Who/what is Donald J. Trump?

Written by  //  February 3, 2017  //  Government & Governance, U.S.  //  No comments

For weeks and months before Donald Trump took the Oath of Office, media have been scrambling to analyze his character and what its effect might be on the presidency. We have assembled a collection of articles which may prove to be prophetic, or simply useful in understanding him and his actions.

The Mind of Donald Trump
Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency
By Dan P. McAdams.
(The Atlantic Magazine 2016) … as Michael D’Antonio writes in his recent biography of Trump, Never Enough, Griffin’s most vivid recollection of the evening pertains to the theatrics. It was as if the golden-haired guest sitting across the table were an actor playing a part on the London stage.
“It was Donald Trump playing Donald Trump,” Griffin observed. There was something unreal about it.
The same feeling perplexed Mark Singer in the late 1990s when he was working on a profile of Trump for The New Yorker. Singer wondered what went through his mind when he was not playing the public role of Donald Trump. What are you thinking about, Singer asked him, when you are shaving in front of the mirror in the morning? Trump, Singer writes, appeared baffled.  … Singer never got an answer, leaving him to conclude that the real-estate mogul who would become a reality-TV star and, after that, a leading candidate for president of the United States had managed to achieve something remarkable: “an existence unmolested by the rumbling of a soul.”
Many questions have arisen about Trump during this campaign season—about his platform, his knowledge of issues, his inflammatory language, his level of comfort with political violence. This article touches on some of that. But its central aim is to create a psychological portrait of the man. Who is he, really? How does his mind work? How might he go about making decisions in office, were he to become president? And what does all that suggest about the sort of president he’d be?

3 February
What Steve Bannon really wants
(Quartz) What does Donald Trump want for America? His supporters don’t know. His party doesn’t know. Even he doesn’t know.
If there is a political vision underlying Trumpism, however, the person to ask is not Trump. It’s his éminence grise, Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist of the Trump administration.
Bannon’s political philosophy boils down to three things that a Western country, and America in particular, needs to be successful: Capitalism, nationalism, and “Judeo-Christian values.” These are all deeply related, and essential.

30 January
Questions multiply over Steve Bannon’s role in Trump administration
President gives chief political strategist formal seat at National Security Council’s table
Stephen K Bannon – whose nationalist convictions and hardline oppositional view of globalism have long guided Trump – was directly involved in shaping the immigration mandate, according to several people familiar with the drafting who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.

Can Jared and Ivanka Outrun Donald Trump’s Scandals?
Less than a fortnight into his new post, Kushner appears unable to control his father-in-law—and is “furious” that his efforts are being undermined
(Vanity Fair) Kushner, along with his wife, Ivanka Trump, is also an orthodox Jew who observes Shabbat. From sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday, the couple abstains from technology and work. And early in the incipient Trump administration, that brief period has been unusually fraught. Last week, the president personally called the Park Service on the morning after his inauguration to inquire about the size of the crowds who came to watch him take the oath of office. He subsequently delivered a widely derided speech at C.I.A. headquarters that afternoon, during which he blathered on about the media’s treatment of him and his inaugural crowd size. He then sent his press secretary, Sean Spicer, into the briefing room to falsely claim that it was the largest audience for an inauguration in history. During the tumult, some noticed the conspicuous absence of Kushner’s allegedly calming presence. “He wasn’t rolling calls on Saturday when this happened,” one person close to Kushner told me last week. “To me, that’s not a coincidence.”
The timing of Trump’s executive order on Friday, just moments before sundown, meant that Kushner would not be in the West Wing to absorb another cataclysmic Saturday. Indeed, Kushner observed the Sabbath as thousands of people protested outside airports across the country, children waited for their detained parents, lawyers rushed to federal court rooms, taxi drivers went on strike, and one Democratic leader broke down in tears on live television.

29 January
President Trump exhibits classic signs of mental illness, including ‘malignant narcissism,’ shrinks say
(NY Daily News) Partisans have been warning about Trump’s craziness for months, but rhetoric from political opponents is easily dismissed; it’s the water of the very swamp the President says he wants to drain.
But frightened by the President’s hubris, narcissism, defensiveness, belief in untrue things, conspiratorial reflexiveness and attacks on opponents, mental health professionals are finally speaking out. The goal is not merely to define the Madness of King Donald, but to warn the public where it will inevitably lead.
For the past few weeks, psychologists have been speaking out, arguing that their profesional integrity, and patriotism, can’t be silenced. The latest? A top psychotherapist affiliated with the esteemed Johns Hopkins University Medical School said Trump “is dangerously mentally ill and temperamentally incapable of being president.”
The expert, John D. Gartner, went on to diagnose Trump with “malignant narcissism.”
Gartner has joined a growing chorus of experts who are so concerned about the president that they are willing to face the wrath of their professional organizations’ gag rules.

