Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Morbid Curiosity Aroused by America's WTF President

The New York Times' Frank Bruni performs an autopsy on the bloated body of America's WTF president only to discover that Trump is empty inside.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone with little if any talent for generosity, which is a muscle built through interactions with those who have no biological or legal claim to you but lean on you nonetheless.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone who can't see the world through another's eyes. A novel or movie gets you only so far down the road to empathy; to go the distance, you need more intimate, immediate experience of hurts and aspirations not your own. You need friends.

Show me a person who has no true friendships and I'll show you someone with no adequately moderating influences on his whims, no sufficient cushion for his moods. I'll show you a full-blown narcissist or full-throttle paranoiac or some combination of both.

I'll show you the President of the United States.

In October, The Washington Post published a fascinating profile of Thomas Barrack, a billionaire real estate investor described as "one of President Trump's oldest friends." The profile's author, Michael Kranish, wrote that Barrack often wonders how he has lasted 30 years with such a tempestuous, egomaniacal man.

His conclusion? "I've never needed anything from him," Barrack told Kranish. "I was always subservient to him." That's obviously how Trump prefers the people around him. On bended knee. In full genuflection.

The Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio told me, "He has hangers-on and he has employees and he has other dependents, but I don't think he has friends." He's too twitchily suspicious. Too vain. And so that twitchiness and vanity go unchecked. They metastasise.

"He had no friends in his military academy who stuck," D'Antonio said. "He had no friends in college who stuck. He was a USFL owner, and all the other owners wound up hating him."

Is he all that much different with his kids? When Ivanka and the crew sat with CNN's Anderson Cooper last year to give testimonials about Trump's presence and parenting back in the day, they repeatedly (and perhaps inadvertently) noted that for quality time with him, they went to his office, his construction sites. They met him on his terms and terrain.

Everyone does, and that's anathema to decency and good governance. He gathers and discards allies at will. He acts to sate his own needs, unworried about the impact on others. For him they don't fully exist. There's no space for them, because he has never forced himself to carve it out.

"I think of it as an absolute void," D'Antonio said. It's no way to live, and it's no way to lead.

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