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Trump uses conspiracy theories to ‘feed a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy’: columnist

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In a piece for The Atlantic, columnist Peter Nicholas took a hard look at Donald Trump’s continuing propagation of ludicrous conspiracy theories, and said the embattled president uses them as both a defense mechanism when confronted with his crimes as well as a way to feed his ego.

As Nicholas explains the president’s actions, “A product of tabloid culture, Trump has long trafficked in conspiracy theories. But as chief executive, he’s used the machinery of government to give the ones especially useful to him the stamp of official validation. (That’s the main reason he now faces impeachment in the House.)”

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With presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, telling Nicholas, “We’ve never had a president who trades in conspiracy theories, who prefers lies instead of fact,” the columnist attempted to cut through the mystery of Trump’s actions.

“These baseless theories are a way for Trump to explain away his problems and undercut opponents,” he wrote. “Beyond that, though, they seem to serve distinct emotional needs, feeding a narcissistic ego that cold reality won’t satisfy. His efforts to persuade the public to go along with these self-protective myths have already corroded democratic institutions. The wreckage from that destructive legacy won’t be easily repaired after he leaves the stage.”

According to the columnist, Trump’s Ukraine scandal has been the perfect storm of conspiracy-mongering, writing, “The Ukraine fiction is so alluring. It’s a twofer. If Ukraine covertly interfered in the election for Clinton’s benefit, as Trump has suggested, that would both exonerate Russia and cement his 2016 victory. Trump apparently finds that theory so compelling that he risked his presidency to see if he could give it traction.”

“This propensity for self-soothing combines with an anti-intellectualism that seems part of Trump’s makeup. He’s skeptical of elite opinion and not convinced that he has anything still to learn,” he explained. “Trump’s mind is thus fertile soil for bogus ideas to take root.”

According to Nancy Rosenblum, a government professor emerita at Harvard, we have never seen a president like Trump before.

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“There’s no answer for it,” she explained, “which is why it is so seriously disorienting to people. We’ve never seen anything like it. We don’t know how to meet it. It’s an attempt to construct a reality, and when it comes from the president, he has the capacity to impose that reality on the nation.”

“Trump’s imprint will be hard to erase. Trump acolytes inside the Republican caucus are aping his methods and standing with him as he advances his fact-free claims about Ukraine’s complicity in the 2016 election,”Nicholas wrote before concluding, “One day, the conspiracist in chief will leave office. His successors will face a choice: Exploit the damage he’s done to democratic institutions and norms, or see if it can be fixed.”

You can read more here.

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Catholic leaders promised transparency about child abuse — but they haven’t delivered

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It took 40 years and three bouts of cancer for Larry Giacalone to report his claim of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Boston priest named Richard Donahue.

Giacalone sued Donahue in 2017, alleging the priest molested him in 1976, when Giacalone was 12 and Donahue was serving at Sacred Heart Parish. The lawsuit never went to trial, but a compensation program set up by the archdiocese concluded that Giacalone “suffered physical injuries and emotional injuries as a result of physical abuse” and directed the archdiocese to pay him $73,000.

Even after the claim was settled and the compensation paid in February 2019, however, the archdiocese didn’t publish Donahue’s name on its list of accused priests. Nor did it three months later when Giacalone’s lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, criticized the church publicly for not adding Donahue’s name to the list.

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Mike Pompeo’s behavior is straight out of Nixon VP’s playbook: historians

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s expletive-laden dust-up with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly is on message for the Trump-led Republican Party. Complaining that Kelly’s question about Ukraine was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration,” Pompeo has rallied the Republican base by slamming a journalist doing her job.

Whether he knows it or not, Pompeo is drawing from a playbook written a half century ago and perfected by a politician once voted the worst vice president in American history. Secretary Mike Pompeo, meet Vice President Spiro Agnew.

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‘Our chances of ever exiting the nightmare are shrinking’: Paul Krugman explains how the GOP is getting worse

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It is a great detriment to civil discourse that the divide between left and right in the United States is often depicted as being purely cultural — as if one’s politics were solely mediated by aesthetics, such as whether one prefers shooting guns or drinking lattes. This fabulist understanding of politics is harmful inasmuch as it masks the real social effects of the policy agendas pushed by left versus right. Seeing politics as aesthetic transforms what should be a quantitative debate — with statistics and numbers about taxation and public policy, questions of who benefits more or less from policy changes — and devolves it into a rhetorical debate over values.

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