Donald J. Trump assumed the Presidency of the United States with two lit fuses tied to his Italian made Brioni suit pants: (1) his malignant narcissism and its potential to compromise his untested ability to govern and (2) his apparent extensive ties to Russia including the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 general election.
On their own, either one of these fuses could detonate and leave the American people to gather the charred remains of our democracy. What we are seeing now is a race between the fuses to see which burns through first.
These two blazing fuses were highly visible before and after the Election to those with the ability to extinguish them, namely the GOP members of Congress. As I wrote last week, the latter have not only enabled the self-serving authoritarian style of Trump rule but they are actively fanning the flames. For example, Congressional committees have voted along party lines to keep Trump’s taxes buried, to empower Cabinet members with highly questionable qualifications (not to mention Russian ties), and to forestall formal investigations of the relationship between Russian operatives and Team Trump.
On Friday, the President reminded the American people via his personal Twitter account that he is still holding the fuses and invited his critics to throw gasoline on him. Look at the content of two of his Friday tweets:
Update 3/5/16 4:00pm: On Saturday morning, the President took this self-immolation a step further by suggesting that the Obama administration had been tapping his phones at Trump Tower during the campaign that led to the controversial election. This series of Trumpian early morning tweets implies that there was either probable cause for the Justice Department to obtain a warrant to tap the then-candidate’s phones or that this is another example of Trump’s delusional, gaslighting tactics that have routinely been on public display.
I have discussed the elements of malignant narcissism in previous columns so I won’t go through the list again but I will highlight what these tweets indicate and how severe our President’s narcissistic behavior has become.
Keep in mind most of these descriptions of extreme narcissists come from clinical or public examples from civilian walks of life…we are seeing these behaviors in the man who currently holds our highest office.
First, the extreme narcissist has a fragile ego that sits beneath the grandiose persona he publicly projects. He absolutely hates the idea of being thwarted by others (especially obvious opponents or critics) and he believes that no one has the right to put limits on him and that he should be able to do whatever he wants (e.g., 4 out of 6 weekends in Office spent at his private, for-profit, Mar-a-Lago estate).
Often, the extreme narcissist will openly protest and complain when attempts at restraint are made (think of a toddler who does not want to get into his carseat). He may also claim that he is the victim of an injustice and is only employing his right to defend himself.
Second, Trump shows a lack of empathy that prevents him from grasping the plight of the displaced refugee, the grieving process of a newly widowed military spouse, or the distress felt by members of Jewish organizations who are currently being threatened.
Lastly, the malignant narcissist will repeatedly lie and rewrite narratives to protect his vulnerable self – and with Trump this includes lying to Congressional leadership, members of the Judiciary, and We the American people.
As evidenced by his tweets on Friday, Trump is exhibiting a pathological degree of lying and he is completely ignoring the potentially devastating consequences (to the ego he so viciously protects) that will come should the full extent of his potentially treasonous behavior become unearthed.
A man currently under heavy scrutiny with mounting evidence to suggest that he became the U.S. President with Russian assistance publicly taunted two ranking members of Congress and suggested that they should be investigated for Russian ties. (click here for definition of projection).
Our President, the GOP, the White House senior staff, and the Russians are playing a dangerous game of chicken in which we all stand to lose. The time for action is long overdue.