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    Citizen Vain: or, Trump the Narcissist

    Why did Donald Trump say in public that John McCain is ""not a war hero" because he got "captured?" Is Trump insane? Not quite, but close. Trump most likely has a major personality disorder. That's not a medical diagnosis, which I can't give; I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist, and I haven't met Trump. But Trump's long, continuing history of weird and sometimes toxic behavior makes a lot more sense if we think of Trump as a narcissist. His attack on McCain definitely fits the profile.

    Narcissism, one of the few ideas from classical Freudian psychoanalysis that turns out to be reliably testable, is a deep investment in an idealized, better-than-real version of yourself: a dream self who is incredibly great, who always wins and never loses. That super-self is, by its nature, an illusion, and reality constantly threatens it, but the narcissist invests everything in it. Narcissists organize their whole psychology around projecting and defending that delusional image of themselves.

    This is a "personality disorder" rather than a "mental illness," because it's not really amenable to treatment and because the patient doesn't want to be cured. They're not sick; they're just jerks on a clinical scale. There is no pill that cures narcissism, and if there were narcissists wouldn't take it. People who are mentally ill suffer from their illness. People with personality disorders inflict suffering on people around them.

    It's not just that narcissists bend, distort, and deny reality in order to promote their fantasies of greatness. Many, perhaps most, also build themselves up by actively tearing down other people. Contempt for others is part of the typical clinical profile. I am a winner and you are a loser is the narcissist's motto, unless they need to recruit you as a true believer in their greatness. Then you're a winner by association until they don't need you anymore. After that you're a loser again. You're fired!

    But worst of all is a narcissist who feels that his or her self-image is under attack. They will go on attack themselves against anyone whom they perceive as threatening their vision of themselves. Those attacks can be incredibly toxic: ruthless, and no holds barred, because the narcissist will perceive an attack on their false self as more or less an attack on their lives.

    For a long time I've wondered, idly, about what was going on with Trump. I've understood his appeal to others: he's a perfect foil for comedy, exactly the kind of egotistical buffoon for whom the ancient Greeks invented irony. (Ancient Greek comedy had two characters called an alazon and an eiron. The alazon was a dimwitted blowhard who boasted about himself and the eiron was a smarter character who ironically pretended to go along so the blowhard would embarrass himself. Trump is a born alazon. If he did not exist, Will Ferrell would have had to invent him.) And I understand his appeal to non-ironic fans; Trump is like a blue collar fantasy of being a billionaire, an enormously rich person with mostly working-class tastes. He does what poor people think they would do with millions of dollars, which makes a more satisfying fantasy than what most rich people really do with millions of dollars.

    What I've never understood is what Trump got out of letting people like David Letterman (the eiron's eiron), mock him in public. Did Trump not get the joke? Was he being a good sport about it? Was he simply, and wonderfully, too dim to get that he was being mocked? I couldn't tell.

    Today, the answer seems to be that Trump refuses to get the joke. His commitment to his own grandiosity may run so deep that Trump simply refuses to take the fact he's being mocked on board. His ability to edit or distort incoming information to suit the needs of his ego are apparently so formidable that he can be mocked on TV every week and take it as evidence that he's a big, big star. I find that unsettling.

    Trump's campaign speeches so far have been extremely simply repetitions of the Narcissist's Mantra: I am a winner, and the others are losers. No petty details like actual policy ideas clutter up the purity of his core message. "America used to have victories. We don't have victories any more," so Trump, through his personal greatness, will lead America back to the top. Trump will be "the greatest jobs president God ever created." He will drive much better trade deals with foreign countries than the losers who have been negotiating those deals for years. How will he do these things? By being himself, baby. Or rather, by being the imaginary version of himself he holds dear, the invincible SuperTrump. SuperTrump always wins and never loses (because Trump cannot bear to face his fallibility or the basic reality of the world), so by that logic President SuperTrump will always win everything. Trump's campaign speeches could be illustrations in intro psych textbooks.

