After three plus years of listening to and watching Donald Trump, I know I’m not alone in concluding he’s an incompetent narcissist. It wasn’t so long ago that the word “narcissist” was used primarily by professionals like psychiatrists and psychoanalysts. But in the time of Trump, it’s a word that gets bandied about, and for good reason. Though I am not a psychiatrist or other medical professional, I feel confident diagnosing our president with narcissistic personality disorder. But don’t take my word for it. Here is how it is described and defined by the Mayo Clinic.
Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.
A narcissistic personality disorder causes problems in many areas of life, such as relationships, work, school or financial affairs. People with narcissistic personality disorder may be generally unhappy and disappointed when they’re not given the special favors or admiration they believe they deserve. They may find their relationships unfulfilling, and others may not enjoy being around them.
Treatment for narcissistic personality disorder centers around talk therapy. (psychotherapy).
Signs and symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder and the severity of symptoms vary. People with the disorder can:
- Have an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Have a sense of entitlement and require constant, excessive admiration
- Expect to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerate achievements and talents
- Be preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believe they are superior and can only associate with equally special people
- Monopolize conversations and belittle or look down on people they perceive as inferior
- Expect special favors and unquestioning compliance with their expectations
- Take advantage of others to get what they want
- Have an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Be envious of others and believe others envy them
- Behave in an arrogant or haughty manner, coming across as conceited, boastful and pretentious
- Insist on having the best of everything — for instance, the best car or office
At the same time, people with narcissistic personality disorder have trouble handling anything they perceive as criticism, and they can:
- Become impatient or angry when they don’t receive special treatment
- Have significant interpersonal problems and easily feel slighted
- React with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make themselves appear superior
- Have difficulty regulating emotions and behavior
- Experience major problems dealing with stress and adapting to change
- Feel depressed and moody because they fall short of perfection
- Have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation”
Trump Exhibits His Symptoms
The President’s behavior over the past three years makes him a poster boy for this diagnosis. But even if you’ve been tuned out or lost in the desert and only started paying attention to the current daily press conferences and/or statements during this Coronavirus pandemic, you would be convinced. He has exhibited virtually every characteristic of a narcissistic personality disorder. Consider the following:
Boasts and Exaggerations
He consistently boasts of his knowledge and exaggerates his accomplishments:
“I like this stuff. I really get it… every one of these doctors said, ‘how do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.”
“Anybody that needs a test gets a test…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”
“We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”
“I think they feel that myself and the administration are doing a good job…. There was a lot of fear and a lot of good things are happening.”
Admiration and Praise
He constantly demands admiration and praise:
For example, Vice President Pence’s almost daily exhortation of Trump’s handling of the government’s reaction to the Coronavirus:
“It is — this day should be an inspiration to every American, because thanks to your leadership from early on, not only are we bringing a whole-of-government approach to confronting the Coronavirus, we’re bringing an all-of-America approach.”
Punishing the Unappreciative / Rewarding the Appreciative
Trump punishes those governors who do not offer public praise or are not sufficiently appreciative of his personal efforts, particularly Democrats:
The Michigan Governor was critical of the President’s response and found that the state’s medical supply vendors were “being told not to send stuff to Michigan.” After almost a week of insulting her, Trump approved an Emergency Declaration for Michigan and ordered federal assistance be provided to the state.
He rewards those governors who praise him and are sufficiently appreciative of his personal efforts, particularly Republicans:
Despite Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ irresponsible failure to shut down beaches and public gatherings, that state has received multiple shipments of everything it has requested, and is awaiting another.
Arrogance and rage
He arrogantly rages against reporters who question his policies or challenge his statements:
When Yamiche Alcindor from PBS NewsHour questioned his failure to take responsibility for disbanding the White House pandemic office, he angrily responded, “Well, I just think it’s a nasty question because what we’ve done is — and Tony has said numerous times that we’ve saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing.”
Trump’s Marriage of Narcissism and Incompetence
Anyone who understands what defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder would be hard pressed to deny that Trump has it. However, if that were his only difficulty, perhaps the consequences wouldn’t be as dire as they now are. But coupled with his extreme incompetence, it spells disaster. The United States is on the threshold of a health and economic catastrophe that could have been dramatically reduced had someone other than Trump—with even modest competence—been President.
