MSNBC's Morning Joe invited Professor Tom Nichols and Senior Fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center Peter Wehner on Monday morning to talk about Trump's tweeting habits and the state of the Republican Party. Nichols and Wehner, along with co-host Joe Scarborough, like to view themselves as the defenders of not just conservatism, but also of norms, institutions, and common decency in the age of Trump, but the hypocrtical discussion that followed violated all of those principles.
Nichols accused Republicans of losing "their moral bearings" and that it is all about "tribalism" and "making other people angry." He described the state of the Republican Party as "mostly an Oppositional Defiance Disorder among an entire political party and it really says that there's been a loss of decency amongst people who once praised things or at least claimed to praise things like character, honor, decency, [and] civility."
To showcase his conservative credentials and concern for decency, Nichols recently wrote a "New Screwtape Letter" about pro-lifers at CPAC arguing that "the condition of their spirit" was ripe for Wormwood to take advantage, because they spoke at the same conference as some more controversial speakers.
While some people argue that it would be best to ignore Trump's tweets, Wehner disagreed, also delving into whether or not Trump has a medical disorder, "these tweets shouldn't be ignored because I think they are an insight into a disordered personality."
Bringing up George Conway's tweets from earlier in the day, Brzezinski echoed the idea that Trump has a mental disorder, "Tom Nichols, you brought up Oppositional Defiance Disorder, which is a real diagnosis, The Mayo Clinic says, 'Frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, defiance, or vindictiveness.' ... What's the political goal? What's the goal of that type of behavior if it's not what I just read."
Morning Joe likes to argue that Trump is a threat to norms and it is a point Nichols and Wehner like to make as well, but playing psychiatrist on TV and insinuating your political opponent having a mental illness simply because he tweeted something you, no matter how legitimately, did not like, is perhaps the greatest norm violation there can be, because it would not be hard to apply George Conway's tweets to nearly every politician in the country, regardless of party.
Here is a transcript for the March 18 show:
7:27 AM ET
TOM NICHOLS: To me it says people who now call themselves conservatives or Republicans have completely lost their moral bearings. That at this point it's purely about tribalism, it’s about making other people angry. They judge their success politically about how angry other people are no matter what it takes to get there, which is really not a political movement so much as it a kind of childish reflex that doesn't really have any kind of ideology or political content to it. It's mostly an opositional defiance disorder among an entire political party and it really says that there’s been a loss of decency amongst people who once praised things or at least claimed to praise things like character, honor, decency, civility. That’s all gone now.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: All gone now. Pete Wehner, you're going to be releasing a book soon called "The Death of Politics." I would think attacks, constant attacks against a dead war hero would fit very neatly inside your thesis?
PETER WEHNER: It sure does. Politics is an important profession, it can be a noble profession and we have to take care of it and Donald Trump is bringing ruin to it now in this attack on Senator McCain, which is kind of a compulsion with him, his manifestation of many others. I agree with Tom, it is a loss of moral bearing with the Republican Party, I also think in a deeper sense it’s probably a loss or lack of courage, something that John McCain had in spades, but his party, former party does not. I think a lot of these people in you talked to them privately and individually, they would be repelled by what is going on but they're not able to summon the courage to challenge Donald Trump publicly so they try and be silent, but at some point silence becomes complicit. I just want to say one other thing apropos what Mika said, that desensitization, I understand that, we can't react to outrage with everything that Trump does. On the other hand, it's important that we not become completely desensitized because the country depends on certain norms and standards of decency and behavior and that kind of constant all-out assault on those things, as well as the truth, is deeply damaging to the country. Last thing I'll say is this is a window -- these tweets shouldn’t be ignored because I think they are an insight into a disordered personality. That is these things speak to something deeply worrisome about this man. It's not just the narcissism, it's the callousness, it's the cruelty, it’s the vindictiveness, it’s the lack of shame and those qualities are essential in a human life and their very important to have in a President—the right character.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: So, to that point George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's husband, was tweeting this weekend that the President's condition is getting worse. Tom Nichols, you brought up oppositional defiance disorder, which is a real diagnosis. The Mayo Clinic says, “Frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, defiance, or vindictiveness.” Richard Haas, if it's not that, what would be the goal of the tweets that the President put out this weekend about John McCain? What's the political goal? What's the goal of that type of behavior if it's not what I just read?