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The folly of trying to comprehend Trump

By Ad astra

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 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.

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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  1. Phil

    “respected and experienced Murdoch columnists” please!!!! Oxymoron alert!!. Maybe you were writing tongue in cheek – I hope so but then there were no parentheses.

    I think you make a good argument about Trump’s mental health but on reading the article and watching the vids, I conclude that it doesn’t matter really if he is raving bloody mad, or whatever else people wish to diagnose – none of it makes any difference – he’s in power and his party loves it.

    Chomsky makes the clearest point that we would do well to heed – that is that Trump is merely the clown who keeps us amused, perplexed, diverted, worried, entertained, frightened on a continuous 24 hour basis. Meanwhile the administration behind this pathological clown is operating with impunity and that is what matters.

  2. New England Cocky

    “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.”

    I question whether any apologist for Tony RAbbott could be described as “respects and experienced”. As for the other one, probably the less said the better.

  3. Josephus

    The pathology is in some ways similar to the murderous psychopathy of Mugabe. However that fact does not preclude the plausible hypothesis that billionaire Trump was near broke a few times, that the Russians bailed him out repeatedly,eg buying his house at far more than asking price in order to launder their own stolen funds overseas, so Putin and Trump need one another.

    Interesting that only Oz get to be exempt from the tariffs on two metals that even Canada cannot avoid. IT did seem crazy to me and a recent AIMN text did supply some useful intelligence about that: Recall the news that a new, super huge US base is now agreed for the NT, with a 20 k exclusion zone plus the expulsion of an indigenous population, all for the Americans to try to monitor China. Turnbull chatted to Trump and got his deal- buy the votes of some metal workers, reduce our debt a bit, give the Yanks another, far bigger base in return.
    All this has appeared on AIMN with evidence supplied but needs confirmation. Some conspiracies make sense but may yet not be true.. We need whistle blowers and lost filing cabinets so we can take democracy back from the plutocrats in charge. The Brits are about to grab the soon to be expelled Assange, who will be sent to the US. It is time surely to stop being the poodle of the US. Dr Strangelove beckons.

  4. Matters Not

    Re the now notorious Helsinki Press Conference followed by his misspoke ‘backflip’, 29% of ABC night-time radio listeners accepted his rather fanciful explanation. Incredible! Then again 30% of US voters are rusted on Trump supporters who will hear no criticism.

    Yet we continues down the same educational path that gives us Trump, Hanson, et al.

  5. Alpo

    I agree, the man is ready for the asylum…. BUT watch the Noam Chomsky video: There is a devilish strategy inside the madness. No, the strategy is most likely not coming directly from Trump (just as it didn’t come directly from GW Bush in the past) but from the Neoliberal-Conservative controllers of the Republican Party and the massive financial/industrial interests that pay them.

    …. The World is two minutes from Midnight…. and we are warned to see the danger beyond the distraction of Trump’s personal madness….

    In the old Roman Empire, mad emperors were usually killed by the Praetorian Guard to be replaced by somebody else (think Caligula). Although the Americans do have some predilection to kill some of their Presidents (think Lincoln and JFK) or Presidents to be (think Bob Kennedy) they can still get out of their current madness and their position as a danger for the World with a vote. The coming mid-term Congress elections will be crucial and the Progressive side of politics better get organised and stop bickering among themselves, because it’s the future of the World that’s at stake when a massive Nuclear power is in turmoil.

  6. Henry Rodrigues

    The ‘folly ‘is the 88% (at last count) republican voters who say they will stand by their man, through thick and thin, whatever happens, till death do them part. That is where the problem lies and Trump the ultimate narcissistic opportunist knows that and takes full advantage, with the aid and monetary support of rich powerful people, amongst whom we can count the decrepit crinkled scroat also known as Rupert Murdoch.

    To the above poster, Keep the Alternative……………………. did you lose your way trolling the internet ? , Go back to where you belong, The Australian……………………………..

  7. etnorb

    Watching the main “voice” man for the Simpsons being interviewed on TV the other week, he was sure that the reason the Trumpster is able to “get away” with all the crap he spouts is because this idiot is a TV “personality”, NOT a politician! He reckoned that the Trumpster, because he is a TV person, can say & do what he wants. If he really was a “real” politician he would probably not be “allowed” etc to get away with any of the crap he says, all the time. Naturally this was the opinion of this very well known “voices” guy, but I thought what he said about the Trumpster made sense to me. It certainly adds to what I, & obviously millions of others, already think about the world’s–or at least Americas’–worst ever President. Geo. W Brush notwithstanding, nor Tricky Dicky either!

  8. Bert

    “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?

  9. Zathras

    I’ve always thought that the main aim of Neo-Conservatism has been the deliberate transfer of public wealth into private hands and the opportunity for them to “plunder the vault”, whether via privatisation or by legislation.

    The removal of regulations and limitations such as environmental, public health or safety standards is one of the processes they have been using, as well as control by media.

    Perhaps now that the Internet has made their media task more difficult, they need some sort of Ronald McDonald bat-shit crazy politician to divert public attention and Trump fits that bill perfectly.

