A lot of people have said a lot of things about Donald Trump's deficiencies, but the most succinct may be this: "beyond repair."
What loose cannon would say such a thing about Trump? Surely it is someone swimming in partisan passion, blinded by bile.
Ah, but no, the description comes from one of the more dispassionate people imaginable, a Republican to boot: former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
True, Gates, confines his assessment to foreign policy. But you can read between the lines in his recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal and deduce that he doesn't think Trump is capable of just about any duty the presidency requires.
Gates calls Trump "stubbornly uninformed about the world and how to lead our country and government."
That's not all. Gates calls Trump "temperamentally unsuited to lead our men and women in uniform. He is unqualified and unfit to be commander-in-chief."
It's one thing for Hillary Clinton to say this, and they have. It's another for a Republican to say this, particularly one of Gates' stripe.
Maybe Gates is tainted. He knows too much about stuff. He was CIA director under George H.W. Bush, then defense secretary under George W. Bush, then was asked by Barack Obama to continue.
Oh, and somewhere in there Gates also was president of that bastion of liberalism Texas A&M.
One could challenge Gates' credibility in deference to Trump's credibility. One could also challenge the Republic of Antigua to send its navy into New York Harbor.
We don't need Gates' assessment to know this, however:
Trump is a time bomb in a red ball cap -- a walking, talking international incident. He is the man who would have taken all the evidence John Kennedy had 54 years ago about missiles in Cuba and smirked as he set off World War III.
A President Trump isn't the end of the world -- necessarily. It would just be the end of all credibility for the U.S. government in that world.
However, Trump's fakery/foolery quotient in foreign policy is only the half of the problem. The rest is contained in an amazing story by Politico that points to "cut-and-paste policy" by the Trump camp.
Politico reports essentially that Trump has no policies of his own. Or if he has any, he is mostly inclined to copy from others.
For instance, his tax policies "appear to be lifted almost verbatim" from Jeb Bush, Politico reports. So, too, with education proposals copied from Mitt Romney's 2012 platform.
"They're faking it, and they're doing a good job faking it," said Tim Miller, a former aid to Jeb Bush.
Miller said that when Trump released a plan for addressing problems with care for veterans it appeared to be lifted from the proposals of he who Trump calls "not a smart man" – that Jeb guy.
Bush national security adviser John Noonan told Politico, "Trump gleefully made fun of Jeb for being an academic, cerebral guy, and now here's Trump leaning over his shoulder and copying his homework."
Indeed, reading this account, Trump sounds a lot like the high school jock who thinks he's too important to listen in class.
"I think one of the most insulting things about the Trump candidacy is just how little regard he has for the demands of the office," said Noonan.
In fiction, the fascinating con man has become a fulcrum of much intrigue, from "The Rainmaker" to "Elmer Gantry."
Combine the comments of all of these critics (each of them a Republican) and know that Trump is constructing his own work of fiction – the fiction that he is able and stable.
Former newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.