Trump Disclaims His Failures to Take Action
Notwithstanding Trump’s pathetic attempts at rewriting history, here is a brief summary of the facts outlined by the Washington Post on March 20th:
The Coronavirus was discovered in China in December.
Officials were alerted to initial reports of the virus after discussions between the CDC and their Chinese colleagues on January 3.
Later in January, intelligence agencies warned Trump of the severity of the virus and the potential need for the government to take measures to control it, but Trump chose to take no action.
Throughout January and much of February, Trump dismissed the seriousness of the danger to the United States but on February 3rd he banned foreigners who had been in China in the previous 14 days from entering the country.
Through the end of February and into March Trump still minimized the severity of the virus. For example on March 10th, after a meeting with Republican Senators, Trump said, “And we’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
But the United States was not and is not prepared. Experts continually stressed that taking action could reduce the numbers of those affected by the virus. Yet Trump repeatedly ignored their advice.
His general response, “It’s going to be just fine.”
Why Trump Doesn’t Act When Warned
Let me be clear. Nothing Trump did or could have done would have avoided the pandemic that’s ravaging our citizens. But acknowledging the early warnings, communicating truthfully and using the available weapons to fight it would have reduced the number of eventual casualties. Why didn’t Trump act when warned? I offer a few possibilities?
His profound narcissism leads him to believe he knows more about every subject than anyone else. Trump does not take others into consideration and makes decisions based on what he believes will benefit him. Aside from his personal financial interests, his major priority has been and is his popularity and reelection. This has driven all his policies. Which leads to his incompetence.
I believe that while Trump is wily, he is fundamentally a dullard, and lacks the intellectual capacity to comprehend the nature of a pandemic. In fact, I don’t think he understood the word, or what it implied. If he did, he would have known that the country’s first reported cases of Coronavirus revealed that the pandemic had already landed in the United States and was about to spread. Perhaps his narcissism took over and this stable genius, who thinks he knows more about everything than anyone, decided the scientists at the WHO and CDC were simply wrong and overstating its deadly magnitude.
Reelection Dominates Trump’s Psyche
Extrapolating from what Trump has revealed when he rambles, everything he did or didn’t do was based upon how it affected his reelection. Some of his economist friends, whose good judgment he respected, told him to ride it out. Fearful of tanking his proudest achievement, the economy, led him to ignore the health care professionals.
If he had truly understood the implications of a pandemic, how it spreads and how many would die—already reflected in Italy—he could have become a hero by taking action quickly. But he couldn’t. His self-interest, inability to understand complex issues, bad advice and refusal to trust scientific data kept him from being adequately prepared. He is a simple-minded man who, like a child playing peek-a-boo, thought the virus would disappear if he didn’t see it.
It would have taken courage, leadership and understanding—qualities Trump is sorely lacking— to heed the warnings, acknowledge the problems, and take appropriate action. And because of his narcissism and incompetence, the health care system now lacks and/or shortly will lack hospital facilities, ventilators, personal protective equipment and test kits. Even worse, he still doesn’t understand how those items are used effectively, and why the demand is so high.
Trump Is Forced To Take Action
When the magnitude of potential deaths from inaction could no longer be ignored—and his advisers warned him of the negative effect on his reelection chances—he finally abandoned the nonsense of full churches at Easter and told the truth. He announced there was a need for social distancing, although up until just a few days ago, he refused to ask the governor of Florida to close the beaches. He somberly reported the enormous number of people expected to die, but even then, had to boast that the death toll would be ten times greater had he not taken the actions he took at the beginning. But as for mounting an effective medical response, he still does not know what to do.
Anyone who has ever managed a manufacturing operation, been a project manager in construction, or otherwise been involved in military logistics or project management knows what to do in these circumstances. Unlike the scientists who are making their best estimates about the unknown without adequate data, this isn’t unfamiliar territory.
I’m not suggesting it’s easy or that there aren’t many unknown variables. But essentially, this is a logistics problem with a number of moving parts that have to be assembled by a team consisting of one overall manager, key subordinates, support staff and several advisory committees to help define the needs, locate accessible and new medical facilities, identify existing inventories, develop current and new sources of manufacturing, and move equipment and supplies to the locations that need them. Once that information is known, it would be time to invoke the Defense Production Act and empower this team to utilize it as required. In other words, it would put the power of the government to make things happen.
