Do not trust Donald Trump, unless you want to be disappointed, repeatedly. Not because he lies. Not because he exaggerates. Not because he has evil intent. But because he will always put himself first.
In Donald Trump’s case, putting oneself first isn’t the common notion we have about doing what is in one’s best interest. New York Times columnist Charles Blow reads it that way, writing in his recent column, “No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along”:
I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.
But no. In Donald Trump’s case, putting himself first is far less about self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment and far more about protecting his belief that he is in fact all that. Whether he actually is or isn’t is irrelevant. What’s relevant is the extent to which he believes in what he is. And anyone who says or does anything that causes him to think they’re contradicting his beliefs about himself will become his target – immediately and forever, until he decides they’re not or until someone else comes along to threaten his perceived image of himself. But don’t worry, he’ll get back to you.
This pattern of behavior comes from a place inside Donald Trump that demands he be in control, because when he is not in control, he risks others exposing his not being as great as he believes he is. This is why Donald Trump spends so much time being a bully and behaving in ways that can neutralize, de-legitimize and minimize anyone who contradicts his sense of how great he is.
And while he looks mean and sounds mean, and to be the object of his toxicity feels mean, Donald Trump is an equal opportunity bully. He believes he can be Latinos’ savior or women’s savior or the black community’s savior, but he also will point out how criminal immigrants are, or how inferior ugly women are or how permanent and pervasive poverty is – so that, should he be unable to make good on his campaign promise to make America great again for them, it won’t be his fault. Because it can’t be his fault, ever, because he is great.
The machinations of choosing people to be in his administration portends this way of explaining any falling short of great. What did we expect? Americans wanted to shake things up! Sometimes it doesn’t work out. But you wanted to give it a try and and we did what you wanted. Don’t blame us if that was a bad idea – you voters asked for it by giving me the electoral college win.
The fire alarms being pulled by more and more people seek to alert us to the dangers of normalizing Donald Trump’s way of operating when it is not normal. The pressure on journalists to knock it off when it comes to such normalization is particularly intense, and rightfully so. As Micah Sifry writes, in regard to the New York Times’ less than probing interview with Trump this past week:
This is Trump’s reality distortion field. And even on their home turf, surrounded by colleagues, no one at the Times had the gumption to really puncture it.
[Earlier in his column, Micah points to a thorough and specific browbeating by Jon Schwarz, writing at The Intercept and worth reading, called, “Donald Trump Makes the New York Times Great Again!”.]
It’s understandable why, on an individual basis, people would want to get out of the way of Donald Trump’s toxic idea of civic engagement. It’s even understandable that the press wants to have access to Donald Trump. Of course they do. They know that Donald Trump targets Republicans, Democrats and journalists who use facts to point out his failings, his weaknesses, his bad, unethical and hypocritical decisions.
But we need them, and as many others as possible, to keep pushing past the perimeter of Donald Trump’s reality distortion field – inside which he alone makes everything great – and rescue us from the Trump-fabricated gilded cage.
That anyone is fooled by Donald Trump speaks to the work we need to do for so many Americans across this country. Inequity, on so many levels, is the vulnerability in the American political landscape that gave Donald Trump an opening to imagine an even bigger – yes, greater image for himself. I’ve fixed so much, he believes, that no one else could ever have fixed; of course I can fix all these other unfixed problems too! And I won’t just make America great again; I will make Donald Trump great again.
Because, again, Donald Trump’s every word, every promise, every act, is predicated on maintaining and when possible expanding his belief in who he is. When he feels injury because someone asserts something – true or not, personal or not – that he perceives as diminishing him, he goes as far as he believes he has to in order to maintain his reality of how great he is.
Ironically or not, it was the topic of demanding that Mitt Romney apologize to Donald that inspired me to write this post and here’s why: If you’re Mitt Romney, I would not recommend apologizing for anything not nice you said about Donald Trump. He only wants you to apologize so he can know that he was able to control yet another person who previously had injured and wounded him as they sought to diminish him. He is more likely to give you the job if you don’t apologize than if you do. And if you do apologize, then you can bet you’ve just helped make Donald great again, in his own mind at least, and you’ve very possibly not helped yourself get anything at all.
That, my friends, is why Donald Trump cannot be trusted.