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Part IV. A Clinical Perspective: Why Does Trump Admire Brutal Dictators?

Thomas Jefferson insisted that an "informed citizenry" is the best protection for democracy. It is therefore extremely disconcerting that a staggering percentage of Americans cannot name our vice president or the country we fought for our independence.
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Thomas Jefferson insisted that an "informed citizenry" is the best protection for democracy. It is therefore extremely disconcerting that a staggering percentage of Americans cannot name our vice president or the country we fought for our independence. Even more worrisome is that DT himself had no idea that Russia had invaded Ukraine two years ago or that his statement that "judges sign bills" into law is remarkably ignorant.

In the spirit of Jefferson, I am intending to educate people in this ongoing series regarding the disturbed psychological make-up of DT and to respond to such questions as: He can't be serious? Surely he'll change if elected president? How dangerous would he be with the ability to launch nuclear missiles unopposed in under five minutes?

At the heart of these questions is DT's admiration for Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Saddam Hussein, and especially Vladimir Putin.Here are statements he has made about each, followed by brief illustrations of their hideous brutality which barely scratch the surface:

• Kim Jong-un: "You gotta give him credit... when his father died, he goes in, he takes over these tough generals and he's the boss. It's incredible. He wiped out the uncle, wipes out this one, that one. It's incredible."

Jong-un's uncle was ripped out of a large government meeting and summarily executed by a machine-gun firing squad along with seven of his aides. Jong-un's aunt, his father's sister, was then poisoned. All remaining children and grandchildren were killed. He executed a general with a firing squad of anti-aircraft missiles at close range and another with a mortar round, while requiring multitudes to watch. His entire country is quite literally starving to death while he finances his nuclear ambitions.

• Bashir al-Assad: "I think in terms of leadership, he's getting an A and our president is not doing so well."

In his struggle to stay in power, Assad has ruthlessly suppressed his countrymen, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths of civilian men, women, and children, many by gassing. If deposed, he will be charged with crimes against humanity.

• Saddam Hussein: "Okay, so he was a very bad guy. But you know what he did so well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. He didn't read them their rights. They didn't talk. You were a terrorist, it's over!"

Hussein is universally regarded as perhaps the most monstrous tyrant of the last several decades. Among his countless atrocities, in what has been described as "the worst chemical-weapons attacks in human history," he gassed over 100,000 of his Kurdish citizens and buried alive tens of thousands more for a total of 180,000 murdered.

• Vladimir Putin: "If he says great things about me, I'm going to say great things about him. He's really very much of a leader...very strong control over his country...and look, he has an 82% approval rating!"

Stunning comments. In 15 years of Putin's tyranny, journalists who dissent are shot in the back of the head. Dissidents who flee the country are regularly murdered, with poison the favored method, KGB style. Others still alive in asylum are in constant fear for their lives, including the former world chess champion and current chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, Garry Kasporov, and the Russian Olympic runner who blew the whistle on its pervasive doping program, Yuliya Stepanova . Either DT is incomprehensibly ignorant of the rating fabrication, or he is swooning from the compliment when Putin called him "bright" (NOT a "genius" as DT has bragged ever since.)

In addition, DT has spoken of "fighting for peaceful regime-change" if elected. Last week, he bloviated that he would "blow out of the water" the seven small Iranian boats who harassed our "beautiful destroyers" and gave them the finger. He has bragged that "Russia and I would get along really well." He has commented that "the Second Amendment people" might be able to stop Hillary, that his supporters should patrol voting sites to ensure he is treated fairly, and that he would love to "hit and hit and hit (DNC critics) until their heads spin and they'll never recover." He insists that he will "bomb the shit out of ISIS" and order our soldiers to kill their presumed families. He has goaded supporters to rough up hecklers at his speeches and he pontificates that NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem should find another country. He has quoted Mussolini's "Better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep." He genuinely does not understand why we build nuclear weapons if we don't use them.

In the clinical assessment of such frightening characteristics, why would DT admire grotesque tyrants while very rarely praising our own past presidents and boasting that he could be the greatest in history, "except maybe Abe Lincoln?" From childhood throughout life, we all look for role models to emulate, especially when trying to navigate new and unfamiliar life challenges and transitions. We select inspirational mentors, often from a different time or place, who guide us by their example of how to get it right. We search for what has been called an "ego ideal" who best personifies our own highest intentions.

DT is drawn to leaders that already fit his fundamental personality make-up. Anticipating the presidency, he looks for role models of how to preside, what would that look like, which leaders perform in ways that are inspiring. For Obama, it was Kennedy, Reagan, King, and Mandela. Bill Clinton turned to JFK and Hillary to Eleanor Roosevelt. George W. Bush modeled his leadership after Jesus and Winston Churchill. For DT, it is Hussein, Jong-un, Assad, and Putin. Those guys know how to run a tight ship!

Someone who is severely character disordered can only change by amplifying traits already present. Any "pivot" will be toward tyranny, not inspiration. Although DT is trying his best to control himself, if elected he will feel once again unleashed in the belief he will have to answer to no-one.

But what happens, for example, when the honeymoon with Putin ends. Given his mental instability, his thirst for adulation is rivaled only by his obsession for vengeance, even for the tiniest of slights. What happens when he discovers Putin has been playing him like a fiddle and humiliates him on the world stage? Don-the-Conned vs "Little Vlade?" As he has stated dozens of times during the primary, "As long as they're nice to me, I'll be nice to them. But if they get nasty and hit me, I'll hit back much, much harder." Checks and balances? Like the despots he idolizes, DT intends to rule, not lead; to control, not compromise.

The 2016 election quite literally is about apocalypse, not politics. This can't be happening? It can and it is. Jefferson's warning was never more relevant.