Please know that I have no professional training in personality assessment. My last brush with case histories was Psych 101, sophomore year at Duke.
That’s the scary part. Because experience and common sense alone tell me what’s going on with President Donald Trump. This is — using one of his favorite words — “sad.” Sad enough to soften the snark, the sarcasm and anger I’ve spewed for two years.
Trump has changed. What’s left of his bluster rings hollow. I see a man whose bravado is fading. Any politician who says aloud, into a microphone, “I can be pretty tough” can’t any more after previous attempts have laughed him off the leader board. Any president who hides behind vulgar tweets fears responses.
He looks worried, uncertain, wary, searching for words, making noise (or prevaricating) to fill the silence, repeating phrases like “believe me” and “I can tell you this.”
Imagine the poor man’s terror upon hearing allegations against Harvey Weinstein, fearing there might be a woman out there with hard evidence against him. Just this week a former accuser, Summer Zervos, surfaced, represented by pit bull attorney Gloria Allred.
Allred has subpoenaed documents supporting her suit for defamation, although the pair’s obvious purpose is to reopen the sexual harassment issue, perhaps inspiring other women to come forward. Worst-case scenario: a replay of the “Access Hollywood” tape, where the words spill out of his very own mouth.
Sad, that Trump cannot learn from his mistakes to hold his tongue, stay away from vague threats like “We’ll see. You’ll find out soon. Nothing’s off the table,” leaving people to fear he might push the hot button just because he can.
This grandfather retains the childish notion that he can get away with anything — lies, exaggerations, insults, you name it. After all, he’s on tape with “I’m the president.” Last week he rated hurricane response in Puerto Rico “a 10,” when more than half the population remained without power or running water.
How can anybody not learn that claims are verifiable in seconds? That facts are facts, not fake news. And that the embarrassment of being caught is worse than the rush of self-aggrandizement.
He is so intent on being right that he paraded out Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, a military titan, to mitigate but not deny the insensitive remarks made by the commander-in-chief to a grieving widow. It’s odd that Kelly referred to whistle-blower Congresswoman Wilson as “an empty barrel making the loudest noise.” Sounds like the boss.
Next morning, a tweet branded Wilson “wacky” and “a liar,” despite backup testimony. But how would Trump know of military protocol? Even his salute has been criticized as “soft.”
I don’t remember a thing from Sociology 101, either. Don’t need it, to fear almost as much as Trump himself, his base — whose members flee reality the way a kid, bat in hand, runs from a broken window.
How can they sleep at night, following a man who attacks a Muslim Gold Star father, calls marchers in step with neo-Nazis and white supremacists “very good people”? I don’t even want to know their definition of “great” in his MAGA battle cry.
Last, and most disturbing: I’m afraid Trump does not grasp the legislation he champions. “I don’t blame myself. I blame the Congress” for failures, he says. Put a bill on his desk and he’ll sign it: “Then, you’ll have beautiful, wonderful health care,” he states in a condescending tone. Or “a giant, beautiful tax cut,” a supposition refuted by career number-crunchers. No offers to roll up his sleeves, drink black coffee and burn the midnight oil thrashing out details that incorporate his own informed opinions.
Informed? Hardly, for a president who blithely threatens to shut down the press, protected by the First Amendment, because he doesn’t like its truths.
Some presidents have been great orators; others, peacemakers, deep thinkers or humanitarians. Is it too much to expect that a president have a smattering of each?
As for his treatment of appointees and advisers, I’ll fall back on my culinary know-how — which, unlike psychology and sociology, is extensive. Trump reminds me of a chef unable to cook himself out of a macaroni box who, nevertheless, lambastes his line cooks for lumpy mashed potatoes.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.