The folly of trying to comprehend Trump

Journalists around the world seem hell-bent on trying to explain the behaviour of Donald Trump. They analyse his every move, seeking to find meaning, intent on finding some underlying logic, earnestly looking for an explanatory motive for his actions and attitudes. While this obsession is understandable, it rests on the assumption that there is logic, reason and meaning underpinning Trump’s behaviour.

This piece challenges that assumption, and proposes instead an explanatory model that focuses on Trump’s mental health rather than his cognition.

The Weekend Australian of July 14-15 carried two articles in its Inquirer section by two respected and experienced Murdoch columnists: Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan who wrote: Wake up, World: Trump’s in Charge and Keeping Them Off-Balance. If you have the paper, or can slip past Murdoch’s online pay-wall, do read how these journalists analyzed Trump’s behaviour since he began his trip to the NATO meeting and his actions after he landed in the UK.

These articles attempted to explain what Trump was trying to achieve in Europe. Each move he made was carefully dissected and an explanation offered. Not surprisingly, the articles became more and more convoluted as they attempted to make sense out of Trump’s actions and behaviour, as they offered enlightenment to their readers. I read both carefully and necessarily slowly and couldn’t make head or tail of them. If any reader of this piece can explain what they were driving at, what their conclusions were, and how they reached them, please enlighten us all.

Can we assume that Donald Trump went to Europe with a carefully structured plan based on an expert analysis of the strategic situation in NATO, the attitude and political position of each NATO member, the contemporary politics of Europe, and in particular the position of Russia? Is there anyone out there who believes that?

Trump has never shown any abiding interest in international diplomacy; his minders say they can’t hold his attention for long enough to inform him. Neither has Trump given the impression that his actions are carefully planned with the intention of achieving specified objectives. He prefers to free wheel and rely on his instincts to guide him, as he has done in business and as host of his TV reality-show. He is accustomed to relying on his best guesses to get him through. And if he slips up, he believes he can easily extract himself from any mess. He’s done it over and again in The Apprentice, where he can ignominiously ‘fire’ those who do not please him.

This piece postulates that Trump’s behavior can best be explained by reference to his mental health.

But first, let’s establish a few home truths about Trump! These are verifiable by reference to the countless articles about Trump’s behaviour in the world’s media.

Trump is ignorant about world history, even about US history, and misquotes what he thinks he knows.
He scarcely reads, let alone about world affairs. An apocryphal joke reads: Trump's personal library has burned down. The fire consumed both books and in a tragic twist he hadn't even finished colouring the second one!
He is uninterested in being briefed about current affairs.
His intelligence advisers say they cannot hold his attention long enough to brief him. It’s as if he has attention deficit disorder.
Even his armed forces advisers say he doesn’t read briefing notes or pay attention to oral briefings.
His writing is confined largely to Twitter posts, through which he conducts most of his ‘diplomatic’ messaging.
He does not plan for his encounters with world bodies or world leaders. He has no obvious agenda, preferring to ‘wing it’.
His lack of knowledge is accentuated by his gross arrogance, false confidence, brashness, rudeness, uncouthness, haughtiness, pomposity, and lack of empathy.
He is unpredictable and erratic.
What he says now might be reversed or contradicted in a minute, an hour or next week.
He is a habitual and unrepentant liar.
He seems unable to separate truth from untruth.
He creates his own reality, which to him is ‘the truth’.
When the media reports anything he doesn’t like, he calls it ‘fake news’. He blames the media – the enemy of the people – endlessly. He is never at fault.

If you have doubts about the veracity of the above, reflect on his recent trip to NATO, the UK and Helsinki, and take note of the commentary experts in diplomacy made about Trump.

Let’s now examine Trumps mental state and ask if that might explain his bizarre behaviour and his incongruent actions.

There have been many pieces about Trump’s psychological behaviour published by The Political Sword.

Back in May there was America, what have you done? that detailed Trump’s mental flaws:

  • Lack of insight
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
  • Overbearing, punitive, bullying and ruthless behaviour patterns
  • Wilful ignorance
Many analysts around the world now agree that Trump’s behaviour fits best into the DSM IV category of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’, which is characterized by:

  • Grandiosity with expectations of superior treatment from other people
  • Fixated on fantasies of power, success, intelligence, attractiveness
  • Self-perception of being unique, superior, and associated with high-status people and institutions
  • Needing continual admiration from others
  • Sense of entitlement to special treatment and to obedience from others
  • Exploitative of others to achieve personal gain
  • Unwilling to empathize with the feelings, wishes, and needs of other people
  • Intensely envious of others, and the belief that others are equally envious of them
  • Pompous and arrogant demeanor.
You’ve seen this list before, but when you quickly glance down it, who of you would disagree that Trump fits these characteristics to a tee?

