Sunday, June 12, 2016

Trump's Neediness - Strength and Weakness

The real significance of Trump's comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel isn't the racism but the stupidity: his wild remarks are a clear message to reluctant Republican supporters: “I ain't gonna get more Presidential.”

The Indiana-born Curiel was a long-time prosecutor fighting drug cartels; even Trump's lawyer said Curiel (who postponed the fraud trial till after the election) is being fair. (The National Review reviewed Curiel's record.) Saying Curiel wouldn't be able to judge fairly (or recuse himself) because of Trump's remarks about building a wall was insulting. Judges deal with jerks daily, and try to deal fairly; and they frequently recuse themselves.

Trump says Curiel can't get over Trump's anti-Hispanic remarks, but that “I'm doing really well with Mexican-Americans.” If numerous Mexican-Americans support Trump despite his remarks (as he insists they do), why should Judge Curiel be too offended to do his job?

Trump is boorish and bullying. He's rarely in the same zip code as Truth. A nonpartisan site gave him a 76% “pants-on-fire” rating, to Hillary's 29%. 

Why is Trump where he is?

Two reasons are: that journalists' commitment to objectivity paralyzes them when one candidate spouts absurdities or has a poor record; and that Trump shouts “I'm angry.” So are most voters. (Too, the Republican competition was both numerous – 16 at one point, was it? -- and weak: Republican senators can't stand Cruz, Rubio looked about 12, and Bush needed to see the Wizard about a personality.)

In 2000: Al Gore was a serious man with a serious record and experience; George Bush had done little but fail in business (repeatedly bailed out by folks like the Government of Bahrain that wanted favors from his father) and be president of a baseball club on the strict condition, (imposed by the wealthy family friend who owned the club) that while Georgie could sit in the great seat and glad-hand the fans, he could have nothing to do with any business decisions. Newsfolk seemed to feel as if mentioning the extreme disparity would look biased. Bush got close enough to winning that the Republican Supreme Court could steal the election.

Anger? The system is failing most of us; we've been sliding back into extreme inequality and a deck stacked against us. People are rightfully angry. Trump (a rich guy) acts angry, and people figure “at least he'll shake things up,” as one Tea Party friend said recently.

(How do conservative Christians rationalize their support of Trump? They loathe Obama, who's a great father, faithful in marriage, and a compassionate Christian, but support Trump, who's record features adultery, divorce, greed, and bankruptcies. That's inescapably inconsistent. “Yes, but God uses people for His own purposes. He used a drunk, Churchill, to save England.” I don't know how they know God supports Trump, but you can't argue with Him!)

A great column by Matt Bai suggests another explanation: Trump's desperate neediness. Bai notes that when Trump was going to leave Queens and do business in Manhattan, his father said, “Don't! That's not for us. They'll never accept us.” Trump never felt accepted by the New York elite, and constantly compensates by overdoing and overpromising. (Bai likens recent Republican Trump supporters to someone marrying the person s/he hopes the spouse can become. Disappointment is likely.)

Like Bai, I thought Trump – an experienced performer – would start acting more Presidential. The Curiel incident shows he can't.

Maybe Trump's insecurity explains much of Trump's support: many people feel out-of-place or disrespected by some elite, and resent it. Trump builds huge towers with his name on them. He's doing what they wish they could.

[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News this morning, Sunday, 12 June, and will appear on the KRWG-TV website presently.  I welcome comments or questions here or elsewhere.]

[I found the Bai column (The Black Hole within Donald Trump) interesting, obviously.  Trump's apparent narcissistic personality disorder had also gotten some play.  It's a personality disorder characterized by grandiosity, an expectation that others will recognize one's superiority, a lack of empathy, lack of truthfulness, and the tendency to degrade others.  Sound like  anyone we know?  
This morning as I posted this I also read Is Donald Trump Really a Narcicist? - Therapists Weigh In .  Their willingness to weigh in at all suggests their deep concern about the damage he could do as President; and as a word of caution, note that some psychologists unwisely opined in 1964 about Barry Goldwater's fitness to be President.  Goldwater was dangerous, but I never saw any evidence that he was psychologically unfit.  With Trump, the signs are so obvious that one expert who lectures on the problem is taping Trump's performances.  "Otherwise, I would have had to hire actors and write vignettes.  He's like a dream come true."   Further, clinician's willingness to talk about Trump (who is also litigious) in light of the Goldwater incident means they're extraordinarily confident in what they're saying.]

[Trump's witless and racist comments on the judge appear doubly stupid because Trump's own lawyer said the judge is doing a good job; and even Trump's Republican supporters such as Newt Gingrich are gagging over Trump's remarks, while a Texas Congressman named Filemon Vela wrote that Trump should put his border wall where the sun don't shine.  An interesting sidelight on the Trump University fraud case is that while New York's attorney-general is pursuing it, as are private plaintiffs, Florida's AG unethically solicited a campaign contribution from Trump, announced Florida would join the fraud suit, then received the campaign contribution and announced Florida would not join the suit, while the Texas AG dropped the suit then got a healthy contribution from Trump when he ran for governor three years later.]

[For anyone who sees Trump as a good businessman, I'd recommend reading the facts in the New York Times' story How Trump Bankrupted his Atlantic City Casinos but Still Made Millions or the Gannett News Network piece, on how Trump cheated and bullied and lied to people who worked for him/ .]  He's certainly a selfish businessman, and a freedy one, and -- in terms of his business, not himself -- not a highly successful or honest one.]

[The Trump candidacy is a sad turn of events.  "The party of Lincoln" running a loudmouthed racist.  It may bring some good, though: it might help Merrie Lee Soules unseat Steve Pearce.]

A word on the title I gave this post: Bill Clinton was a great example of a political phenomenon: his almost pathological desire to be liked, and to be reassured as to his worthiness, was both his great strength and his great weakness: it both caused him to appeal brilliantly to citizens and to stupidly seek reassurance screwing interns.  (Liking women is one thing, and I'm not condemning sexual activity; but risking so much for such a limited kind of sexual contact as Clinton apparently had with Ms. Lewinsky seems more a symptom than anything else.  But Clinton also did much good and made people like him instinctivelyTrump's apparent illness is different.  He is so little under control, or so deeply needy, that he can't even make folks like him.  They'll support him, because he articulates resentments and anger they themselves feel or because they dislike our political system enough to support anyone who shouts loudly enough; but he's so little liked that, as noted in the column, many of his Christian supporters need to suppose God is using Trump for God's purposes.]

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