alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

Paul Krugman: Trump’s ‘mental deficiency’ may actually save us from disaster as he keeps 'sounding loonier'

Paul Krugman: Trump’s ‘mental deficiency’ may actually save us from disaster as he keeps 'sounding loonier'
Image via Screengrab.

President Donald Trump’s assertion that he is a “very stable genius” has been mocked unmercifully by his opponents. Economist and veteran New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued, more than once, that Trump is anything but stable. But it is Trump’s instability, Krugman argues in a column this week, that might save the U.S. in the end.


“If democracy survives — which is by no means certain — it will largely be thanks to one unpredictable piece of good luck: Donald Trump’s mental deficiency,” Krugman writes.

Krugman stresses that he doesn’t consider Trump unintelligent.

“I don’t mean that Trump is stupid; a stupid man couldn’t have managed to defraud so many people over so many years,” Krugman explains. “Nor do I mean that he’s crazy, although his speeches and tweets — ‘my great and unmatched wisdom,’ the Kurds weren’t there on D-Day — keep sounding loonier.”

Krugman quickly adds, however, that Trump is “lazy, utterly incurious and too insecure to listen to advice or ever admit to a mistake. And given that he is, in fact, what he accuses others of being — an enemy of the people — we should be thankful for his flaws.”

According to Krugman, Trump’s “mental deficiency” is not a lack of intelligence, but a lack of self-control — and that lack of self-control led to the Ukraine scandal. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Krugman notes, wasn’t Trump’s downfall, but he gave his opponents plenty to use against him when, on July 25, he tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

“Just a few weeks ago,” Krugman explains, “it seemed that Trump would skate on charges both of colluding with Russia to subvert the 2016 election and of obstruction of justice. The Mueller report was basically a bust — partly because the story was complicated, partly because of Robert Mueller’s diffidence.”

Krugman emphasizes that authoritarianism in the Republican Party didn’t start with Trump; indeed, Krugman often railed against authoritarian tendencies in the GOP back when George W. Bush was president. But Trump’s lack of self-control, Krugman contends, makes it more difficult for the GOP to carry out an authoritarian agenda.

“If Trump were cannier and more self-controlled,” Krugman observes, “the march to autocracy might well be unstoppable. He has the backing of a party whose elected representatives have shown no sign of democratic scruples. He has de facto state media in the form of Fox News and the rest of the Murdoch empire. He has already managed to corrupt key government agencies, including the Justice Department.”

Krugman wraps up his column by stressing that ironically, Trump’s “character flaws” are proving to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise for those who want to see liberal democracy survive in the United States.

“It says a lot about the modern GOP that the party is still solidly behind a man so obviously, grotesquely, not up to the job — although some rank-and-file Republicans now back an impeachment inquiry,” Krugman observes. “But those of us who want America as we know it to survive should be grateful that Trump is so immature and incompetent. His character flaws are the only thing that gives us a fighting chance.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close