    He's traded in racism because that's what gets certain voters excited, but also because contempt comes naturally to him. He can only keep believing in SuperTrump while he's putting other people down. So, he puts down Mexican immigrants with the deep, scathing contempt that his narcissism makes possible. He puts down John McCain, because if McCain disagrees with Trump about anything (I mean anything) then one of them has to be wrong, and Trump cannot tolerate the idea that SuperTrump is ever, ever wrong. So John McCain has to be a loser, too. Got shot down by the North Vietnamese while serving the country Trump didn't serve, like a loser.

    No, Trump does not recognize the sacrifice that McCain made all those years as prisoner of war. It is incomprehensible to Trump that McCain learned any wisdom, that he matured or grew, through that suffering. Trump has no room for understanding that because narcissists refuse to accept or acknowledge failure. They don't want to learn from their mistakes and setbacks, because they can't allow themselves to accept that failure is possible. If Trump lets go of his conviction that SuperTrump is invincible and infallible, for even a second, he can't even begin to cope with his fears.

    A lot of Trump's nine-day-wonder appeal on the campaign trail has been the appeal of vicarious narcissism; he allows his fans to identify with his fantasy self, to be winners by association with SuperTrump, and to share the toxic thrill of his contempt for others. Trump's pitch is I am strong and everyone else is weak; I can make you strong; everyone else is a loser. It's an ugly appeal, but there are always weak, scared people willing to buy it.

    Now, I've been more or less practicing psychiatry without a license for this whole post. And it may be that Trump isn't an actual narcissist. Maybe he just plays one on TV. But if I'm offering a hypothesis to explain his behavior, that hypothesis should predict future behavior. So let me make three predictions about Candidate Trump.

    First, Trump is not going to apologize for ANYTHING he does on the campaign trail. As I wrote this post, the news came that he was refusing to apologize for insulting McCain. But let me say that I don't expect him to back down on that, or to apologize for anything, no matter what future awful  things he says or does. Trump is not capable of apologizing in any remotely convincing way, because Trump is not capable of accepting that he has ever been in the wrong. If he admits to himself that he is not perfect in every way, his whole world falls apart. He might rather die.

    Second, if Trump stays in the race another three weeks, he WILL do and say something else appalling and self-destructive. He has to. Contempt for others is one of his basic tools for propping himself up and getting through the day. This a man who made, "You're fired!" his TV catchphrase. Trump cannot continue to speak in public without dumping on people who actually deserve far more respect than Trump does.

    Third, as I suggested in my post about Trump in the polls, Trump will not expose himself to any public defeat or embarrassment. This one is complicated by Trump's incredible ability to distort his own perception of reality and deny any reality that does not fit the SuperTrump image. But we should also remember that a serious narcissist defines "embarrassment" much more broadly than the rest of us do. Trump will either 1) never release a standard FEC financial disclosure, 2) file an inaccurate disclosure, or 3) release a disclosure as the price of staying in the race but deny that his own filing is accurate. Trump will not, cannot admit that he is not as rich as he pretends. he will not back down from his ludicrous claim that he has a net worth of $10 billion assets after liabilities. And by standard accounting, he might not even be a billionaire at all, If he is forced to submit an accurate reckoning of his net worth to the FEC, he will turn around and claim that he is actually much, much richer than his campaign claims. Yes, that would be absurd. But we're talking about Donald Trump.

    Just as importantly, Trump will do his best to avoid any situation where he risks losing or has to admit losing. Remember, Trump's core belief is that he never loses, and he takes anything that threatens that as a threat to his core identity. He may not run in a single primary, because if you run in a primary you can lose. Trump cannot deal with that. He might continue running if he has a built-in excuse for not winning. Trump would probably enjoy a Ross-Perot-style third-party candidacy, where he isn't expected to win even 3 electoral votes but gets treated like a serious candidate on national TV. And whatever happens, Donald J. Trump will never admit that he lost the Presidency. He will go to his grave saying, over and over again, that he could have been President. Most likely Trump will pretend that he chose not to continue his candidacy, but would have won if he did. If he persists long enough to be handed a clear defeat, he will claim to have been robbed and to be the rightful winner. You heard it here first.



