We Can’t Have Four Years of This

Media criticism is a huge part of my job and I’ll always find things to fault in how the media covers our politics and our politicians. I do not believe, however, that the media went easy on Donald Trump during the campaign. I’ve actually never seen any politician get so savaged day after day as Trump was in the last election. Pretty much everything we know about Trump’s shortcomings came from articles written either by bigfoot reporters at our major newspapers or by longtime Trump-watching journalists in the New York area.

Trump lost the endorsement of dozens of newspapers that have endorsed Republicans in the past. In the end, in the entire country, he only won the endorsement of a single handful of metro newspapers. Even the right-wing media turned on him, including the National Review which opposed him with real fury. I could write a separate article about how Clinton was treated, but I want to stay on my topic.

Donald Trump was exposed by the media and people had access to all the information they needed to know about his fraudulent business practices, his dishonest and bullying litigiousness, his failure to honor contracts, his sordid personal life, his connections to prominent organized crime figures, his business failures, his record of racism, his foreign entanglements, and his almost unbelievable personal narcissism. Maybe the media actually helped Trump despite giving us all this information because they gave him so much attention and chased his every shocking move, but they didn’t give him a pass or fail to treat him with appropriate skepticism.

We all learned something about the standing of the media when enough of the public shrugged it all off and supported him to make him our president. I think it’s clear that the media lost their credibility with much of the electorate, and we can debate how much they earned that loss of credibility. Yet, it’s clear to me, at least, that they lost more than they deserved to lose.

Now, when I open up the Washington Post and an article begins with the following paragraph, I know things are messed up.

The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.

Even after more than a half a decade in office, a failing war based on falsified intelligence, a drowned New Orleans, and a global collapse of the economy, no major newspaper ran straight news articles this hostile and disrespectful about President George W. Bush. Donald Trump has been in office less than a week, and his word is already an open joke and so lacking in credibility that our major newspapers have no compunction about dismissing his utterances out of hand.

Reading the transcript of his first big presidential interview with ABC News, I was something close to paralyzed with fear. Watching it made things worse.

This is the definition of a situation where I don’t know where to begin. But I guess we could go to the Mayo Clinic and look at how they define the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner

If you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may feel a sense of entitlement — and when you don’t receive special treatment, you may become impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — for instance, the best car, athletic club or medical care.

At the same time, you have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have secret feelings of insecurity, shame, vulnerability and humiliation. To feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and try to belittle the other person to make yourself appear superior. Or you may feel depressed and moody because you fall short of perfection.

I am aware that it is considered unethical by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose someone’s mental disorder without the proper training and without actually having the opportunity to deal with them as a patient. In this case, however, I just don’t think there is any question that our new president is a textbook case. Read the transcript of that interview or watch the video of it and run down the checklist of symptoms.

Let’s just look at the part about feeling insecurity and humiliation and being moody and depressed. Here’s what White House press secretary Sean Spicer said about how the president felt when he saw the coverage about how lightly attended his inaugural was in comparison with President Obama’s two inaugurals. Admittedly, Spicer deflected the reaction onto the staff, but you can tell that he’s echoing Trump’s complaints.

SPICER: …But I will tell you that it’s not — it’s not just about a crowd size. It’s about this constant — you know, he’s not going to run. Then if he runs, he’s going to drop out. Then if he runs, he can’t win, there’s no way he can win Pennsylvania, there’s no way he can win Michigan.

SPICER: Then, if won, it’s oh, well he(ph) — there is this constant theme to undercut the enormous support that he has. And I think that it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win.

QUESTION: And — and if I may —

SPICER: Hold on — because I — I think it’s important. He’s gone out there and defied the odds over and over and over again. And he keeps getting told what he can’t do by this narrative that’s out there. And he exceeds it every single time. And I think there’s an overall frustration when you — when you turn on the television over and over again and get told that there’s this narrative that you didn’t win. You weren’t going to run. You can’t pick up this state…

…But when you’re constantly getting told that can’t be true, we doubt that you can do this, this won’t happen, and that’s the narrative when you turn on television every single day, it’s a little frustrating.

