It’s time to revisit the warning I issued nine months ago, when I wrote that the imminent Republican nominee was a seriously sick puppy. Everything we’re hearing now further confirms that diagnosis.
This week alone, he has soiled Black History Month by talking about himself (“The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. I met Darrell when he was defending me on television … I don’t watch CNN, I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice”), he has soiled a National Prayer Breakfast by talking about himself (his “Apprentice” ratings were higher than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, so “pray for Arnold”), and he has boasted by phone to the Australian prime minister about his Electoral College victory before hanging up on our ally (as if the Australian PM, who hails from a popular-vote democracy, would be impressed that Trump got the job after losing by nearly three million votes).
And when you parse Trump’s ongoing delusions about massive voter fraud, his obsession with the size of Inaugural crowds, his grandiose sugar highs (to ABC News: “I could be the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?”), and all the rest, it adds up to this:
Mental health experts call it NPD. Which stands for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
Remember the movie “The Madness of King George”? Amp that up for the modern age.
We need to talk more about this. The spineless Republicans — at least those who value the postwar western alliance, democracy at home, and the safety of their families — need to talk about this. They need to heed specialists like Dr. Julie Futrell, a clinical psychologist who recognizes a disturbed person when she sees one:
“Narcissism impairs his ability to see reality. So you can’t use logic to persuade someone like that. Three million women marching? Doesn’t move him. Advisers point out that a policy choice didn’t work? He won’t care. The maintenance of self-identity is the organizing principle of life for those who fall toward the pathological end of the narcissistic spectrum … A narcissist’s defenses function to protect the person from the knowledge of what lies beneath, and as such, must not be challenged lest the walls come crumbling down. It is important to understand that the need to maintain the self-image is so great … the severe narcissist bends reality to fulfill whatever fantasy about power, wealth, beauty, etc. s/he maintains.”
If only James David Barber were alive today. He was a pioneering political analyst, author of the seminal 1972 book “The Presidential Character.” He contended that character was “the most important thing to know about a president or candidate …. character is the way the president orients himself toward life — not for the moment, but enduringly.” Policy agendas came and went; personality was forever. And he warned that if presidents used their office to compensate for private doubts and demons, they would not always act in the public interest for the public good.
But Barber was not a mental health expert. John Gartner is. A practicing psychotherapist affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Medical School, Gartner flatly states that Trump has “malignant narcissism,” which cannot be cured. “We’ve seen enough public behavior … that we can make this diagnosis indisputably.”
Well, this is what can happen when a clueless minority of the electorate hires a twisted individual, despite concerns about his temperament. (One Trump supporter, at the Inauguration: “He’s arrogant, so is he going to be able to work well with foreign ministers, and representatives of other countries? You have to be willing to work with someone, you have to listen to them, you can’t just shut them out … I think some of the things he says he needs to kind of bite his tongue on.”)
Well, guess what, Trumpkin. Your man is mentally incapable of biting his tongue. That’s the problem.
All of which prompts me to list the symptomatic warning signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I did this last May, back when nobody seemed to care, back when the prospect of ceding the nuclear codes to a loon seemed like nothing more than a plot for a dystopic movie. These eight warning signs come to us courtesy of the American Psychiatric Association. See if any of these ring a bell:
1) Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2) Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3) Requires excessive admiration; has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
4) Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
5) Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
6) Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
7) Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
8) Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
Yup, eight for eight. It appears that Trump is batting 1.000. As presidents go, that’s one for the record books — and grist for removal as unfit to serve. But Mark Salter, a Republican commentator and ex-John McCain aide, says it best. Referring to the latest episode, in which Trump went ape on the Australian prime minister, Salter tweets: “How can you read this and not conclude Trump is mentally ill? Seriously. This is what we have the 25th Amendment for.”