As he ascends to the most powerful office on the planet, Donald Trump’s all-consuming obsession for vengeance has not been taken with the grim seriousness it deserves. As a clinical psychologist fortunate to have had a 40 year career teaching, writing, speaking, and especially practicing, the evidence is indisputable that DT is driven by the twin demons of an unquenchable thirst for adulation from those being “nice” to him, versus a fanatical passion for retribution for even the most trivial slight from those being “nasty.” Both have their psychological basis in core fragility and a desperation to ward off feelings of deep shame. The former was on full display during his campaign in his love of stadium rallies where he could bathe in the adoration of wildly enthusiastic crowds, an addiction he has resurrected in his ongoing, bizarre “Thank Me Tour.”
And yet, we’ve only scratched the surface of what will certainly be his escalating passion for retribution. Emboldened by his victories, do not expect one iota of moderation, as many--even now--naively continue to await. His personality make-up is such that his only capacity for change is to become more of who he is, not less. Domestically, presidents rarely spike above 50% approval ratings, with the average low point since WWll at around 28%. DT will not take this well. Ditto on the foreign front when he realizes how much Putin is manipulating him, some of which has already begun with DT’s intention to modernize our nuclear weapons.
During his presidential campaign, DT regularly exposed his intention, not to lead, but to rule. In his mind, leading means ruling. When asked whom he would turn to as his closest adviser, he responded that he himself would be. This has of course been substantiated by his abject indifference to daily security meetings because, “I’m, like, a smart person.” He famously made the shocking claim that he knew more than all the generals. He thundered that our soldiers would “take out the families of ISIS if I tell them to.” He expressed bewilderment why we would manufacture nuclear weapons if we didn’t intend to use them. If elected, he spoke of “peaceful regime change,” a phrase that applies only to overthrow of dictators, not to democracies. He explicitly stated twice that perhaps the “Second Amendment people” would be able to stop Hillary Clinton, and he threatened to have her locked up once elected. As I’ve discussed in greater detail in a previous post, most disturbing were his repeated expressions of admiration for the most brutal dictators of the last several decades, including Kim Jong-un (”Now there’s a guy who knows out to come in, wipe out the generals and take control of his country”), Bashir al-Assad (”As a leader, he gets an A”), and Saddam Hussein (”You gotta give him credit, he really knew how to kill terrorists”). Most worrisome is his ongoing idolization of the murderous Vladimir Putin (”Hey, he’s got an 83% approval rating”).
Regarding such comments, DT supporters either didn’t believe him, didn’t care, brazenly approved, or never got the memos. Some felt they were merely examples of what DT has recently characterized as “euphonisms,” by which he meant metaphors not to be taken literally. But since the election, accelerating events demonstrate that every word about his tyrannical instincts must be taken literally and extremely seriously, beginning with the immediate praise he received from Russia and China that his election validated their authoritarian style. No disavowal whatsoever from Team Trump.
Consider his contacts since the election with Rodrigo Duterte, despicable dictator of the Philippines since June and the newest monster on the scene, who has summarily murdered thousands of his citizens on the spot for the slightest suspicion of doing or dealing drugs, while encouraging vigilantes to extend the persecution. Citing Hitler in September, he stated that there are three million more addicts whom he “would be happy to slaughter.” In a phone call last month, Duterte claims that he was praised by Trump for handling the drug problem “in the right way.” No disavowal. Tacit Trump approval.
Consider DT’s contact with Putin since the election. The Kremlin reports that they agreed on a policy of mutual non-interference in each country’s internal affairs the day following the election. A senior Russian official expressed the hope that maybe now there would be no more “annoying comments about human rights and democracy.” No disavowal.
DT recently tweeted admiringly that Putin described Hillary’s behavior as “ ‘humiliating. One must be able to lose with dignity.’ So true!” Imagine Ronald Reagan’s response to a president-elect praising a brutal, butchering foreign tyrant for criticizing a defeated American presidential opponent. What kind of twisted mind could even contemplate such thoughts?
Since his election, DT has accused peaceful protesters of being paid professionals incited by the media. He has berated the press for being unfair, “nasty” and posting unflattering pictures of him, and he has shown unprecedented avoidance of reporters who historically have always accompanied every American president everywhere. He prefers puerile tweets and Orwellian you.tubes to make major (interspersed with trivial) announcements, while eschewing the usual press conferences and interviews where he would be questioned and challenged to account for his positions. He has threatened constitutionally protected flag-burners with jail and loss of citizenship. He has rebuked the cast of Hamilton (which he’s heard is “overrated”) for respectfully addressing concerns to Michael Pence in attendance, demanding an apology.
His fanatical obsession with vengeance emerged yet again with utter transparency in his New Year’s Eve Tweet, gloating, “Happy New Year to all, including my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”
Alec Baldwin’s hilarious and ongoing Saturday Night Live imitation of DT clearly gets deeply under his skin, as can be seen in his furious tweets. Profoundly insecure people simply can’t take a joke at their own expense. DT appears not to understand the distinction between dissidence and terrorism, continually equating the two in describing the tactics of tyrants. The Constitution? Laws are made to be broken. Checks and balances? Those are for losers. Will peaceful protesters be physically beaten? Will the press be gagged? Will the cast of Hamilton be jailed? Will flag-burners be deported?
Is Alec Baldwin a terrorist?
If Trump has his way, the best we can say for now is, not yet—stay tuned.