We’re now getting all the accounts of just what President Trump said last night to the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, how she interpreted it, how her Congresswoman did, how her family did. These are harrowing situations under the best circumstances. Even for a normal person, a normal President, it’s hard to know just what to say. But why are we here? Why is this whole thing happening? It’s happening because, for whatever reason, Trump went silent on this, not only with the families but even with the public.
Then when he got called on it, or just asked about it frankly. He lashed out at President Obama. He lied about President Obama in the worst way imaginable. And Bush too. Then he brought James Kelly’s dead son into the mix of it. Then this call happened.
Don’t get me wrong. It sounds like what the President said on this call was awful. It’s hardly out of character for President Trump. He thanks people for great turnouts at refugee relief centers. He asks people who’ve lost everything whether they’re having a good time.
But I want to step back from the immediate moment of this call to look at this whole unfolding moment over the last two or three days. It’s what I said yesterday. President Trump is poison. Everything around him gets damaged and degraded. It’s not any one thing. It’s everything. It’s hard to evaluate the dynamics of this call out of the context of waiting ten days, lying about his predecessors, creating this hideous spectacle with John Kelly’s son. Was the family prepped for something off because of the preceding three days? Probably. Was Trump angry about all the criticism? Probably so. It’s a perfect storm. And it all builds out of one man, Donald Trump.
There’s a big debate about Trump and clinical diagnoses. Malignant narcissism is the one most clinicians refer to. But that’s a distraction. You’re talking about someone with a profound selfishness, a jarring inability to experience empathy and a kind of ravenous emotional predation. Someone who is a profound narcissist is inherently erratic and destructive to those around him since he is acting according to his own impulses, angers and appetites with a relative indifference or even a sort of blindness to those around him. They don’t exist. Lots of wreckage is inevitable. That’s what it’s like living, trapped, in a house with an abuser. This is what it’s like living in a country with a President who’s a predator.
He poisons everything. No one gets out undamaged. Some are damaged profoundly.