Move over American Exceptionalism, and make way, if Donald Trump attains the White House, for Trump Exceptionalism. Make no mistake, Trump’s presidential hopes are Trump hopes. Make America Great is Trump-speak for Make Trump Important. Because as the image says, Trump likes himself some himself.
In other words, the problem for America is that the Republican front runner is a textbook narcissist, at least according to psychologists. This is probably not a surprise even to laymen, but Vanity Fair asked some professionals to weigh in with their opinion (perhaps because Vanity Fair believes Trump could really be elected president) and what we’re hearing in response is “Textbook narcissistic personality disorder,” and “Remarkably narcissistic,” and “He’s so classic that I’m archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there’s no better example of his characteristics…he’s like a dream come true.”
Or a nightmare:
That mental-health professionals are even willing to talk about Trump in the first place may attest to their deep concern about a Trump presidency. As Dr. Robert Klitzman, a professor of psychiatry and the director of the master’s of bioethics program at Columbia University, pointed out, the American Psychiatric Association declares it unethical for psychiatrists to comment on an individual’s mental state without examining him personally and having the patient’s consent to make such comments. This so-called Goldwater rule arose after the publication of a 1964 Fact magazine article in which psychiatrists were polled about Senator Barry Goldwater’s fitness to be president. Senator Goldwater brought a $2 million suit against the magazine and its publisher; the Supreme Court awarded him $1 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.
Scary stuff. And think about what it would mean to America to have the Trump Cult of Personality in the White House. Look at all the hotspots around the globe.
For Trump, these would not be about American interests, what’s best for us and for our allies, but about being one of the winners.
There’s Iraq and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, there is Iran and Russia and the Baltic States and Russia and the Ukraine and Russia in Syria and Russia and Turkey. As the International Institute for Strategic Studies tweeted,
Russia has violated every major European security agreement from UN charter to 1990 charter of Paris: @IlvesToomas
— IISS News (@IISS_org) December 1, 2015
Then there is the South China Sea with China versus just about everybody:
Don’t forget Korea, and Afghanistan, and India and Pakistan, tension over natural resources in the Arctic, not to mention African hotspots like Nigeria. The world is a mess. (a complete list of ongoing conflicts can be found here – as of November 26, “27 Countries and 191 between militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups involved”).
So yeah. We need a stable president to confront this mess, not a president who is a man who can’t handle facts at the expense of his own ego. The world is not black and white, either/or, or good vs. evil. Reality has nuance that escapes most Republicans, but Trump sees the world as defined by “winners” and “losers.” Huffington Post talked to Joseph Burgo, psychologist and author of The Narcissist You Know, who said,
“Narcissists like Donald Trump… are constantly driven to prove themselves among the ‘winners’ of the world, often by triumphing over or denigrating other people as comparative ‘losers.’ If you examine Trump’s language in his public statements as well as in the debates, you will hear him proclaim his winner status again and again while sneering at his detractors as losers.”
Vanity Fair approached Licensed clinical social worker Wendy Terrie Behary, the author of Disarming the Narcissist: Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed, and she said,
“Narcissists are not necessarily liars, but they are notoriously uncomfortable with the truth. The truth means the potential to feel ashamed. If all they have to show the world as a source of feeling acceptable is their success and performance, be it in business or sports or celebrity, then the risk of people seeing them fail or squander their success is so difficult to their self-esteem that they feel ashamed. We call it the narcissistic injury. They’re uncomfortable with their own limitations. It’s not that they’re cut out to lie, it’s just that they can’t handle what’s real.”
So imagine Trump in any of these scenarios mentioned above. He couldn’t confront a media lightweight like Megyn Kelly without losing it, or even that antithesis of a journalist Chuck Todd. But let’s assume for a moment that he could find his testicles long enough to face down Putin. It’s a recipe for disaster. We need common sense and a realistic appraisal of the situation and we’ll have instead two guys comparing the lengths of their “penii.”
Or look at Trump confronting China over its economic policy, which he has entirely wrong (perhaps an explanation for his four corporate bankruptcies) or over its military reach into the South China Sea against Vietnam, the Philippines, or even its ongoing taunting of a re-arming Japan. The United States has interests in this area. Is Trump going to turn this into another case of Trump has to win because Trump is a winner? Or is he going to engage in sober diplomacy? You tell me.
If psychologists are worried enough to speak up, we should heed their fears. We should all be worried. The world is no place for Donald Trump with a nuclear briefcase. The place for Donald Trump is reality TV where he can ruin only a few lives at a time, the lives of people who have agreed to have their lives ruined by this narcissist. The entire world should not be at his mercy. It’s great the Republican establishment opposes him, but they created him and they’re opposing him for all the wrong reasons.
As Vanity Fair’s Henry Alford put it, “the need to protect or exalt the self is at odds with the job requirements of a president.” Obama understand this. Sure, presidents have a care for their legacy. But Obama understands his duty is to the nation and to the American people. Trump see’s his only duty as being to himself. And if he got into the White House, there is nowhere in this world any of us could hide from his fragile ego.