When I wrote this piece almost three months before the election, many felt it was too harsh, that if Donald Trump should actually win the presidency his excesses as a candidate would be tempered by the responsibilities of the job.
Now, fifty-plus days into the Trump presidency, with so many of his campaign promises broken, with a cabinet and staff composed of all the people he attacked on the campaign trail, with his core supporters potentially the biggest losers in his disastrous budget proposal and health care replacement bill, it's worth another look at what we knew then and what we know now about Donald J. Trump...
Off-Ramps, Excuses, Incitement
By Ray Cunneff
It’s often said that Donald Trump likes to win. There can be no doubt about that. But conversely, he hates to lose. Moreover, by all accounts, he refuses to accept failure even when he loses. He can never be wrong, can never apologize, and must always win at any cost.
And he always gives himself an escape route. (More on that later.)
Similarly, his sense of grandiosity and self-importance is both readily apparent and legendary, the Trump brand emblazoned on a variety of products, many of which have failed, from Trump Airline, to Trump Casinos, to Trump Vodka, to Trump University, to Trump Magazine and others.
As a developer, he builds monuments to himself, his name in gigantic gold letters on the side of buildings, many of which so heavily leveraged that he no longer owns. He begins projects with a barrage of lawsuits and ends them with more lawsuits. He is the most litigious billionaire in American history.
His “Art of the Deal” ethos has built a carefully crafted cult of personality around the Trump brand. He uses the perception of enormous wealth to lure others to him with the promise of shared riches. His principal negotiating tools are strong arm tactics, unilateral demands and the dual threats of “walking away” and reprisals.
His business plan is always “last money in, first money out”. Following that basic maxim, his business partners often are left to suffer the losses, his contractors go unpaid, his employees lose their benefits, often their jobs, and cities and taxpayers are left with the bill and other collateral damage.
When one of Trump’s business enterprises fails, he always offers excuses and someone other than himself to blame. His scapegoats vary according to the circumstances from shoddy contractors, to worker’s demands, to disloyal employees, to corrupt officials, to a system somehow rigged against him.
And those traits are further reinforced by a myopic view of the world as seen from the penthouse, the limousine and the private jet, the arrogance of great wealth and all the erratic, impulsive symptoms of sleep-deprivation. (He brags that he only gets about fours sleep each night.)
As part of his self-protective, but fragile, psychological cocoon, Trump always looks for “off-ramps”, escape routes, rationalizations and threats of negative consequences should he fail to get his way.
As a candidate for President of the United States, he brings this same mindset to his political dealings, along with the myriad of personality disorders behind it.
He threatened that “2nd Amendment people” might take the law into their own hands should Hillary Clinton be elected president and appoint liberal Supreme Courts judges who would take away their gun rights.
He gave himself an off-ramp after agreeing to three presidential debates when he objected that the schedule had been manipulated by the Clinton campaign to conflict with NFL football games even though the debate schedule had been set by a bipartisan committee last September.
He gave himself an excuse when he said that the only way he could lose was if the other side “cheated”. In a move unprecedented in a presidential election, the Trump campaign launched a webpage to recruit “election observers” that proclaimed "Help Me Stop Crooked Hillary From Rigging This Election!
(Although laws vary from state to state, campaigning by political parties is typically banned at polling sites under voter intimidation laws.)
And now Trump and his supporters have taken the “rigged” election theme to outright incitement of violence by claiming that, if Trump were to lose, it could only have happened through voter fraud and the election would therefore be illegitimate. One well-known Trump surrogate has suggested that a Trump loss could lead to a “revolution”.
Donald Trump’s psychological profile suggests a man unable to accept failure or (worse) the perception of failure, often going to extraordinary lengths, both legal and financial, to protect his name and his brand from negative publicity. He frequently lashes out at anyone who criticizes or opposes him, especially the press.
Donald Trump has frequently been described as a “narcissistic sociopath”, terms often used indiscriminately with little understanding of their meaning. However, Trump exhibits all the characteristics of that complex and most dangerous diagnosis.
A grandiose sense of self-importance, exaggerates accomplishments and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements. He must “win” at any cost.
A driven quest for power. If a narcissistic sociopath cares about anything other than himself, it is power and control over people.
A sense of entitlement, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his expectations.
No apologies, no guilt, no remorse. He believes that he is a gift to the world who makes it richer and more colorful. Therefore, his calculated, even cruel actions are always justified. He can never be wrong.
Utterly self-serving. The needs and wants of others are insignificant and undeserving of consideration.
A lack of empathy, an inability to understand or care about the feelings, circumstances or needs of others.
Invincibility. The narcissistic sociopath believes he is indomitable, often expressed in haughty, overbearing behavior.
Behaviors that seek love and admiration. He sees love and admiration as power tools to manipulate and dominate.
Acts as the producer, director, and only actor of his own show. The narcissistic sociopath casts people in roles that increase his power and sense of importance.
Donald Trump’s psychological profile paints a portrait of a man who is ego-driven, self-serving, charming, demanding, impulsive, volatile, reckless, impatient, incapable of real love or empathy, and emotionally fragile.
Overall, a very hazardous and combustible psyche for a President of the United States.
Even the most casual examination of Trump's record reveals an unscrupulous predator who uses his legal and financial resources and strong arm tactics to advance himself at the expense of others.
The operative word:
aggressively greedy or grasping.
Trump makes a profit. His partners, investors, contractors, employees and municipalities take the losses.
Trump calls that "winning".
Lawsuits are an important part of the Trump business model and are now an important part of the Trump campaign. He's on record on wanting to change the laws so that journalists can be sued for libel. (So much for the constitutional "free press" guarantees.)
Look at almost any Trump business enterprise. They all begin with a flurry of lawsuits and usually end that way. Most never go to trial, he just makes the accused - cities, counties, individuals - spend money they can't afford to defend themselves from the Trump legal onslaught.
When Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump’s ghostwriter for his 1987 memoir, “The Art of the Deal,” decided to tell the public about his concerns that Trump isn’t fit to serve as President, his main worry was that Trump, who is famously litigious, would threaten to take legal action against him. Schwartz’s premonition has proved correct.
On Monday, July 18th, the day that this magazine published my interview with Schwartz, and hours after Schwartz appeared on “Good Morning America” to voice his concerns about Trump’s “impulsive and self-centered” character, Jason D. Greenblatt, the general counsel and vice-president of the Trump Organization, issued a threatening cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz."
Jane Mayer - The New Yorker
Trump can never share the glory, just the royalties. Tony Schwartz regrets ever having written it. He's somewhat protected by never having had to sign a non-disclosure agreement in 1987, the kind that has become standard practice for Trump employees in the years since and has effectively muzzled former employees. Nonetheless, Trumpattorneys have launched a cease-and-desist legal assault on Schwartz, demanding an apology, a re-cant and his share of the royalties from "The Art of the Deal".
It's the "Art of the Steal". I dared another pro-Trump blogger to list Trump's successes. He can't because, although Trump has profited by his predatory business tactics, it's almost impossible to find real Trump successes. He makes profit on the losses of others. There's a long list of Trump business disasters, but he always manages to make a profit. "Last money in, first money out".
This is one of the reasons that fellow-billionaire Mark Cuban has turned against Trump. He recognizes a predator with no interest beyond self-interest. Most super-wealthy people recognize some level of social responsibility but Trump has none.