And I think that for those people around him, his senior team especially, but so many of the other folks that are either here in the administration, that gave up their time during the transition, they left a job to work for three or four weeks because they are so committed to having his nominees get through, it’s a little demoralizing to turn on the TV day after day and hear, can’t do this, this guy’s not going to get confirmed, no way they’re going to go through.

I can understand not liking negative press coverage or coverage that seems to downplay your accomplishments, but Trump should be secure in knowing that he defied his doubters. He’s sitting in the Oval Office, which is all the proof he needs. Yet, he’s in flat out denial about the fact that his speech at the CIA was not “a home run” or one of “the greatest speeches ever.” He’s in denial about his small inaugural and his popular vote drubbing.

But it’s not just that he’s delusional and has a textbook mental disorder. He also justifies lying by saying it’s what his fans want to hear.

For example, in the interview with ABC News, he was informed that the author of a Pew report he’s been citing to justify his claims of voter fraud has said that his study found no evidence of voter fraud. Trump wondered why, in that case, he wrote the report at all. Then he said:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: According to Pew report, then he’s — then he’s groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they wanna write something that you wanna hear but not necessarily millions of people wanna hear or have to hear.

Here he is no longer concerned about the truth at all, but only with reporters writing what his supporters want or need to hear. And he follows that up with this:

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you know what’s important, millions of people agree with me when I say that if you would’ve looked on one of the other networks and all of the people that were calling in they’re saying, “We agree with Mr. Trump. We agree.” They’re very smart people.

The people that voted for me — lots of people are saying they saw things happen. I heard stories also. But you’re not talking about millions. But it’s a small little segment. I will tell you, it’s a good thing that we’re doing because at the end we’re gonna have an idea as to what’s going on. Now, you’re telling me Pew report has all of a sudden changed. But you have other reports and you have other statements.

Here, what’s important is that millions of people are watching “alternative facts” on Fox News and agree with President Trump. It doesn’t matter that they’re all wrong or misguided. As for the stories that Trump has heard, there are huge problems with those, too. If fact, the problems are so big that I just don’t know how to characterize it. You’re just going to have to read it for yourself.

On Monday, President Trump gathered House and Senate leaders in the State Dining Room for a get-to-know-you reception, served them tiny meatballs and pigs-in-a-blanket, and quickly launched into a story meant to illustrate what he believes to be rampant, unchecked voter fraud.

Mr. Trump kicked off the meeting, participants said, by retelling his debunked claim that he would have won the popular vote if not for the three million to five million ballots cast by “illegals.” He followed it up with a Twitter post early Wednesday calling for a major investigation into voter fraud.

When one of the Democrats protested, Mr. Trump said he was told a story by “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer,” whom he described as a friend, according to three staff members who were in the room for the meeting…

..The three witnesses recalled Mr. Langer being the protagonist of the story, although a White House official claimed the president had been telling a story relayed to the golfer by one of Mr. Langer’s friends.

The witnesses described the story this way: Mr. Langer, a 59-year-old native of Bavaria, Germany — a winner of the Masters twice and of more than 100 events on major professional golf tours around the world — was standing in line at a polling place near his home in Florida on Election Day, the president explained, when an official informed Mr. Langer he would not be able to vote.

Ahead of and behind Mr. Langer were voters who did not look as if they should be allowed to vote, Mr. Trump said, according to the staff members — but they were nonetheless permitted to cast provisional ballots. The president threw out the names of Latin American countries that the voters might have come from.

Mr. Langer, whom he described as a supporter, left feeling frustrated, according to a version of events later contradicted by a White House official.

The anecdote, the aides said, was greeted with silence, and Mr. Trump was prodded to change the subject by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Just one problem: Mr. Langer, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., is a German citizen with permanent residence status in the United States who is, by law, barred from voting, according to Mr. Langer’s daughter Christina.

“He is a citizen of Germany,” she said, when reached on her father’s cellphone. “He is not a friend of President Trump’s, and I don’t know why he would talk about him.”

Whatever this is, it’s not sanity. This isn’t some crazy like a fox cunning aimed at distracting us while Trump steals our lunch. It’s out-and-out racist-drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar insanity. In fact, Cliff Clavin look reliable in comparison.

The media is treating this with appropriate astonishment. They’re really not sugarcoating it except that they’re not willing, like me, to come out and call this man exactly what he is, which is critically, urgently, unfit for office.

He must go soon.

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