Could anyone who seriously describes himself as A stable genius and Your favourite President be other than a barefaced narcissist?

In July we published Is Donald trump mad?, and in September Who thought Trump couldn’t get worse? The theme was the same – that Trump’s mental state made him unfit for office. Then in April of this year, we questioned whether Trump was morally fit for office in Morally Unfit.

I suspect that readers of this blogsite need no more convincing that Trump is mentally unstable. His behaviour at the time of his recent meeting in Helsinki with President Putin, his performance at the joint press conference afterwards that met with almost universal condemnation in the US from Republicans, Democrats and commentators alike, and the extraordinary mental gymnastics he exhibited as he tried to counter this with his spurious ‘I misspoke’ and the unbelievable ‘explanations’ of his treacherous language. Already in a deep hole of denunciation, he dug himself even deeper, and the world laughed at his pathetic efforts to clear himself. It got even worse in the following days; he seemed rattled, even confused in a medical sense.

If you are asking yourself why Trump does what he does, remember that for narcissists of the calibre of Trump, publicity is what they crave. Any publicity, no matter how damaging, no matter how incongruous, is better than being ignored. That is the nature of narcissism.

Another instance is Trump’s recent declaration that he wants Putin to come to the White House, which surprised even his closest advisors. It’s just another episode in the Donald Trump Worldwide Reality Show with ‘The Donald’ centre stage as the Celebrated Global Host.

Rather than trying to further press the case of Trump’s mental instability, I offer some explanatory YouTube videos that reinforce my message.

Way back in October of last year, MSNBC featured an interview by Lawrence O’Donnell with the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists Assess, psychiatrist Dr Bandy Lee, and the co-author of Trump's The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz. Psychiatrists have been reluctant to comment on Trump’s mental state on the grounds that they should not comment on a person whom they have not examined. Dr Lee explains how she overcame that restriction. Although it is ten minutes long, it is well worth the time listening to it.

The following video President Donald Trump Creates His Own Narrative At NATO Press Conference displays the travail of MSNBC reporters as they try to unravel what Trump said at the recent NATO meeting. You may choose to not listen to the entire eight minutes of this tedious dissection, as just a minute or two conveys the theme – that Trump lies and lies, and compounds these lies by telling even more, so that ‘truth checks’ and logical reasoning are pointless, as the title to this piece suggests. You will soon get the drift of their commentary.

Should you need any more evidence to convince you about Trump’s mental state, take a quick look at this debate about Trump’s mental fitness to be the POTUS. The video covers some of the same ground as the first one, but adds a commentary. Note that this video was made earlier this year. If anything, Trump has deteriorated since then.

For those of you who are still asking what on earth is behind Trump’s behaviour, you may care to listen to Noam Chomsky’s assessment. Although Trump’s behaviour is that of a mentally unstable personality, don’t underestimate the benefit the wealthy backers of the Republican Party derive from Trump’s antics. It’s as if the elite backers of the GOP have sent their clown to dance around on the world stage to distract the people from their real plan – to dominate an economy that benefits them immensely.

So there it is. I rest my case. I hope I have convinced you that Trump’s behaviour cannot be explained by recourse to a process of fact checking and logical reasoning.

The only explanatory model I can offer is that Trump’s behaviour is a manifestation of his mental health, impaired, as it seems to be, by a conspicuous case of narcissistic personality disorder and all its sequelae.

Whilst the Trump case might be a fascinating study for medicos interested in the twists and turns of forensic psychiatry, it tragically threatens the entire world and all of us who live upon this fragile planet we call home.

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If you feel that this piece exaggerates the threat to the world that Trump poses, read this article from World reacts to Donald Trump’s furious Twitter rant at Iran. Read the Trump Twitter rants, which are in capitals, and then enjoy the mocking responses. Trump's erratic, bullying behaviour is on frightening display.—20Australia’s20 



"The Weekend Australian of July 14-15 carried two articles in its Inquirer section by two respected and experienced Murdoch columnists: Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan"

Experienced, I have no doubt but respected?, I think that might be a stretch. Personally I think Trump is unhinged along with a number of other world leaders as well as a smattering here. What will these people do next? How long is a piece of string?

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Thank you for your comment. Do come again.

You are right about Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan – they are experienced, but I suspect only those who share their conservative views respect them. I do not. I find their writing tedious, at times obsequiously pro-Coalition, and in the articles quoted in this piece, pro-Trump and therefore convoluted to the point of being indecipherable.

Like you, I am apprehensive about what Trump will do next. Every day we see another episode of what is now colloquially termed ‘Trumpism’. People the world over share that apprehension.

Trump fits well your term ‘unhinged’, one being used increasingly by political commentators.

How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?