A friend and political ally is cross with me.
He thinks I suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). He says my personal dislike of the president colors all my thinking about the Trump administration.
After nearly a half-minute of reflection, I decided he was right. I’ve got this thing. And it’s a very bad case.
Like millions of affected Americans, I can’t get President Donald Trump out of my head. I search his name in Google a dozen times a day. Every day. Seven days a week. It’s the first thing I do when I awake in the morning and the last thing I do before going to sleep at night: “Trump.” Press enter.
Trump rarely fails to satisfy the addiction; it’s a round-the-clock show. There’s always an update — a firing, a nutty tweet, a Russia revelation. I delight in his unceasing missteps, I’m ashamed to say. They reinforce my internal narrative about Trump as a narcissistic loon who will do untold damage to America’s conservative movement, and to America itself. I find Trump vile, dishonest and sophomoric, and, yes, I believe to the depths of my soul that the Russians have something on him.
Tough talk like Tuesday’s “fire and fury” threat to belligerent North Korea would sound calculated coming from any previous president. Coming from Trump’s mouth, the words alarm. They feel untethered.
My friend’s diagnosis is correct. I harbor deep-doubt prejudice against this president. Even when I agree with Trump, I find praising him excruciating. It physically hurts, though I occasionally do it on Twitter to feign objectivity. (My better angels pray that the new White House chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, can right this ship against all odds.)
But there are at least two strains of Trump Derangement Syndrome going around. Some mutation of the virus — we’ll call it TDS (b) — has clearly infected the president’s core supporters. They tie themselves into pretzel knots defending the indefensible. To wit, 55 percent of Republican respondents in a July ABC News-Washington Post survey said Russia did nothing to try to interfere with the 2016 election. That’s simply uninformed. Evidence to the contrary is dismissed out of hand as “fake news” or “globalist propaganda.”
What’s so striking to conservatives with TDS (a) is that natural allies suffering TDS (b) — red-blooded, patriotic Americans — reject U.S. intelligence reports and completely ignore a dangerous adversary’s attack on our election system. Russia, for God’s sake! It leaves us scratching our heads down to the scalp. Pro-Trump evangelicals . . . I won’t even go there.
Suffice it to say, TDS cannot be taken lightly.
No one has suffered — or profited — more from TDS (a) and (b) than America’s cable news industry. It’s a 24-hour circus, and it’s great TV.
Cable hosts such as Sean Hannity of Fox News will never recover their credibility, as far as I’m concerned. He single-handedly forced this once-loyal Fox viewer over to a CNN that can’t contain its glee at all things anti-Trump. I have to regularly change the channel to avoid CNN’s omnipresent “BREAKING: Trump [fill in the blank]” banner from burning itself into my TV screen. News coverage today is nearly 100 percent predictable, depending on the channel you turn to. And it’s almost all about the president.
Trump has to be having a ball with this. He is, after all, TDS patient zero. It took him 71 years, but he did it. He spread his lifelong, self-attention malady across the globe. It’s now all HIM, all the time, everywhere and in Technicolor. Pretty amazing.
One question rises above it all: What are we going to talk about when he’s gone?
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.