It’s a partnership of narcissism and sociopathy. Imagine Trump and Bannon as Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine hiding out in a Death Star constructed of money, power, and privilege.
Why do I say this?
There has been a lot of discussion this week about the rollout of “Trumpcare,” officially known as the American Health Care Act. It was just announced this week that some experts in the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate the number of Americans who could lose healthcare coverage under the new plan could be close to 24 million over the next decade.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points for high-ranking members of the GOP is the significant tax break (for their wealthy constituents) that comes with this new healthcare bill. I noted in a column last week that it appears to require a significant degree of sociopathy, or a lack of conscience, on the part of Congressional Leadership (e.g., Speaker Paul Ryan) to support this bill given the health risks it poses for vulnerable Americans (e.g., elderly, low socioeconomic status, Medicaid recipients, children).
It is this idea of acting without conscience or empathy that leads me to the topic of today’s column. In the Trump presidency, there are more active story lines than there are characters in a Russian novel. It is difficult to keep track of what emerges daily and how it relates to other stories and to you, the American public.
Let’s start with this anchor point. Look at the image of President Trump above that was taken during a brief photo-op at the White House on Friday March 10, 2017. Many have attributed Trump’s refusal to answer media questions about wiretapping by President Obama or Russian ties to several members of his Administration, to be the behavior of a man with a guilty conscience.
I don’t believe this to be the case. This is not a guilty conscience. I believe that the president, as a malignant narcissist, possesses a significant lack of empathy or concern for others and that his behavior in the face of scandal is all about self-preservation.
This is self-preservation of his status, self-preservation and protection of a vulnerable ego, self-preservation at an immature level that is inconsistent with his outward appearance as a 70-year old man.
Consider the protective shield that went up in the aftermath of his unsupported, potentially impeachable accusations that he was being wiretapped by President Obama. It seems that Trump’s inner circle (which includes Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka) instructed him to avoid the media and to be silent to prevent any further damage. In the picture above, he has the body language of a toddler that has been put in time out. His sorrowful presence is not a meme; it’s a me me me.
Look at his body language in the top image: he has been silenced, the bombast is absent, he may be keeping quiet for his own good.
He is not keeping silent because he thinks that speaking will endanger American lives, or because he is trying to protect American democracy … or because he is guilt-ridden. He is keeping silent because speaking about it may put public Donald Trump in peril and the thought of having to reconcile this with himself is frightening.
Lucky for the President and his fragile ego (but not so lucky for the 160,000,000 registered voters who did not vote for him) that the ongoing scandal into his campaign and administration ties to Russia provides some protection and a distraction that serves his personal purposes and those of his extreme senior advisors. Both Trump’s ego and the nationalistic agenda of Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are well served by:
· undermining the national intelligence agencies
· the discrediting of the free press as purveyors of “fake news”
· the gutting of the State Department
· the distractions afforded by debating the new healthcare act
· ongoing collaboration/collusion with Russia
For Trump, evidence suggests that colluding with Russia allows him to preserve the image that he is a wealthy successful businessman who can apply this acumen to the Oval Office. It has been widely supported that Russian money rescued Trump in times of financial crises. Psychologically, Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin is also self-serving in that it gives him a sense of being a “player on the world stage” – regardless of the arguably unethical and potentially illegal means by which he arrived on stage. For Bannon, this collusion enables him to move toward his goal of “destroying the Washington establishment.”
Distraction has allowed Trump to protect his fragile sense of self and to avoid inquiry on a daily basis. Not surprisingly, he was given a gift yet again this week when Congressman Steve King took on the role of the Country’s biggest racist – at least for now.
In closing, Trump’s fury, anger, and Oval Office turmoil are not the result of a guilty conscience. Rather, they are the frustrations of a man who sees that his ruse is in danger. Remember, Trump was touted as “Presidential” in his joint address to Congress on February 28th but that adoration was quickly replaced by controversy when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Trump-Russia investigations. Trump’s ire on the Friday leading up to his treasonous Obama tweets was because his performance had been tainted and not because he was having any second thoughts about the effects of his Administration’s actions on the American people.
Remember how the Death Star was destroyed? The rebels found the structural weak point and it exploded from inside.