What else can you say when President Donald Trump touts Dr. Stella Immanuel, who claims "spirit husbands" and "spirit wives" visit humans in their dreams, and cause fibroids and impotence? Trump retweeted a video in which Immanuel insists that hydroxychloroquine is a "cure" for COVID-19 and says masks are not needed. Never mind that this dangerous fakery has been repeatedly rebuffed by medical studies and Trump's own advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci; he found the good doctor "very impressive."
Even when queried about Immanuel's bizarre theories Trump doubled down. "I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her," he told reporters. Of course, Immanuel's Fire Power Ministries sermons are readily available on YouTube. Buoyed by Trump tweets, her ravings about the DNA of space aliens were flooding social media and cable news by the time the president claimed ignorance.
The Stella Immanuel saga is not just another sick Trump joke we can ignore because there have been so many. No other president in our lifetime (or perhaps ever) would have praised a fraudster who claimed "demon sperm" was infecting our medicine. A president who promotes quacks is himself a purveyor of quackery.
This madness illustrates how far Trump is removed from reality and how dangerous to America's national security should he win a second term.
I stress national security because so much has been written about the threat that Trump redux would present to our democratic institutions. But it's also important to confront how four more Trump years would undermine the stability of the country _ as well as its global standing _ as he promoted quacks at home and fraudsters abroad.
Here are three examples of the dangers Trump quackery would pose.
First, dealing with the pandemic. By January, Trump's willful refusal to devise a national strategy for containing the virus probably means the situation will be worse than at present. "If Trump is re-elected there will be no prospect of any international cooperation to deal with this, just a presidential effort to change the subject," says Thomas Wright, director of the Brookings Institution's Center on the United States and Europe.
Even if advances are made with potential vaccines, Trump's open disdain for science has emboldened anti-vaxxers and belief in crank therapies (like a hydroxychloroquine "cure"). If America got embroiled in vaccine wars as it has in mask wars, virus outbreaks would continue.
Moreover, Trump's "America first" approach might lead him to try to hoard or buy up vaccine, while rebuffing vital international cooperation in distributing it at affordable prices.
"The next two years will be crucial for international cooperation in vaccine distribution, dealing with hot spots and economic recovery," says Wright. "Trump would be super nationalistic, which would have more lasting consequences." Unless a vaccine receives worldwide distribution, the global economy won't recover, global travel will be constrained and the disease will continue to migrate.
Second, dealing with post COVID-19 geopolitics. Trump's hold on reality when it comes to his treatment of allies is as a limp as it is with medical quacks. "We have a president who looks up to a (Russian leader Vladimir) Putin and (Brazilian President Jair) Bolsonaro, while he can't stand British, French and German leaders," I was told by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Pa.), who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Indeed, Trump has made clear he's reducing U.S. troops based in Germany from 36,000 to 24,000 because he thinks German defense spending is too low. But moving the troops will cost more than keeping them there, and demonstrates Trump's disdain for his democratic allies. The plan is "a slap in the face at a friend and ally" and "a gift to Russia," Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) told reporters.
But Trump's estimation of who are America's friends and who are foes is as limited as his grasp of Stella Immanuel's skills.
Third, leaving America alone at a time when international cooperation is more vital than ever. Not only will Trump likely quit NATO if he wins in 2020, but he has threatened to bring troops home from South Korea. Just when he is blustering about a new Cold War with China, he is out to destroy the alliances America needs to contain potential Chinese aggression under Xi Jinping.
And Trump is abandoning vital international cooperation in dealing with climate change or future pandemics, convinced that he alone has the smarts to deal with global problems.
Indeed, his mystical belief in his own greatness is as deluded as the fantasies of Stella Immanuel. His enthusiasm for her may reflect his appreciation for a fellow fantasist. Or his own frequent embrace of conspiracy theories.
But Trump's delusions are far more dangerous to our country and the world than a belief in "demon sperm."
Trudy Rubin (email@example.com) is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her commentary was distributed by Tribune Content Agency.