Monday, October 16, 2017

Is President Trump a Malignant Narcissist?

Rolling Stone's Matt Taiibi Makes Compelling Case that Donald Trump Mentally Ill
Please Don't Reject Out of hand Until Reading

The always stellar Matthew C. ("Matt") Taiibi, who is in my view as important a journalist existing today in America, has done it again in his incredibly thought-provoking, and disturbing, "The Madness of Donald Trump," featured in issue 1297 of Rolling Stone, which hit newsstands on October 5, 2017.

Matt Taiibi - America Owes it to Itself to Read Him Regularly
This article is not for those who find reading words on paper for more than 5 minute tedious, unnecessary and/or unduly burdensome, or for those unwilling to consider some very disturbing facts about our president, most culled from his own lips.  Those folks are welcome to their habits and beliefs (as Taiibi himself acknowledges).

If, however, you are interested in exploring the mental state of our president from afar, through analysis of his own words and deeds -- and through the prism of psychological doctrine -- then please find 15-minutes, a beverage of your choice and a place of solitude.

It would be impossible for your humble messenger to dissect, explain, rationalize, advance or condemn Mr. Taiibi's brilliant tableau vivant  - I have neither the training, knowledge nor words.  What is simple, however, is to lay out some of the passages I find most compelling:

Suffering a Significant Mental Disorder?

Evening, August 22nd, 2017, a convention center in Phoenix. It's Donald Trump's true coming-out party as an insane person. 

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Moreover, after shrugging off a thousand other scandals, Trump seems paralyzed by the Nazi thing. He can't let it go. Say one nice thing about Nazis, and it's like people can't get over it. Unfair!

He plunges into a 77-minute rant on this subject, listing each offending news outlet by name. In a nicely Freudian twist, he starts with The New York Times, which incidentally is the same paper that nearly a century ago identified "Fred Trump of 175-24 Devonshire Road" – the president's late father – as a detainee from a 1927 Ku Klux Klan rally in Queens.

That old family shame might be why the president, who's always denied Fred Trump was a Klansman ("Never happened"), is having such a hard time with Charlottesville and race. He rails against the "Times, which is, like, so bad," moves on to the "Washington Post, which I call a lobbying tool for Amazon" and winds up with "CNN, which is so bad and pathetic, and their ratings are going down." 

 CNN's ratings aren't down. The network's second-quarter prime-time viewers just cracked a 1 million average, its most-watched second quarter ever, largely due to the blimp wreck of the Trump presidency. It's the one incontrovertible achievement of this administration. 

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The audience seems into it for a while. But it goes on too long. During the campaign, Trump was expert at keeping a hall buzzed with resentment for an hour or so. But he hits weird notes now. He goes off on a tangent about his enemies, it's not clear which ones. "They're elite?" he says. "I went to better schools than they did. I was a better student than they were. I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment, and I live in the White House, too, which is really great."

 "You know what?" he goes on. "I think we're the elites. They're not the elites."

No one is counting fingers, but you can tell people are having trouble making the math work. We're elite because you have a nice apartment? Campaign Trump bragged endlessly about his wealth – "I have a Gucci store that's worth more than Romney" was a classic line – but back then he was selling a vicarious fantasy. Trump's Ferrari-underpants lifestyle was the silent-majority vision of how they would all live once the winning started. But candidate Trump was never dumb enough to try to tell debt-ridden, angry crowds they were already living the dream.

At one point, Trump ends up standing with a piece of paper in hand, haranguing all with transcripts of his own remarks on Charlottesville. To prove that he's been misquoted or misunderstood, he goes through the whole story, from the beginning. It gets quiet in the hall.

It's an agonizing parody of late-stage Lenny Bruce. The great Sixties comedian's act degenerated into tendentious soliloquies about his legal situation (he had been charged with obscenity). Bruce too stood onstage in his last years for interminable periods, court papers in hand, quoting himself to audiences bored to insanity by the spectacle. 

This is exactly Trump. Even his followers are starting to look sideways at one another. In a sight rarely seen last year, a trickle of supporters heads for the exits. Then Trump cracks.

"The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself, and the fake news," he says, to tepid applause.

He stops and points in accusing fashion at the press riser.

"Oh, that's so funny," he says. "Look back there, the live red lights. They're turning those suckers off fast out there. They're turning those lights off fast."

We reporters had seen this act before. On October 10th of last year, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, at one of the most massive rallies of the campaign, Trump accused CNN of shutting down the feed because he was criticizing their debate coverage. In that case, a camera light really did flicker, but CNN was actually turning the live feed on, not off. That was possibly an honest mistake. Possibly also it was Trump just pulling the media's tail, tweaking us with a line of bull, as he had with countless other provocations. The general consensus of attendant journalists that night was that Trump was messing with us.

