Thomas L. Friedman makes me think about the limits of words in contexts of unlimited atrocity. You feel him straining, in this rather flamboyant, Faulknerian sentence, to arrive at, to be adequate to, to express verbally, the actually inexpressible horror of a man of no conscience who continues to command the loyalty of tens of millions of Americans. Up against evil embraced by millions, Friedman’s words seem weak.
Some writers resolve the inexpressibility problem by jumping over it into psychopathology. Trump is a high-functioning insane person (a contradiction in terms, no?), an hysterical narcissist, an infantile disordered etc. etc. Their writing goes toward elaborating his dangerous lunacy rather than, as with Friedman, his moral obscenity.
But approaching Trump in himself, whether your approach is ethical or clinical, seems a bit beside the point at this late date in his democracy-ravaging career. The point is not so much Trump as the capacity of so many Americans to adore him, in the way millions of Italians still adore Mussolini, and Russians Stalin. The pertinent pathology is ye olde escape from freedom.