    As well as being “a useful idiot” for Putin, he fits the bill for his Republican handlers,

    Our domestic political situation is not far behind and some of our politicians are probably watching and learning from the Trump example, although we already had our own Trump in the form of Tony Abbott and our legislative process is rather different.

  10. Terence Mills

    What some thinking Americans are now realizing is that Trump, having given away billions in tax concessions to corporations and high wealth individuals, is now trying to claw back some revenue through his tariffs which could impact some $500 billion of imports. As tariffs are just another tax on consumption, it will be the little guy who gets it in the neck.

  11. paul walter

    It was a good laugh watching Vladimir Putin toying with him, but the consequent verbal attack on Iran was significant of a spoilt brat thwarted throwing a tantrum

  12. DrakeN

    Never, not ever, underestimate the wiles of the Court Jester, but always question the motives.

  13. paul walter

    Too right, DrakeN

  14. diannaart

    What’s to analyse? Trump is a self aggrandising, bully and compulsive liar – everything he has done his entire life bears witness to this simple judgement.

    His presidency, which very few predicted, including yours truly, was the result of a unique convergence of events, partly because both the Republicans and the Democrats were offering same-old same-old – with the Democrats shooting themselves in the foot by eliminating Sanders and going with another Clinton and the Republicans offering a pallid collection who appeared dull against the shiny tinsel of Trump.

    That the public, in voting for a change, also voted against their best interests is nothing new – Conservatives have been using this ploy for decades.

    If Trump has any value it is as a warning to be careful what you wish for.

  15. paul walter

    Not a bad summary actually. Add the wedge employed media and press with a sadly uninformed red state public and the role of Wall St and you have it just about cut and dried

  16. Ad Astra

    You are right about my description of Paul Kelly and Greg Sheridan – it is oxymoronic.

    New England Cocky, you too share Phil’s views about these two.

    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.

    You are right too about Trump’s supporters. They see in him a reflection of their values and attitudes, and applaud his actions. They would re-elect him unreservedly.

    Noam Chomsky presents another perspective. Trump’s behaviour suits his backers who benefit enormously from his actions. Clown though he is, as he enriches them, they will continue to support him.

  17. paul walter

    Yep, the name of the game these days is consent manufacture of an increasingly Orwellian nature.

  18. Ad Astra

    May I thank you all for your informative comments and useful links.

    There seems to be a general consensus about Trump’s mental state, which seems to be the genesis of his bizarre and unpredictable behaviour.

    Being constantly the centre of world attention seems to be his objective, no matter how much criticism he attracts.

    Our concern should not focus solely on Trump’s behaviour – it is his supporters who are much to be feared. Because he reflects their values with all its rampant nationalism, their anti-immigration attitudes, and even their white supremacist feelings, they support him without question and would re-elect him in a flash.

    So we can expect more of Trump, maybe for as long as US presidents can survive. It’s a horrifying spectre, but we are powerless to avoid it. Only US lawmakers have any chance of stopping this man. With the mid-term elections coming up, it will be fascinating to see whether self-preservation is the overriding consideration of those facing re-election to the point that they distance themselves from Trump and thereby weaken him. Let’s hope so for the sake of world stability.

  19. diannaart

    Ad Astra

    Post Trump – whenever that may be, no matter how much of a relief – we will still be subject to the damage he and his ilk have done to both domestic and global politics.

    A long way to go.

  20. Matters Not

    Things are looking up. Democrats are in a good position to take the House in the 2018 midterm elections.

    Two new data points arrived on Wednesday: Both Quinnipiac University and the Kaiser Family Foundation found Democrats with a 12-point lead in the generic congressional ballot. That is well above what political scientists think they need to win back the House (7 points or so).

    … with a little more than three months left until Election Day, Democrats seem to be strengthening their position to win control of the House.

    Nevertheless the numbers can be deceiving:

    good Democratic odds shouldn’t be such a shock. The minority party’s gains in midterm elections are a fact of life in American politics. President Trump, in spite of relatively strong economic indicators, is pretty unpopular. Issues like health care promise to dominate the campaign, and voters prefer Democrats to Republicans in key policy debates.

    But Democrats are still facing a heavily gerrymandered House map and the frank reality that their (younger) supporters have historically been less reliable voters in midterm elections than the GOP’s (older) base. Recent polling underscored the real risk that millennial voters won’t turn out as hoped.

    So everything could still go wrong for Democrats in the 2018 midterms. But with about 100 days left in the campaign, they have a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

  21. Ad Astra

    Agree – much damage has been done already, and no doubt there is more to come.

    Matters Not
    That’s great news – thanks for the link to the Vox article.

  22. STUART Anderson

    Another aspect that I would like to add is Trumps abandonment of the whole international order which has been in place since WW2. That is the United Nations and the value of universal human rights, the Bretton Woods financial arrangements, WTO trade agreements and NATO security.
    Trump disregards all of it, not just because he doesn’t understand the frameworks, but because he belongs back in the 1930s, in a world of strong authoritarian leaders and warring nation states divided by language, culture, religion and race.
    While Murdoch journalists try to fit Trumps actions into a strategic framework, to me it makes more sense to see him as an authoritarian throwback. His father was in the KKK and Trump used to keep a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf by his bedside.

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