Mouthing off like a teenager acting out. Insisting, contrary to the evidence, that everything he does is “the best, the greatest, the richest, the most,” while anyone who angers him is “the worst, a dummy, a loser…” Refusing to participate when things don’t go his way. Proudly flaunting his sexual peccadilloes and multiple marriages. Spewing below-the-belt abuse like a middle-schooler newly acquainted with offensive language. Could it be that Donald Trump suffers from a personality disorder?
It’s a Trump world – and we’d better get used to it
Grandiose personality disorder (GPD) is a form of clinical narcissism, though when millions of us consider reality show celebrations of bad behavior to be can’t-miss TV, the charge of narcissism doesn’t carry the sting it once did. Truth be told, more than a few public personalities could probably fit the diagnosis.
That said, no recent political figure has openly displayed the degree of incivility mixed with self-aggrandizement daily exhibited by Donald Trump. That he has not only thrown decorum to the winds, but outright shoved it off a cliff is bemoaned by pundits left and right. But his supporters seem inspired, even fired up by it, as if he were some bad-boy role model rather than a candidate for the highest office in the land. One fan quoted in Time magazine exults, “He says what we wish we could say….” It seems his constituency can’t get enough of his brazenness and conceit.
Telling it like it ain’t
A key trait of GPD is an inflated sense of self-importance. This can translate to a tendency to “fluff up” or, to be frank, overstate accomplishments. Although Trump regularly touts himself as a vastly successful businessman, the facts don’t support these claims.
According to a February article in the highly-regarded The Economist, much of the wealth Trump inherited from his father was squandered on projects that went bust. For a man who characterizes himself as an international tycoon, most of his own fortune is confined to the U.S. (66% of it in New York), and the profitability of a great number of projects driven by him is dubious or non-existent. “…[H]e has not yet created a great company, raised permanent capital on public markets, gone global or diversified very successfully,” The Economist concludes.
But if baby, you’re the bottom, I’m the top
To hear Trump tell it, however, he’s “made billions of billions of dollars making deals all over the world….” He also routinely dubs himself the best: “The best thing that’s happened to Megyn Kelly…” “The best thing that could ever happen” to Israel, and the candidate who has “the best words.” By contrast, his every detractor is termed “a loser,” from Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to figures as diverse as John McCain, former staffer Roger Stone, pundit Charles Krauthammer, scriptwriter Danny Zuker, architecture critic Paul Goldberger…and Cher.
Taking his ball and going home
The overblown self-image held by a GPD subject is typically accompanied by an expectation that others should treat him in a way he feels befits his grandiose self-perception. The GPD sufferer will typically fly into a rage or seek revenge if he feels he’s not being treated as he should be.
As we’ve seen, when Trump can’t get a debate or other event arranged according to his wishes, he simply refuses to participate. Earlier this year, when Fox News would not accede to his demand that they replace Megyn Kelly as Republican debate moderator, he declined to attend, choosing instead to set up an event of his own elsewhere. Last week he bowed out of the high-profile Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the last minute when organizers would not comply with his wishes. He also has a long history of suing people for millions just for saying a single thing about him that he doesn’t like.
Even worse for a politician, Trump has banned, demanded undue apologies, or even had ejected from his events numerous journalists assigned to cover him. When the Des Moines Register ran a negative editorial piece, he banned their entire roster from his appearances—in Iowa. Do we risk installing a president who might simply refuse to attend an economic or peacemaking summit because the arrangements were not to his liking? Or who will stomp out of a press conference because he doesn’t like the questions being asked?
A brat or a thug?
GPD sufferers are also known to lash out violently at any suggestion of criticism, a trait that is, unfortunately for Trump, on frequent display. The New York Times keeps a lengthy running tally of pundits, reporters, candidates and organizations he has criticized and insulted.
Privy to an advance copy of a decidedly negative speech by Mitt Romney, Trump shot back via Twitter, using the only ammunition he seems to employ – the personal attack. In debate after debate, and in daily social media salvos he routinely delivers below-the-belt insults that put him on the level of a vulgar schoolyard bully. The trouble is there’s no principal or teacher here to correct him. Let’s face it, we’re contending with an unrestrained being for whom the term “appropriate” seems not to exist.
The “Christian” strip club-owning adulterer?
Perhaps it’s the shamelessness and lack of empathy associated with GPD that explain the conscience-free conduct Trump’s displayed for many years. Although he’s declared himself to be a “strong Christian,” according to The Daily Beast at every campaign stop Trump champions The Art of the Deal, a book in which he brags about multiple affairs with married women. His frequent failed business ventures have put numerous employees out of work. But none of these events have elicited any evidence, or even professions, of remorse.
GPD can be catastrophic even when its effects are limited to the narrow interpersonal sphere of friends, family and coworkers. But for a man who exhibits so many symptoms of this syndrome to lead the largest economy on the planet, one filled with entities dedicated to undermining the U.S., the prospect is chilling. In an increasingly unstable world, where America’s fate can be impacted as never before by international politics and economic issues, can we afford a Commander-in-Chief with so many antisocial qualities?