Friday, August 30, 2019


This is wrong:

David Brooks writes:
In the first few months of his presidency, Donald Trump surrounded himself with a certain sort of ramrod military man: John Kelly, Michael Flynn, H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis. These men had or appeared to have the kind of manly virtues and bearing that Trump likes to see in himself: courage, toughness, combativeness.
Trump certainly sees himself as tough and combative. Courageous? If you gained his confidence, I think he'd tell you that it's stupid to risk your life, and he knows that, while the generals don't. What kind of loser would volunteer to do that?
But when you look at how someone like, say, Jim Mattis forged his character, you realize that he is actually the exact opposite of Trump. Mattis built strengths and virtues through the steady application of intense effort over decades. Trump is a man who has been progressively hollowed out by the acid of his own self-regard.
I'm sure Mattis has plenty of self-regard. But there's self-regard and then there's Trump's malignant narcissism. Trump actually has engaged in "steady application of intense effort over decades," but it's intense effort directed at getting his name in the papers and convincing people to shower him with affection.
Mattis is a man who is intensely loyal to others and attracts loyalty among those around him. Trump is disloyal to others and attracts disloyalty in return.
Trump is rich and sometimes gregarious, which has inspired a certain number of people to be loyal to him. Trump isn't exactly loyal in return -- dependent is more like it. (There are so many things Trump simply can't do, or even understand.)
... [Mattis's] new book “Call Sign Chaos,” which he wrote with Bing West and which will be released next week, is purportedly about leadership but really it is a portrait of Mattis’s life-defining love for the Marine Corps....

Love is a motivational state. It propels you. You want to make promises to the person or organization you love. Character is forged in the keeping of those promises. If, on the other hand, you are unable to love and be loved, you’re never going to be in a position to make commitments or live up to them. You’re never going to forge yourself into a person who can be relied upon.
Malignant narcissism is also a motivational state. It (along with millions of dollars of Daddy's money) propelled Trump. He made lots of promises to the one he loved -- himself -- and he kept most of them. He's (sort of) rich. He's constantly in the press. He welched on a lot of deals, but not on the commitments he made to himself.

And here's why I don't believe Mattis is the man Trump wishes he were:
Mattis’s drive, born of his devotion to the Corps, is his most telling trait. He works insanely hard, propels himself extremely quickly, making himself, every day, a better Marine. Much of the work is intellectual....

“If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you,” Mattis and West write.
Trump doesn't think he needs to read. He believes in eugenics. He thinks his genes gave him some sort of special brain that allows him to outmaneuver people who have studied subjects in depth. (Remember, he said on the campaign trail that he knew more about ISIS than the generals. Earlier this year, Axios compiled a list of all the things Trump claims to know more about than anyone else. Drones? Campaign finance? Social media? The courts? He's the expert. Just ask him.)
He is also willing to submit himself to an institution. Somebody like Trump is anti-institutional. He thinks every organization is about himself, and every organization’s procedures and traditions should bend to his desires.

But a person with an institutional mind-set has a deep reverence for the organization he has joined and how it was built by those who came before. He understands that institutions pass down certain habits, practices and standards of excellence.
This is another treason Trump would never really want to be Jim Mattis. Trump wants to smash everything that doesn't have his own name on it. I'm sure he thinks loyalty to an institution outside your own family is for suckers.

When Trump appointed a lot of generals to top positions in the early days of his presidency, it wasn't because he wanted to be them -- it was because he thought being photographed with them made him look good. He surrounded himself with generals for exactly the same reason he's always surrounded himself with big-haired, big-breasted blondes -- they make him look like a stud.

Trump doesn't want to be Jim Mattis. He wanted to be able to say, "Everyone thinks Mattis is the toughest guy in the world but he kisses my ass. I get the reflected glory, and I didn't even have to get shot at."

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