A couple weeks ago I implied that Donald Trump might well be a psychopath. Since then a friend of mine who spent much of her life dealing with (and trying to protect herself from) psychopaths, told me that she doesn’t believe Trump is actually a psychopath. She allowed, however, that Trump’s buddy Putin might well be one.
He may not be a full-blown psychopath, but Trump is clearly damaged goods, psychologically speaking. His emptiness-at-the-core problem, his unquenchable yearning for approval is, in a way, analogous to a Ponzi scheme - like that of Bernie Madoff, for example. Just as Madoff’s Ponzi operation used money to attract more money, all of it ultimately being sucked into the black hole that was his own personal bank account, Trump’s operation uses fame to garner more fame. His interest is only secondarily money.
As a number of people - including, for example, Warren Buffett - have remarked, Trump is not a very good businessman. What he is good at is media manipulation. He uses his fame to attract more fame, and he has now done the ultimate by converting his extraordinary renown into votes that leveraged him into the presidency.
Trump’s habit of trading on his fame seems to have started when he had to face the investors who lost money by buying into his casinos – which he ran into the ground while paying himself a handsome income. He told his investors that if they would work with him, he could use his fame to get some of their money back, but if they drove him into the ground by demanding immediate payoffs, they would hardly get a dime. The bankers went along with Trump’s scheme, and so the Donald began developing his skill as the man who could get ever more famous, not for his business skill, but for his skill at making himself famous. This trick of using his reputation to suck in ever more attention for himself reminds me of the scene in Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise in which people flock to see “the most photographed barn in America” - and then take a picture of it.
Trump is not only a lousy businessman, he is also a conman. That’s why he had to pay 25 million dollars for defrauding the students who bought into the Trump University scam. And that’s why so many of the subcontractors who provided services to him have been stiffed by him, some to the point of bankruptcy.
And, let's not forget, his presidential campaign started with a con, the birther scam. Here we see Trump at his most sleazy and dishonest. Remember that Trump claimed (falsely) that he had sent people to Hawaii to investigate President Obama’s birth certificate and that “they cannot believe what they’re finding.” Of course, “they” were finding nothing, assuming that there was a “they” there, which almost certainly there was not. The whole thing was a shameless Trumpian lie, but it was a lie that boosted Trump’s fame and launched him into the 2016 campaign.
And still today the bogus bullshit continues. Yesterday, the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives moved to defang the Office of Congressional Ethics, an office established by Democrats to be an independent ethical watchdog. The Democrats screamed bloody murder and tried to stir up opposition to the GOP move – and did so with no help from the Trump team. In fact, Kellyanne Conway, in support of the GOP maneuver, argued that the House would still have a (Republican-controlled) Office of Complaint Review. And so, she argued, “It’s not like we’re taking away everything.”
Then, thanks largely to the outcry from Democrats and liberals, the public began to respond, telephoning members of Congress to demand restoration of the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics. Seeing the public outcry, the Trump team reversed itself and joined the attack on the House GOP members.
But that’s not all – and here’s where Trump’s genius for self-promoting bullshit comes to the fore – he grabbed credit for the GOP’s having backed down on their planned gutting of the Ethics Committee.
Disregarding the crucial role played by Democratic opposition, and pretending that he had been against it all along, Trump tweeted:
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it is”
Media reports quickly focused on Trump’s tweets as though they were the instigating force that kept the Ethics Committee alive.
Score another one for Trump the Media Genius. And minus ten for the media that he finds so easy to bamboozle.
This, then, is what we have to look forward to, once the Narcissist in Chief occupies the White House. At least, that is, until the phony house of cards that is his reputation, and the emotional black hole that drives him, finally lead us to our first Trump catastrophe.
Happy New Year.