The Tragic Death Of Presidential Dignity

Wasn’t it nice we almost forgot what Trump thinks about women, that when he feels threatened his go-to response is to attack their looks and intelligence? It’s been a while since he referred to Megyn Kelly bleeding out of her eyes or presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s looks.

But true to form, yesterday Trump tweeted these lovely words about Mika Brzezinski, co-host on Morning Joe:

I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came.. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017
...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2017

I shouldn’t be surprised, although I desperately want to be.

Trump’s long held inner beasts can’t be tamed, they merely lay dormant while staffers tread water to keep him off Twitter and on message. His loathing of women who dare to publicly call him out was only temporarily replaced by more immediate Tweet targets, as of late, Former FBI Director James Comey and his continued but escalating war with the media.

I’d like to believe, I had to believe, that the awesome privilege and responsibility of the Oval Office might seep into Trump’s DNA and do wonders with his emotionally immature brain molecules.

Nope.

Clearly the highest office isn’t a deterrent to this President’s temperamental challenges. Anyway, it’s not a crime to be a bigoted sexist impulse-challenged narcissist. And what incentive does Donald Trump have to work on being a better Donald when for every outraged voter (his and Hillary’s) he gets 100 who tweet, “Hell yeah Mr. President! You Rock! F*** that bitch Mika!”

Trump doesn’t need the majority to love him, he only needs enough.

It’s obvious his staff, Cabinet, Congress and even mainstream conservative outlets, can’t rattle this President into at least pretending he’s got the right temperament for the job.

So who can?

Likely no one, but if I had to guess I’d say his most loyal base, specifically voters who manically cheer his racist, sexist offensive statements and string of lies, then thank Trump for making America great again. If enough of those voters said, “Hold on there Mr. President, you’ve gone one too far!” well then maybe he’d feel the gut punch and re-think his tweetrums.

I know, it’s not going to happen.

Trump’s most rabid fans ferociously defend everything I hate about Trump-the-person. They’re fired up and galvanized now that explicit hate towards women and people of color and immigrants (barely hidden by progress) is once again all the rage. Our nation’s perception gap about Trump’s character, that his worst traits are his most effective assets vs. that his worst traits are an abomination and danger, feels dystopian.

Sometimes to soften my anger towards Trump I remind myself he has a wife, kids and grand kids, and that by all accounts he loves his family as much as I love my mine. Because when I remember he’s human, for a second I forget Trump’s penchant for lying and narcissistic sophomoric ego-driven bluster.

His undignified immature personality is what his press secretaries and apologists refer to as the President’s unconventional ways which we are to believe, bring a long over due brass-ones candor (and so, a needed break from ineffectual norms) to the Executive Office.

If you’re unsure how truly unflinching the defend-Trump-no-matter what narrative is, look no further than Kellyanne Conway, the most talented spin doctor I’ve ever witnessed. Kellyanne is masterful at not only delivering lies as impenetrable truth, but at convincing the interviewer and viewer, they’re petty simpletons if they refuse to believe her every word.

I often wonder how many people genuinely believe Trump is a good person, how many don’t care and how many convince themselves he’s a good person?

Remember early in the campaign when droves criticized Trump’s character and supporters countered that his kids (seemingly) turned out well so Trump by proxy, was clearly a good father? Good father = good person.

Except that fathers, the non-skeevy kind, don’t imply they want to have sex with their daughter. “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father . . . “ Trump said to Rolling Stone in 2015. Anyway, Trump admits he wasn’t a hands-on Dad; child rearing is for the proletariat — and women.

I’ll be dammed if I can convince a Trump voter of this but my outrage is now less about Hillary’s loss than my frustration with people who deny or justify the President’s glaring list of not only offensive, but dangerous character flaws.

Of course the election loss feels catastrophic but I can do something about the political fallout, if only by inches. I can dive into my activism and work like hell to elect officials who share my vision.

But unlike any other presidential election in history that I know, for the first time the losing side needs more than a run of political wins, we need Trump voters to see their guy for who he really is, and then and only then, can we begin to narrow the bitter divide.

I’m convinced the reason the majority of Trump voters won’t admit their guy is an all-around childish ass is because of this very human thing we all experience, cognitive dissonance. I felt it myself when I learned Hillary called Bill’s sexual harassment victims to task. I was horrified and disappointed.

Cognitive dissonance is when we hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time (I voted for Trump. Trump is an ass) and the disparate thoughts create inner tension. We don’t like the tension so to get rid of it, we adjust our thinking. Trump’s not SO bad. He didn’t mean what he said. He never said it.

It’s interesting that Trump has historically low approval ratings yet nearly everyone who voted for him said they would do it again. This can only be the result of intense partisanship in combination with massive cognitive dissonance.

It’s painfully clear this President’s driving internal force is ego-validation and to humiliate real or imagined enemies and the Twittersphere provides an instant platform for both. Think about that for a second. Our President needs a regular diet of atta boys and revenge, and he’s entirely unapologetic about using 140 characters or less to get it.

“People with strong narcissistic needs want to love themselves, and they desperately want others to love them too—or at least admire them, writes Dan P McAdams in “The Mind of Donald Trump,” (and) see them as brilliant and powerful and beautiful, even just see them, period. The fundamental life goal is to promote the greatness of the self, for all to see. ‘I’m the king of Palm Beach,” Trump told the journalist Timothy O’Brien for his 2005 book, TrumpNation. Celebrities and rich people “all come over” to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s exclusive Palm Beach estate. “They all eat, they all love me, they all kiss my ass. And then they all leave and say, ‘Isn’t he horrible.’ But I’m the king.’”

Americans have always assumed, rightfully so, that our elected officials begin with and maintain a level of integrity, civility, dignity and respect. We assume they won’t insult another candidate’s looks or refer to a journalist on her period, demean a war hero, brag they could shoot someone on 5th avenue and still get votes, make fun of a disabled person or lie as a matter of course.

So when someone listens to Trump spew the very same offensive or factually wrong statements I hear but insists “He didn’t mean what he said” or “He didn’t say what he said” or worse, that his lies, verbal carelessness and atrocious behavior don’t rank in relation to his policies, what am I to conclude? Clearly this person is comfortable with the President’s atrocious behavior, behavior I bet they wouldn’t allow in their kids or employees.

We’re called almost daily by pastors and pundits and politically weary friends and family to reach across the aisle, and of course we must. But first I need to know that my fellow American acknowledges who Trump is as a person. Then I need to know my fellow American is willing to courageously and relentlessly call him out again and again and again. Wear him down, which given Trump’s shield of arrogance and narcissism will likely take a while.

Only then will we restore the dignity and integrity that’s fast eroding inside the Oval Office.

Stop it! The Presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down. — Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) June 29, 2017
Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office. — Ben Sasse (@BenSasse) June 29, 2017

I’d like to believe Trump’s latest tweet tirade is as Dan Savage argues, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” In another time, the camel would fallen about 20 tweets ago, instead, Trump further emboldens his most rabid fans who despise the muzzle of political correctness.

We can only hope even Trump’s racist sexist xenophobic supporters have a breaking point, although doubtful. They’re in the minority across all voters, which incentives them to double down on their unifying message of hate. Likely the only breaking point for this group is when Trump’s broken promises affect their bottom line, which is fast approaching with the revision of the health care plan.

“But more often than not, narcissists wear out their welcome, writes McAdams. “Over time, people become annoyed, if not infuriated, by their self-centeredness. When narcissists begin to disappoint those whom they once dazzled, their descent can be especially precipitous. There is still truth today in the ancient proverb: Pride goeth before the fall.”

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