Thursday, August 08, 2019


We know that a major reason for President Trump's trip to Dayton and El Paso yesterday was that he wanted to be praised.
Mr. Trump ... finished the day claiming success. “We had an amazing day,” he told reporters in El Paso. Of his earlier stop in Dayton, he said, “The love, the respect for the office of the presidency — I wish you could have been in there to see it.”
But despite his rampant narcissism, I thought he might refrain from doing something like this:
President Donald Trump is getting criticized for a 30-second video he shared documenting the warm reception he received in Dayton and El Paso following mass shootings last weekend.

The professionally shot and edited video was shared on the president’s Twitter feed Wednesday evening and features a series of shots of President Trump shaking hands and posing for photos with hospital staffers, though noticeably does not include any images of his meeting with any victims from either mass shooting....

Though we should have seen that appalling video coming when we spotted this tweet from Trump's social media director, which preceded the video by a few hours:

No gravitas. No empathy. No sense of the solemnity of the occasion. It's all about the mighty Trump and the jolly people who are delighted to be in his presence.

And yet even White House staffers recognize that yesterday's combination of self-aggrandizement and rage against his enemies looks bad for Trump, according to Maggie Haberman:
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman is quite sure the White House thinks President Donald Trump behaved disastrously on Wednesday while he was supposed to be consoling the victims of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.

Haberman spoke to CNN’s John Berman on Thursday....

As Berman noted all the people Trump attacked on Wednesday, he asked Haberman if the White House thinks Trump’s visits went well for the president.

“No, they don’t,” Haberman answered. “Most people – while they would I suspect not say that publicly – will privately admit that yesterday was something of a debacle. These are not the headlines they wanted to see. They wanted him to go in and behave differently. The goal was to go in and get out with as little news as possible.”
White House staffers can't control Trump's sense of grievance, and they can't do anything about his self-absorption -- but did they have to reinforce Trump's obsession with himself? Trump didn't create that video -- someone else did. (I assume Scavino was deeply involved.)

It's reasonable to assume that Trump wanted the day sold this way. But why give Trump what he wants? Reporters have noted that if staffers ignore or refuse to obey the most foolhardy of Trump's direct orders, it's quite possible he won't remember what he asked them to do. So why not ignore Trump's demand for this tasteless video (if in fact it was the president's idea)?

The answer is that there are people in Trump's circle who are quite willing to enable his narcissism, either because they fear losing their place in his circle or because they agree with Trump that making him look like a flaming egomaniac is smart politics. In other words, they encourage his mental illness because they think malignant narcissism sells.

They may be right -- we'll see in November 2020 -- but I think they're deeply mistaken.

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