Ours is not a functioning government

A television set is on in the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, has never been on the Donald Trump bandwagon. Nonetheless, the more conservative (for the Times) columnist’s essay today is a bit stunning if only for the headline one doesn’t usually read about a sitting president of the United States.

When the World Is Led by a Child

These are not normal times and they long ago should have ceased to be entertaining times for many casual voters who see things like elections the same way they view their fantasy football squad.

“Immaturity is becoming the dominant note of his presidency, lack of self-control his leitmotif,” Brooks writes.

First, most adults have learned to sit still. But mentally, Trump is still a 7-year-old boy who is bouncing around the classroom. Trump’s answers in these interviews are not very long — 200 words at the high end — but he will typically flit through four or five topics before ending up with how unfair the press is to him.

His inability to focus his attention makes it hard for him to learn and master facts. He is ill informed about his own policies and tramples his own talking points. It makes it hard to control his mouth. On an impulse, he will promise a tax reform when his staff has done little of the actual work.

Second, most people of drinking age have achieved some accurate sense of themselves, some internal criteria to measure their own merits and demerits. But Trump seems to need perpetual outside approval to stabilize his sense of self, so he is perpetually desperate for approval, telling heroic fabulist tales about himself.

“In a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care,” he told Time. “A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber,” he told The Associated Press, referring to his joint session speech.

By Trump’s own account, he knows more about aircraft carrier technology than the Navy. According to his interview with The Economist, he invented the phrase “priming the pump” (even though it was famous by 1933). Trump is not only trying to deceive others. His falsehoods are attempts to build a world in which he can feel good for an instant and comfortably deceive himself.

The latest controversy is the Washington Post report that the president revealed secrets obtained by a “partner state” when he met with Russia’s foreign diplomat.

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

That is, they weren’t our secrets to share.

Nonetheless, Trump was at work early this morning to tweet his defense to a base, which — from all indications — hasn’t changed its opinion of his capability for the job.

“Quite apart from making himself and the country a laughingstock around the world, the president has now practically begged Vladimir Putin to toy with him, tantalize him, tease him, flatter him, manipulate him,” The Atlantic’s Eliot Cohen writes today. ” He has shown the Russians (and others, who are watching just as closely) just how easy that is to do, and he has shown the rest of us that his vanity and impulsiveness have not been tempered by the highest responsibilities.”

Over at FoxNews, meanwhile, the story is getting little play, other than a small article on the front page saying the Trump’s national security adviser says the Washington Post story is false. But the president’s tweets this morning confirmed the story is not.

Instead, Fox unveiled a story claiming it was a DNC staffer who leaked emails to wikiLeaks. The story says he was killed last July.

These are not normal times. This is not a functioning country.

Related: Even The Biggest Scandals Can’t Kill Party Loyalty (FiveThirtyEight)