Phoenix is different.Trump seems to believe what he's saying. He really thinks that not just CNN, but all of the networks are shutting down their feeds, overwhelmed by the power of his words. "Boy, those cameras are going off," he says, coming back to the subject. "Oh, wow. Why don't you just fold them up and take them home? Oh, those cameras are going off. Wow. That's the one thing, they're very nervous to have me on live television..."

The president of the United States is seeing things. He might as well be shooing imaginary ants off his suit. His followers still love him, but even they're starting to notice. They come for the old standards, but this new Trump material gets mixed reviews.

Outside, a fan gives the speech a half-hearted thumbs up. "I liked 'Lock her up,'" the man says with a shrug. "They did that for a little while." 

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People pay the most attention to Trump's political deceptions: that 3 million "illegal" voters lost him the popular vote, that Hillary Clinton wants to "release the violent criminals from jail," that Ted Cruz's father was linked to the JFK assassination, and so on. "We are the highest-taxed nation in the world" was a notable recent whopper.

But those lies may be strategic, and Trump probably isn't married to them anyway, given that he doesn't appear to have real beliefs. Trump picks his political positions like ties: whatever's on the rack. Under duress, and with no way to escape, he will sometimes cop to being full of it, like the time he finally admitted, "Obama was born in the United States," after five years of bleating the opposite.

But sit him in front of a doctor and see what happens when you ask: Who had the larger inaugural crowd, him or Obama? Or: Would he ever admit the Boy Scouts never called to tell him his speech was the "greatest ever"? Trump might struggle here. It's the countless little fairy tales he tells himself about his power and infallibility to which he clings like a dope fiend to a $10 bill.

Everyone with half a brain and a recent copy of the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by shrinks everywhere) knew the diagnosis on Trump the instant he joined the race. Trump fits the clinical definition of a narcissistic personality so completely that it will be a shock if future psychiatrists don't rename the disorder after him. 

Grandiosity, a tendency to exaggerate achievements, a preoccupation with "fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love," a belief in one's specialness (which can only be understood by other special people), a need for excessive admiration and a sense of entitlement – sound like anyone you know?

Trump's rapidly expanding list of things at which he's either a supreme expert or the Earth's best living practitioner would shame even great historical blowhards like Stalin or Mobutu Sese Seko.

As the "world's greatest person" at restricting immigration, who is "good at war" and "knows more about ISIS than the generals," and who is the "least racist person" with "the best temperament" who knows "more about renewables than any human being on Earth," insists "nobody reads the Bible more than me," and even knows more about New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker "than [Booker] knows himself," Trump by his own description is not a splenetic rightwing basket case at all, but just a cleverly disguised cross of God, Norman Schwarzkopf, Coretta Scott King, Gloria Steinem, Pope Francis and, apparently, Cory Booker's mother, Carolyn. 

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Trump wasn't always crazy. He wasn't even always obnoxious. Many Americans don't remember, but the Donald Trump who appeared on TV regularly in the Eighties and Nineties was often engaging, self-deprecating, spoke in complete sentences and (verbally, anyway) usually lived up to his expensive schooling. He'd say things like, "These are the only casinos in the United States that are so rated," and use words and phrases like "a somewhat impersonal life" and "money isn't a totally essential ingredient."

The difference today is striking. Trump has not only completely lost his sense of humor, particularly about himself, but he's a lingual mess. In his current dread of polysyllables – his favorite words include "I," "Trump," "very," "money" and "China" – he makes George W. Bush sound like Vladimir Nabokov. On the page, transcripts of his speaking appearances often look like complete gibberish.

"When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I'll expand that," he said to Lester Holt in May, "you know, I'll lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion."

The difference even since last year is hard to miss, and why not? The presidency severely ages and stresses even healthy people. From Obama to Bush to Jimmy Carter, presidents on their last day of office often look like med-school cadavers. President Trump already looks older, has a lower frustration threshold and seems only to have two moods, rage and sullen resignation (a.k.a. pre-rage).

He also can barely speak anymore, but without a close-up examination it's impossible to say if this is a neurological problem or just being typically American. As the psychologist Michaelis puts it, one major cause for loss of cognitive function is giving up reading in favor of TV or the Internet, which is basically most people in this country these days. 

The above-excerpts are not an effort to do the article justice. Only reading the article, which examines psychiatric indicators of malignant narcissism and concludes that in many ways President Trump is no different than many Americans - we are as a Nation ill -- can allow one to form sound opinions on the issues at hand with our president.  The problem is that he is the POTUS and thus capable of great harm.  Read it if you will and - if you will - I am sure you will see fit to pass it along - because we owe it to ourselves to do so.

We Chuckled Once - Now We Cringe
This is not about politics, or liking Donald Trump (I once did a great deal).

No.

This is about asking our Senators and congress people to do the right thing - if and when the time comes.

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