going to be like the Iraq War, where a few years from now everybody is dabbing their brows with handkerchiefs and talking about how golly, if only anyone among us could have foreseen the gigantic clusterfuck awaiting us even though in the rude circles of the internet and in massive protests on the street, everybody who was not personally invited to the White House Correspondents Dinner goddamn foresaw it right from the beginning?
All right, fine. If that's how it's going to be, that's how it's going to be. But let's punch our own ticket right now, get on the train, and at least fetch ourselves a comfortable seat before the inevitable rush: This man is unambiguously unfit for office. He is incapable of performing those duties. It is, among anyone with the slightest bit of faith in their fellow man or anyone with the slightest bit of awareness as to which of those fellow man are not entirely worth that faith, obvious.
Until striding behind a podium eighteen months ago there is no way Donald Trump, narcissistic blowhard, insatiable liar, likely sociopath and man distrusted even by his own company lawyers would have been judged competent enough for the lowest of government security clearances—now he'll be getting the nuclear football itself. A merely incompetent outcome, as opposed to a corrupt or a manifestly deranged or catastrophically dangerous one, is the best case we can possibly hope for.
And we're all apparently deeply devoted to not talking about it because it would be … uncouth?