    I like how all the brave Republican presidential candidates finally found an issue on which they could attack Trump without squirming.

    I like Donald Trump.

    What you see is what you get. No DC law firm or expensive consultants vetting his every word.

    Sure he's narcissistic, but you have to be to run for President. Especially on the Republican ticket.

    There is no tax exempt secret cabal of millionaires and billionaires putting him out there as their front man. To lie and make empty promises about jobs or the American Dream.

    Trump doesn't secretly vet Presidential candidates in non-public meetings in Las Vegas.

    He doesn't have millionaire friends run' swiftboating' political attacks for him, Donald does it himself. Takes the responsibility personally.

    He isn't behind the scenes, veiling and concealing the greed, lust for power and narcissism to buy the office of the President and government domestic/foreign policy....with a checkbook.

    He doesn't seek or spend undisclosed millions in contributions to back and control 'pretty boy' college drop outs to do the work for him. With a sole objective of seeking less regulation and lower taxes for the environmentally damaging industries he profits from, like the Koch brothers.

    Trump is shaking up the GOP field, telling The Base what they want to hear.

    He's the real deal. He promotes no agenda but his own. No one owns him.

    The eminent Murdochian Dr. Keith Ablow, chief Fox News political psychiatrist, whose differential diagnosis of VP Biden included dementia, hasn't weighed in yet on Trump .So maybe Trump is no better or worse than Jeb, Marco, Rick or Scott.

    Actually, you have to be a egomaniac to run for President. A narcissist isn't just an egomaniac. It's much worse than that.

    And straight talk from politicians is vastly overrated. The straight talkers can be the biggest liars of all. If Donald Trump actually is a clinical narcissist, then he's lying constantly, to himself and everyone around him.


    A narcissist may be less dangerous than an egomaniac.

    I don't see Trump re-running another Operation (----) Freedom. I do see the rest of the GOP field doing it.

    I like Donald Trump.

    What you see is what you get.

    But I don't like what I see. Authenticity isn't a value that stands alone. What one authentically is must first be something good. Trump is an authentic ignorant loud mouth racist. That's not something I want to vote for.

    Authenticity stands out in today's Republican Party, it's rocking their leaky overcrowded boat. 

    Murdoch hates Trump another plus.

    The most interesting development so far in the Donald's Run is the reaction from the liberal blogs. The HP trying to dismiss him by moving his news to the entertainment section and two posts here attempting the same dismissal.

    Republicans may be disgusted enough with sleazy lying politicians and open to supporting a slick opinionated but straight talking Oligarch.

    This is a very dangerous development for HRC and the Democrats because Trump could destroy HRC in the media and  debates if he gets that far.

    Oh please please please throw me in THAT briar patch. I would LOVE an HRC vs Trump debate.

    But I'm telling you now: your boy Donald can't take the heat.

    Boy do I agree with that.  I would also like to see him debate HRC or even Bernie. All he would manage would be ugly red faces and shouting.  That is all he is doing now.  I enjoy good oratory but watching him is like attending a KKK rally.  

    Won't see that debate.

    The Koch/Adelson/war profiteer deep pockets will ensure JEB! gets the GOP nod.

    They hope JEB! will be as good to them as George W. was, they really had no problems or complaints with the Bush/Cheney administration.

    I thought Walker was their horse in the race?

    Perhaps. Walker is such a lightweight even the Republican establishment might consider him a threat to national security.

    He couldn't even complete 4 years of college. They might go for him if Cheney comes out of retirement as VP.

    The big GOP money will bet on another Bush, although doing so has it's obvious drawbacks.

    JEB was my governor for 8 years and Texas really got the smart one. He is also a light weight. 

    Republicans may be disgusted enough with sleazy lying politicians and open to supporting a slick opinionated but straight talking Oligarch.

    Poltifact's Truth-o-meter seems to feel differently.


