Would Trump’s narcissism make him a bad president?
Businessman claims he knows how to act properly and flexibly when he needs to
The White House has a strange, mind-warping effect on its occupants. Presidents are exalted and fawned over.
Reaching the pinnacle of power often has the perverse consequence of making presidents more paranoid, introverted, insecure, reckless or downright nuts.
So what would happen if Donald Trump, a clinical narcissist with a thin skin, touchy temperament and taste for flattery, got into the Oval Office?
I call Trump to tell him my fears. Given that he already likes to start sentences, “Here’s the beauty of me,” wouldn’t we be risking a narcissistic explosion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? I remind him that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld could manipulate W into the Iraq invasion by playing on W’s fear of being labelled a wimp, as his father had been.
So, I ask him, couldn’t people manipulate you based on your ego? Given that you get easily swayed by what people say about you, pro and con, wouldn’t you be malleable?
“I am malleable,” Trump said, taking it as a compliment, more like I’ve called him flexible. He sounds sleepy, calling at 7am Friday from his Versailles-like Fifth Avenue penthouse, where he went for a nap after his veterans event on Thursday night, before returning to New Hampshire and Iowa. He is still so new at politics that he coyly uses the phrase “being on the trail, as they say”.
A good ‘closer’
“Putin said Donald Trump was absolutely brilliant and would win the election,” he said. “My rival wanted me to disavow it. The head of Russia calls me brilliant and you want me to disavow it? What are you smoking?”
Trump is a hugely exaggerated version of us all. We like the people who like us and don’t like the people who don’t. But as he says, he’s got the microphone to punish the people who, in his view, act like “dirty” dogs. I ask how he could ever be president given his insane – and sometimes hilarious – fusillade of insults online and off. How on earth could you run the country that way?
He explains that he gets along great with all the fancy, Waspy Palm Beach society women at charity balls.
“I leave and they say, ‘He’s the most politically correct young man we’ve ever seen’.” At the same time, he says, he gets along great with construction workers.
So he is claiming that he knows how to act properly and flexibly when he needs to. But right now, he doesn’t need to, so he goes back to bragging and insulting. Using his usual ego arithmetic, he calculates that his gamble to skip the debate on Fox News and throw together a veterans fundraising rally nearby has worked out great. He says it made over $6 million – money instantly ponied up by him, his business partners and golf buddies. And he boasts that he had more cameras at his event and a higher number of journalists.
“We had 400,” he said. “They had 350.” Who knows? Trump tosses out numbers with gleeful abandon.
Maybe because Trump is so easily aggrieved himself, he has bonded with legions of aggrieved Americans. While others cast him as a bully, Trump cast himself Friday at a New Hampshire rally as a tender soul trying for self-actualisation.
“When somebody doesn’t treat you properly,” he said, talking about Fox News, “you gotta be tough, you gotta be strong. You can’t let them push you around.”
The prolix plutocrat told me he tried to watch some of the debate after his event.
“Without Trump, the debate is boring,” he said. “Everything became about Jeb.” And you know he thinks that’s boring. “I fell asleep.”
And certainly the candidates were relieved not to have Trump coiled like a cobra, with resting bitch face, looking for the right moment to spew venom. Jeb seemed comfortable for the first time, with no Trump there “to steal his lunch money”, as Fox News’s Chris Stirewalt put it.
Stupid, fat and uglyTed Cruz
Trump demurs about Carson: “I never said he was a bad doctor. I just said he was not as good as people thought.”
Did he notice that Kelly was very tough on all the other candidates, too, I ask. Shouldn’t he stop using words in tweets and retweets like “bimbo” and “lightweight” about Kelly and stop retweeting pictures of her in provocative glamour shots or risk losing the support of some women? After all, his own wife, Melania, was a model who did those kinds of shots.
“Megyn’s a broadcaster,” he replied briskly. Wouldn’t it be smarter to move beyond this feud? “I’m really rich and successful,” he replied. “I don’t have to make up with everyone.” I tell him that Newt Gingrich, who has praised him in the past, told Bill O’Reilly that people want to assess how stable a president will be when hit with crises, and Trump’s petulance about an admittedly juvenile Fox news release could “shrink” him. “Newt said that?” Trump said, sounding hurt.
He’s a very sensitive guy, for a guy who can be very insensitive. – (New York Times service)