Since the beginning of his presidency, there have been similarities between Donald Trump and Philip Francis Queeg, the deranged commander of the U.S.S. Caine in Herman Wouk’s 1951 novel of World War II, The Caine Mutiny.

Now Trump has noted the similarities as well.

Trump today called any governor who resisted his ‘total authority’ as president a mutineer and threatened to withhold coronavirus aid from them if they didn’t heed his call to reopen the country.

‘Tell the Democrat Governors that “Mutiny On The Bounty” was one of my all time favorite movies. A good old fashioned mutiny every now and then is an exciting and invigorating thing to watch, especially when the mutineers need so much from the Captain. Too easy!,’ he tweeted.

Trump was defending his claim that he has authority to reopen states to business in the wake of the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus, which goes against the 10th amendment of the constitution.

Several governors – led by New York’s Andrew Cuomo – blasted Trump.

Cuomo called the president ‘schizophrenic’ and threatened to take him to court over the matter as a constitutional crisis began to brew.

The governor claimed he didn’t want to fight with the president – despite Trump ‘spoiling’ for one. Cuomo went on to make the point he didn’t need to fight because the constitution was on the side of the states and not the federal government.

‘The president is clearly spoiling for a fight on this issue,’ Cuomo said at his daily press briefing in New York, referring to President Trump’s mutiny tweet.

‘Sometimes it takes more strength frankly to walk away from a fight than engage. The president will have no fight with me. I will not engage,’ he said.

The governor also spent several minutes lecturing on how the constitution favors states, essentially arguing with Trump’s point via a talk on early American history.

‘This is basic federalism, the role of states and the role of the federal government. It is important to get this right. The founding fathers understood and I remembered today that the balance between the state and the federal, the magnificent balance articulated in the constitution is the essence of our democracy. We don’t have a king in this country. We didn’t want a king, so we have a constitution and we elect the president. The states, the colonies formed the federal government. The federal government did not form the states,’ he said.

He went on to quote Alexander Hamilton, the first treasury secretary who was one of the framers of the Constitution. Hamilton’s Federalist Papers have been used by courts to determine the intentions of the founding fathers.

‘Hamilton, who in many ways was representative of this discussion of the balance of power, state governments possess inherent advantages, and will forever preclude the possibility of federal encroachment on the states. The federal head is repugnant to every rule of political calculations. Strong language but that was a premise,’ Cuomo said.

In Wouk’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (as well as the 1954 film adaptation, with Humphrey Bogart as Queeg), the U.S.S. Caine is a rusty destroyer/minesweeper commanded by an equally battered skipper.

The fictitious Lieutenant Commander Queeg apparently suffers from a form of paranoid schizophrenia that often distracts his crew from the serious business at hand — fighting a war against Japan in the Pacific — to the point where it undermines the ship’s morale and jeopardizes its effectiveness and safety.

During a gunnery-target-towing drill, Queeg becomes so preoccupied with scolding a crewman for his sloppy appearance that he ignores a helmsman’s warnings that the ship is about to run over its own towline.

When it does cut the towline, Queeg blames everyone but himself. When strawberries go missing from the officers’ mess, Queeg orders the entire crew strip-searched to find a “duplicate key” to the food locker, a key he is certain some crewman has made.

And when Queeg freezes during a typhoon, doggedly refusing to reverse course and take on ballast, his subordinate officers properly remove him from command in order to save the ship from foundering.

So far, Captain Queeg’s ravings may sound familiar indeed to anyone who has followed the drama of the Trump presidency.

In the end, we learned what drove Captain Queeg crazy.

It’s not certain what Trump is using as an excuse.

 

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