    Trump is the classic case study for NPD. He's devoid of any actual empathy and has no remorse for his actions.  Yes of course he feels entitled to everything - even his moronic opinions of subject matters that he has no knowledge of (immigration), because well, he's Trump. Mind you, his ex wife Ivana and his current wife Melania are immigrants -yet in his eyes  the same rules don't apply to him and he's not hypocritical.Yes of course, he has to devalue Senator McCain's accomplishments, a war hero who suffered greatly fighting for the very country that allows Trump his freedom.  Why? Because Trump has such a false sense of self and a very empty person with a black hole for a soul. He will never apologize (even though he tries to backtrack) because in his mind, we are the stupid ones. If he fails to win the bid for presidency, it's not his fault! It's ours because we are too stupid to understand how great he is!  But the bigger issue here is that his actions have provoked a mountainous of reaction among the public and public figures alike,  pushing him further into the spotlight while advancing his flawed agenda. Positive or negative attention- it's all a power source for him. And for that, we are unwittingly his 'supply' and giving him his power..


    The thing about narcissism is that it works, or that it can work for a few people, enough of the time, to reinforce it in others.  In Trump's case, he has "fuck you" money.  I don't think it's the $10 billion worth he claims, but it's enough.  Cancel his shows, pull your licensing agreement, stop selling Trump power ties or shut down his pageant and he's still unbelievably wealthy.

    He's been trading in his persona, as much as in real estate, for as long as I can remember. He's been a national cultural figure since the 1980s.  His brain was even in Bill the Cat for awhile, during a great run of Bloom County that I think perfectly captured the Trump ethos (upon learning his brain had been transplanted into the body of a sickly looking cat he concludes, "on the bright side, I can now legally poop in Ed Koch's flower bed.")

    When I was at Forbes, Trump was known for calling to talk up his value on the Forbes 400 list and global billionaires list.  He was very worried that the reporters estimating his net worth would low-ball the number.  Most billionaires want nothing to do with the list. Warren Buffett's only contribution, for example, was to let us know that he knows a bunch of private billionaires (early investors in Buffett's first partnerships) that we would never, ever find.  Buffett didn't particularly care about our guesses about his net worth.  But he wanted us to know that he'd quietly made other people rich.  Other billionaires were downright hostile.  They saw no advantage in having a big number attached to their names, no matter how accurate.  Still others feared that being on the list would make their families targets for crime.  Only two that I can recall ever enthusiastically courted the list, trying to get the highest number possible.  One was an Ecuadorian banana magnate and politician and the other was Trump.  Both wanted to use their place on the list as branding.

    This is kind of a Trump dump but my point is... his narcissism has been greatly rewarded.  There are certainly brilliant players in global real estate who are not public figures.  But Trump's business is being Trump and in that sense narcissism is less a disease than it is a revenue stream.

    He's forever escape comeuppance.  For some, that's his appeal.  For me, it's the best argument I can think of for a wealth tax.

    Yes. I've read about studies that suggest that clinical narcissists are over-represented among CEOS; they charm boards with their exciting vision, blah blah blah, and once the CEO has sold himself to the Board, that becomes his focus.

    The story about Trump lobbying Forbes for higher placement on the 500 list is priceless. It goes both to my point about his potential NPD, and his behavior being unlike other rich people's. The last thing Trump wants is wealth outside the public eye. (I also love the story about Buffett saying Forbes would never find a bunch of billionaires.)

    But to your larger point: narcissism and severe class inequality can interact in very, very ugly ways. And a rich enough narcissist will always be protected from the consequences of his actions, and wealthy narcissists can promote a class narcissism of contempt for everyone else.

    Seeing so many folks practicing Pop-Psychology on the Donald seems to show true fear and loathing of this all-Amerikan phenomenon. It is also a bit strange to see some apparently liberal people coming to the defense of a Right Wing war criminal  who still promotes bombing civilians.