26 January
West Wing leaker goes dark after pulling back the curtain: Trump “irrational”, staff “demoralized”
On Wednesday, a twitter account was briefly active before being shut down. The tweeter, @WhiteHouseLeak, is an anonymous mid-level staffer in the West Wing of the White House, who described a chaotic atmosphere, a demoralized staff, and an unfocused and irrational President incapable of processing information. The staffer is a Republican who apparently worked on the Trump campaign, but is now thoroughly disillusioned by what has been going on. During his brief presence he was tweeting to real reporters, including Fox News and the New York Daily News.
It is impossible to know if the leaker shuttered the account himself or was outed. The tweets have all been deleted, but thanks to screencaps by MC Rantz Hoseley (@MysteryCr8tve) and an imgur by vapensiero they were preserved before vanishing. The presentation here is, I believe, in strict chronological order. I have omitted a few irrelevancies, but most of the 37 total tweets from the account are shown below.

22 January 2017
‘He wants Americans to love him’: Trump biographers on what kind of president he’ll be
Trump’s insecurities, need for approval, will drive him, say two authors
When pressed for a one-word assessment of the new U.S. president, this is what two of Donald Trump’s biographers came up with.
“Ego,” said Tim O’Brien.
“Needy,” said Michael D’Antonio.
Both authors have spent a lot of time with the real estate mogul who now sits in the Oval Office, trying to chisel away at what D’Antonio describes as a self-created caricature to get at the man behind the public persona.
“The main thing that drives Donald Trump is the pursuit of fame, and as an ancillary to that, popularity,” said D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of the 2015 Trump bio Never Enough.
O’Brien agrees that fame is a strong motivator for Trump.
“He has a very cinematic sense of himself. He’s fascinated by celebrity and films,” said O’Brien, who wrote TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald. O’Brien said that Trump’s need for attention is coupled with insecurities about his intellectual prowess, his wealth and his attractiveness to women.
“I think because of some of his insecurities, he has a constant need to dominate people, whether it’s business partners, political opponents or the media — almost anyone who he feels crosses his path,” said O’Brien.

21 January
Trump’s real war isn’t with the media. It’s with facts.
Trump needs to delegitimize the media because he needs to delegitimize facts.
(Vox) Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.
It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.

20 January
John Dean: Inauguration Day 2017—Trump’s Dangerous Ego Trip
(Justia) I expect Trump will serve at minimum one term as president, and as I recently told McKay Coppins of The Atlantic, that is enough to give me nightmares, largely because Trump is so unprepared for the job of being president. Not only does he not understand the job, he has been pushed to the hard right during the transition because he is a man with no firm political beliefs of his own. … If placed in an even broader context of his long public career, Trump has no carefully considered and long-held core beliefs whatsoever, rather he has been on all sides of many of the most important issues facing the nation. Trump appears to believe anything and everything is negotiable. Given the fact he has no real core beliefs he has been susceptible to the thinking of others. …
Bannon and Conway, however, are fronts for billionaire hedge fund operator Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, who have strong beliefs. As a result, Rebekah directed much of the transition.
The Mercer agenda is radical right-wing. It is not difficult to trace Donald Trump’s sudden turn to the hard-right, which occurred during his transition.The Mercers’ fingerprints can probably be found on nominations who want to abolish departments and agencies like EPA, the SEC, Department of Energy, Department of Housing, and the like. Because Trump has no strong feelings about any of these matters, and he needed all the help he could get during the transition, he has given those who came to his assistance at the end of his campaign to help him win a free hand in organizing his administration.
Trump’s authoritarian personality is also very troubling. Authoritarianism does not work well in a democracy.
In the first column I wrote about Trump’s candidacy in July 2015, I explained his authoritarian nature. As I noted at the time, authoritarian leaders are “dominating; they oppose equality; they desire personal power; and they are amoral. In addition, they are “usually intimidating and bullying, faintly hedonistic, vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheat to win, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, tell others what they want to hear, take advantage of ‘suckers,’ specialize in creating false images to sell self, may or may not be religious, and are usually politically and economically conservative and Republican.”