Trump’s Not so Swift Team
This is a national project that must be managed by the federal government. But Trump will not take that responsibility. Sadly, the two individuals charged to oversee the federal government’s response—Vice President Pence and Jared Kushner—have neither the experience nor the smarts to manage this project. Their inadequacies are apparent at each press briefing. We are told how many millions of this and that are being produced—as a result of the President’s great leadership—but a lack of specificity in context of needs. For example, on March 6th, Trump said, “Anybody that wants a test can get a test.” Yet neither Pence nor anyone else can say when enough tests will be available to fulfill that boast. Pence is particularly adept at not answering such questions.
A few days ago Politico reported that Jared Kushner had assembled a kitchen cabinet of outside experts including his former roommate and a suite of McKinsey consultants, essentially to conduct the logistics outlined above. But aside from Kushner’s complete lack of experience and record of unsuccessful assignments—peace in the Middle East, incredible innovations—this is at best, a glass half full. Every successful manager or military leader knows there must be a clear chain of command with well-defined authority and responsibility. That does not exist with both Pence and Kushner operating in their own ill-defined corners of the world—Kushner with the private sector and Pence with government agencies. That generally results in either overlapping efforts and/or inaction where needed. It also assures no one is responsible.
Kushner Takes the Stage
In his first press briefing appearance Kushner revealed his unsuitability for the work with which he’s been charged, as well as the risk it creates to American lives. His pronouncements about stockpiles belonging to the federal government and the need for individual states to build their own stockpiles demonstrate both his lack of knowledge and inexperience in dealing with a national crisis.
His disparagement of governors requesting “things” they did not need “at the moment” and not knowing what was available in their states displayed both his arrogance and ignorance. Now when you hear the identifier “AI” in connection with Kushner, you’ll know it means Arrogant Ignoramus.
Trump’s 100,000 to 240,000 American Deaths
It’s hard to accept the stupidity of not utilizing the federal government to coordinate and centrally acquire all equipment and supplies while using the Defense Production Act when necessary. It is a powerful tool that can force individual companies to provide what the country needs. Utilizing it would not only be a more efficient way to obtain what’s needed and prioritize its distribution, it would also hold costs down. But not using it fits in well with Trump’s reelection plans. It allows him to pit individual governors against each other to acquire needed equipment and supplies, and thereby creates his foils for the failures that will occur. An extraordinary number of deaths will lie in the wake of those failures.
Tragically, narcissism and incompetence have come together in a mean-spirited individual who had and has the position and power to minimize the severity of this novel Coronavirus. Yet he continues to shirk his responsibility, but that’s no surprise. Remember Trump’s infamous quote when asked about responsibility for the federal government’s response to Covid-19. “I take no responsibility at all.”
So here is a man who not only refused to take Covid-19 seriously, but with his sycophantic political and media supporters, encouraged others to disregard it as well. Then as if his negligence had nothing to do with the terrible situation we’re in today, he boasts that if his administration keeps the death toll to 100,000 to 240,000, he will have done “a very good job.” Imagine considering the loss of 100,000 to 240,000 Americans a mark of a job well done.
The Incompetent Narcissist
Two years ago to the day, I reported on Trump as a threat to national security, principally as a result of his policies dealing with Russia,. In l;ater posts I spoke about his policies relating to North Korea, China, Turkey, Iran, NATO and other allies. But the Coronavirus pandemic has made the threat to the United States very real and imminent. And that can be placed fully on his shoulders because of his failure to first take it seriously, initiate policies to minimize its spread and (even now) appoint an experienced and responsible individual to manage the country’s response.
In short, Donald Trump is a callous, incompetent narcissist. I would also call him a simpleton, a moron and a fool, but that would be an insult to other fools, some of whom are kind and courageous.
A Challenge to Boredom: Below the following image I have added a research project for those who are looking for something to occupy their time during this period of sheltering in place.
A Challenge to Boredom: In my Blog above, I’ve reported the symptoms of a narcissistic personality disorder as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. I believe Donald Trump has exhibited every such symptom or characteristic. If you send me an email with a list of the symptom and a description of how and when Trump exhibited it, I will send the person who submits the longest accurate list his or her choice of one of my two novels.