    Until Trump entered the race the Repubs didn't seem to offer much of a threat to the coronation of HRC but now there might be a real cage-fight for the position of Hegemon.

    Actually, Trump helps Hillary. He's not going to get the nomination but is driving away Latino's and, imo, women.  Hillary's strategy is the long game of fund raising, setting up the organization and ground game, especially for swing states. So this attention to Trump is probably the only free time she gets.

    I think your Pop-Psychology analysis that democrats are showing "true fear" of Trump is way off. I don't think any democrat thinks Trump has a chance of winning the republican nomination. Much as I deride the republicans I don''t think there are enough racists and fools even in the republican party to give the nomination to Trump. If he were to win the nomination I don't think any democrat thinks he'll have a chance in the general. I could be wrong about Trump's chances but I don't think I'm wrong about democrats total lack of fear of Trump.

    My main worry is that he will implode and withdraw before the primary debates. Democrats want him on the debate stage because we think all the republicans up there will be covered in the mud he throws.

    Yes, yes, yes. The longer Trump sticks around, the better.

    I would be very happy if he ran as a third-party candidate after quitting the primaries. But I can only wish for that because Trump getting the nomination is too much to hope for.

    Trump would not only get destroyed in a general election, but badly depress Republican turnout nationwide.

    Can we please stop the misguided glorification of McCain which is a byproduct of a misguided way of pointing out what a waste of skin Trump is. Surely Trump can be seen to stand on his own as the perversion of any semblance of a rational thinker/actor on issues of importance to humanity without raising another psycho-clown in stature just because that clown has some misplaced stature, in the eyes of many, that Trump has attacked. Before any more continuance of using  McCain’s alleged heroism as a starting point to attack Trump’s charge, would someone who makes that starting point a place to jump from give one example of a heroic act that John McCain ever did. Just one would do. Just one, ever. One time. One example that does not denigrate the perceived essence of the very idea of heroism.

    In referencing bellow the following article I do not give any special credence to the psychiatric credentials of one of the critics of McCain, I merely call out the common sense of his analysis that should be apparent to anyone who has been paying attention to McCain since his promotion to a major spokesman for the kill-kill boys who know no other solution and do not even attempt to imagine one.

    McCain is one great example of one great fault of humanity in its current state of evolution. Another symbiotic example is the following that his stupid bullshit attitudes and intentions creates among people we should really be able to count on to know better.

    The Horrors of John McCain: War Hero or War Criminal?


    Who can testify regarding what McCain's experiences gives him a right to claim for himself? How does disqualifying him to speak upon certain matters advance other discussions?

    If the Trump challenge was something like that, it could get interesting.

    I am not sure I understand what you are asking, are they rhetorical questions? I say that any person can claim whatever they believe about themselves but enough is known about McCain to judge that his opinions should not be given the gloss of coming from a hero. Calling him a hero for the purpose of discrediting someone else is an obvious mistake IMO. I agree with [I think] everybody here that Trump has close to zero chance of becoming our next President. There is enough known about Trump that it is unnecessary and I believe unhelpful to have knee-jerk reactions to a statement that he made which is so ambiguous that its intent can be taken several ways, one of which is correct.  Burnishing McCain’s status with completely undeserved praise of a nature that our culture sucks up like cool-aid improves his chances to remain in a powerful position and also helps gloss over some of the ugliness  of some of our county’s ugly war history.  It gets me into rant mode.  

    I should have added that except for the small part of this blog that I ranted on, I thought it and the resulting exchanges were quite good.

    Yes, last in his class spoiled brat, son of Admiral, but was still putting his balls on the line flying sorties. A hero? Maybe not. Courageous I would give him. Trump? Loudmouth fucktard. YMMV

    They were not rhetorical questions.
    I wasn't looking at the trump eruption as a matter of defending the man McCain. On the contrary. If Trump happened to be at a party I was attending and offered this opinion, I would agree that the McCain was milking his POW cow for all that it is worth.

    But the way Trump put it into the public discussion is the same crap that was used when the GOP swift-boated Kerry.

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