18 January
‘He Has This Deep Fear That He Is Not a Legitimate President’
On the eve of the inauguration, Trump’s biographers ponder his refusal to bend his ego to his new office.
(Politico) Now, after more than two months of Trump’s norm-shattering transition, we gathered Gwenda Blair, Michael D’Antonio and Tim O’Brien by conference call (Wayne Barrett, the dean of Trump reporters, died on Thursday in Manhattan after a long illness) to assess whether Trump has continued to surprise them. Their collective wisdom? In a word, no.
From his pick of nominees for posts in his cabinet to his belligerent use of Twitter (our conversation was a day before he traded barbs with Congressman John Lewis) to his unwillingness to cut ties with his business to avoid conflicts of interest, they see the same person they’ve always seen—the consummate classroom troublemaker; a vain, insecure bully; and an anti-institutional schemer, as adept at “gaming the system” as he is unashamed. As they look ahead to his inauguration speech in two days, and to his administration beyond, they feel confident predicting that he will run the country much as he has run his company. For himself.
“He’s not going to be that concerned with the actual competent administration of the government,” D’Antonio said. “It’s going to be what he seems to be gaining or losing in public esteem. So almost like a monarch. The figurehead who rallies people and gets credit for things.”
Tim O’Brien: I don’t think we’re really going to know yet about the implications of anything that he’s doing until he has his team in place. I think some of the people he’s brought in have surprised outsiders … people like Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn and what appears to be an entire fleet of Goldman Sachs alums are joining his administration. And none of those posts, I think, were anticipated prior to him getting elected. We won’t really know what the full scope of his engagement is with the world or with the American public until that team gets rolling. So some of this, I think, is premature, but there’s no question that it would have been in his best interests to sit back from the Twitter show and take a breather. And he couldn’t help himself. And he’s opining on subjects that he knows very little about from national security to healthcare policy and others.
Michael D’Antonio: I also think that he’s the same old Trump and emphasizing this combative quality and wanting to fight with just about everybody. I’ve been asked lately about why he seems to have affection for a guy like Putin. And the thing that I’m afraid of most, based on what I’m seeing, is that he seems to want to be the same style of leader, where he intimidates people. He tries to shame them. The most shocking thing I think he did was note all of his enemies in his New Year’s message. The idea of a president actually having even the thought of all of these enemies in his head as he’s welcoming the new year and greeting the country is almost crazy to me.

14 January
Jonathan Freedland: Don’t treat Donald Trump as if he’s a normal president. He’s not
From the US Congress to Theresa May, everyone needs to understand that when the next president takes office the usual rules will no longer apply
The mistake is to project on to Trump the standards that would normally apply. Take this week’s parallel drama, as several of his nominees came before the senate to have their appointments confirmed. They all offered sweet words of reassurance: the would-be attorney general insisting he was no racist; the prospective secretary of state avowing that he was no patsy to Putin. Official Washington seized on these morsels of comfort, especially when Trump tweeted an apparent admission that his senior team were at odds with him on several core issues: “I want them to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!”
But what if such licensed independence is all for show? Maybe Trump has no plan to use these cabinet members for anything but window dressing. … Or  …  Surely it is just as possible that Trump’s team gave his nominees permission to say whatever they had to say to get confirmed, true or false. (The Guardian, 14 January 2017)

21 July
Could Donald Trump Pass a Sanity Test?
by Keith Olbermann
(Vanity Fair) First, some history. I had interviewed Trump as long ago as 1983 and always thought him a horse’s ass, but after running into him when we both worked at NBC, and then in the lobby of one of his apartment buildings in which I lived, I was stunned to encounter a quiet, succinct, seemingly sincere co-worker and (in essence) landlord. In one role he described himself as an anti-Bush, pro-Obama liberal; in the other, he urged me to contact him personally with any problems or suggestions about the building. Then he got on the campaign stage and, boom! He was America’s newest Mussolini Impersonator.
For awhile I was flummoxed as to which of these mutually exclusive personalities was the act. Then I was reminded that it didn’t really matter which—that having multiple personalities should by itself preclude one from having access to multiple nuclear warheads.

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