Mr. Me No One Loves the 45th President Like Donald Trump
The hope that Donald Trump might become more presidential as his inauguration approached has proven misguided. The 45th president of the United States has shown that his own public image is his first priority.
To understand how the future president of the United States thinks and acts, a look back at how he treated one of his former employees can be helpful. The woman in question didn't become known because of complaints regarding Donald Trump's behavior. Rather, he himself boasted about his own treatment of her in one of his many books.
Trump hired the woman in the 1980s. "I decided to make her into somebody," he writes in "Think Big and Kick Ass," a book in which he seeks to share the secret of his success with the world. He gave her a great job, Trump writes, and "she bought a beautiful home."
In the early 1990s, when his company ran into financial difficulties, Trump asked the woman to request help from a friend of hers who held an important position at a bank. The woman, though, didn't feel comfortable doing so and Trump fired her immediately.
Later, she founded her own company, but it went broke. "I was really happy when I found that out," Trump writes in his book. Although he had done so much for her, he writes, "she had turned on me."
In Trump's world, even just the appearance of disloyalty is an unforgivable sin. He encourages his readers to react in such cases with brutal vengeance. Ultimately, the woman lost her home and her husband left her, Trump relates. "I was glad." In subsequent years, he continued speaking poorly of her, he writes. "Now I go out of my way to make her life miserable."
At the end of the chapter called "Revenge," Trump advises his readers to constantly seek to take revenge. "Always make a list of people who hurt you. Then sit back and wait for the appropriate time to get revenge. When they least expect it, go after them with a vengeance. Go for their jugular."
This hardcore Darwinism helped Trump, who sees life as "a series of battles ending in victory or defeat," become a rich man on the often fierce real-estate market.
Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday as the 45th president of the United States, appears to be relying on the same formula for success in his new job -- despite all of the predictable effects that might have for his country and the world. Just last week, it was obvious on several occasions that Trump has no intention whatsoever of adjusting his behavior to correspond to the dignity of the office he has been elected to fill. He seems to continue believing exclusively in his own maxim: "Think Big and Kick Ass."
Last Wednesday, Trump once again took to Twitter to aggressively go after those who had dared to voice critique, or whose behavior he disapproved of. He later did the same during a press conference.
After it was leaked that U.S. intelligence had informed Trump that Russia held potentially compromising information about him, including an alleged golden shower with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room, he hit back hard. What the intelligence community had done, he wrote on Twitter, was "very unfair" and a "total political witch hunt!" He then wrote: "Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to 'leak' into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?"
For months, many have been talking about Trump's lack of maturity and his insufficient dignity for one of the most powerful and honorable political offices in the world. And yet his press conference on Wednesday left even party allies stunned.
He showed himself to be a man with more faith in Russian President Vladimir Putin than in the findings of America's own intelligence agencies. A man who reacts aggressively to all forms of critique. A man who sought to intimidate CNN reporter Jim Acosta and refused to answer the reporter's questions because he doesn't approve of the broadcaster's coverage.
It was an appearance that lacked everything that one has come to expect from U.S. presidents: self-control, diplomacy, reserve and restraint. He spent much of the press conference praising himself and his team and there wasn't a moment of irony or self-doubt. Even in the U.S., where referring to one's own strengths is much more common than it is elsewhere, such a degree of conceit is unusual.
For many, victory is paired with humility. Trump, by contrast, hasn't passed up a single opportunity since Nov. 8 to boast about his "big" election victory and he continues to cast insults at his defeated opponent Hillary Clinton. Those who thought that Trump's almost conciliatory Christmas address meant that the president-elect was changing his tune were quickly disabused of that notion.
On the weekend before last, actress Meryl Streep used her speech at the Golden Globes to criticize Trump for his mocking of a physically disabled New York Times reporter during the campaign. The incident was Trump's revenge against the reporter, who had exposed one of the GOP nominee's lies. Trump was quick to strike back at Streep. He claimed that he was not making fun of the reporter's disabilities, even though videos make it clear that that is exactly what he was doing. He then took to Twitter to call Streep "one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood" and "a Hillary flunky." It was yet another tweet-storm showing how far removed Trump is from reality.
His reactions have become totally predictable, no matter whether he is responding to a perceived slight from an employee, a reporter, an actress or the intelligence community. There is no nuance in his retribution; it is always excessive.
Trump's behavior can often be reduced to a simple question: Was somebody nice to me or not? It usually doesn't get much more complex than that. As such, the key to understanding the new U.S. president lies less in his political pledges or in the hopes of his followers and more in the make-up of his personality.
'Like a Six-Year-Old Boy'
Pulitzer Prize winning American investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who wrote a biography of Donald Trump, says that he is a 12-year-old trapped in the body of a 70-year-old. In all of the discussions he held with Trump, says another of the president-elect's biographers, Michael D'Antonio, he came across as a young boy. "Like a six-year-old boy who comes home from the playground and can hardly wait to announce that he shot the decisive goal," D'Antonio said in an interview.
Johnston and D'Antonio spent hundreds of hours trying to understand this man. And their assessments were only exceeded by Trump himself.
"When I look at myself in the first grade and I look at myself now, I'm basically the same," Trump told D'Antonio in 2014. "The temperament is not that different."
Trump displays the classic worldview and behavioral patterns of people who suffer from narcissism. Even as psychologists are generally unwilling to offer diagnoses of people they have not met in person, many have made an exception when it comes to Trump, in part because he exhibits so many of the symptoms.
Howard Gardner, a professor of developmental psychology at Harvard University, described the incoming president several years ago as "remarkably narcissistic." Clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis attributes to Trump a "textbook narcissistic personality disorder." His colleague George Simon even uses videos of Trump to illustrate the disorder in seminars.
Experts say that the classic behaviors associated with narcissism include: an outsized need for attention, recognition and admiration; the inability to feel empathy; constant self-absorption; and grotesquely exaggerated self-praise. For narcissists, the world around them is only interesting insofar as it reflects themselves. Those suffering from the disorder are so hypersensitive to criticism that everyone who withholds admiration is seen as an enemy.
Extreme narcissists, research results show, are so addicted to attention and admiration that they frequently tell lies. And they are so convinced of their own merit that they are incapable of feeling regret: In their eyes, the admission of error is not a sign of greatness, rather it detracts from their grandiosity.
'Abject Rejection of Reflection'
Self-reflection -- the critical questioning of one's own behavior -- is something that Trump sees as potentially damaging. "I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see," he said in a 2014 interview with D'Antonio. The biographer, who conducted numerous interviews with Trump and members of his family, says that this is the most salient characteristic of the entire clan. D'Antonio says Trump "refuses to reflect on what he's done" and that he exhibits an "abject rejection of reflection."
This finding goes a long way toward explaining Trump's reactions, announcements and threats. It is likewise hardly surprising that he hasn't changed his approach just because he has now been elected president. He is simply unable to.
When Trump spent weeks rejecting intelligence evaluations indicating that Russia's hacking and release of internal emails from the Democratic National Committee was an attempt to aid his candidacy, that too was the voice of an aggrieved narcissist. Trump was afraid that the shine of his election victory might be tarnished.
One can assume that he is fully aware of the dangers represented to his country by professional hacking and interference from foreign powers. But in such moments, he seems unable to focus on the larger, more relevant problem at hand. He only sees himself and the potential devaluation of his Election Day triumph -- with the consequence that he placed more trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange than he did in America's own intelligence services.
- Part 1: No One Loves the 45th President Like Donald Trump
- Part 2: 'Be Paranoid'