When my clients are trying to solve a problem, one of the things I lean on them to do is get really clear what the actual problem is. Part of that is learning to use clear, unambiguous language. To call a spade a spade. To stop talking about “Centers of Influence” because that’s fuzzy. What am I doing? Getting more influence? What does that look like? Nope. Those people are “Referral Sources,” and your job is to get referrals from them. Everyone understands exactly what that means.
With that, I give you Donald Trump, sanity vs. insanity, and why a little anonymity makes sense.
If you’ve read these posts for any time, you know that I am deeply centrist and profoundly in favor of what works. I’ve always tried to explain more than advocate. But before the 2016 election, for the first time since I started writing these posts, I took a specific position on a specific election. My position was that given the choice between venal (Hillary) and crazy (Trump, whom I described as an “ADD-addled, narcissistic sociopath with a significant brain defect [underdeveloped frontal cortex leading to lack of impulse control”]), the right answer was to put 100 clothespins on your nose and vote for venal.
The only thing that has happened in the past two years to change my assessment has been learning that the single term “psychopath,” in its true clinical form rather than its Hollywood-melodramatic form, encompasses the entire collection of traits I used to describe Trump in October 2016.
Here, according to Psychology Today, are the clinically defined, observable characteristics of psychopaths. I encourage you to read the full description.
- Callousness and lack of empathy
- General lack of emotion, but especially lack of “social emotions such as shame, guilt and embarrassment”
- Blaming others for things that are their own fault
- Admitting blame only when forced into a corner, but not exhibiting shame or remorse, and not changing as a result
- Superficial charm coupled with chronic untruthfulness and “pathological lying,”
- Speech inflated and distorted to serve selfish ends
- Difficulty using metaphors and abstract words
- A “grandiose sense of self-worth”
- A “pathological egocentricity and incapacity for love”
- Inability to plan for the future ( “Carefree nonplanness”)
- Violence (“Very low tolerance to frustration and low threshold for discharge of aggression”)
That’s the clinicians’ list, not mine. Take a serious look at it. On the last trait, Trump talks a big game but actually displays signs of physical cowardice rather than bravery. On everything else, he is way, way over the bar. You know it and so do I.
It is amply documented by Wolff, Woodward and the anonymous writer of the NY Times op-ed (whose three descriptions are stunningly consistent), and by everything we know about Trump dating back to his public emergence in the 1980s. And if you check out this assessment, you’ll find it easy to give him a score high enough to justify an actual diagnosis.
Some calls are close. This one is not.
If you’re trying to see it otherwise, I’m afraid you are proactively looking for reasons to avoid an obvious truth. Perhaps you’re afraid that some policies you like will get tarred in the process. That’s not what this is about. This is about something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks. I’m sorry, but it’s a duck. With its finger on the button.
So here it is: We have a psychopath in the White House.
Many people, including the press, Congress, and even the Democrats seem reluctant to state this obvious truth. They seem to be afraid that our public discourse, our security or perhaps our desire to avoid embarrassment would be threatened if we admitted that we elected a psychopath to be our president.
I don’t understand that. I think calling a spade a spade matters. There are some entirely legitimate reasons why millions of Americans cast a profoundly anti-status quo vote in 2016, however poor the vessel may have been. But imagine a poll asking Americans, “Would you vote to elect a psychopath president?” I’m guessing that fewer than 60 million would say yes.
There’s a bit of good news here. We can stop wasting time and breath looking for reasons and rationale and rationality and clever strategies behind his behavior. He’s just crazy.
Which brings us to the aforementioned NY Times op-ed. The writer has been widely criticized for remaining anonymous and staying in the administration. If this were a case of policy disagreement – you know, we had a serious debate about tariffs and I couldn’t abide the decision – then I would agree 100%. Resign and declare your differences.
But that’s not what this writer was telling us. He or she was saying that there’s a crazy person at the controls, and that some non-crazy people are staying in the cockpit to try keep him from flying the plane into a mountain. This is about fundamental fitness for office. 25th Amendment stuff. Lack of sanity.
This is not how our government is supposed to work, but we should be glad it’s working that way right now. Because there is a psychopath in the White House.
It doesn’t matter whether he’s clothed in the garb of a conservative or a liberal or a populist or, for that matter, a Druid. What matters is that he’s a psychopath.
One more time, get used to it: He’s a psychopath.
We all know he is, so let’s stop pretending he’s not. Duck or spade, let’s name it. It won’t make things worse, it will save us a bunch of time and energy, and it might even help keep us from doing this again.