Does Trump suffer from ‘self-destructive syndrome’?
At a certain point, even if you are the most die-hard supporter of President Trump, you eventually will sit back, scratch your head and ask in total exasperation, “Why in the world did he just say that?”
At times, it seems as if the president purposely likes to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That continuous counterintuitive behavior naturally raises the question “Does Trump suffer from ‘self-destructive syndrome’?” — a behavior that has been described as causing unnecessary harm to the person in question, who deliberately and constantly places himself or herself in harmful situations or throws up barriers to helpful ones.
Others have referred to it as the “constant chaos theory,” a belief that certain people are not truly happy or content unless everything around them is in a perpetual state of uncertainty, upheaval and escalating risk. No matter if the president or his staff may think this is all speculative “psychobabble,” the fact remains that he walks into traps he himself set on a fairly regular basis.
This reality reveals an even greater truth — that the president is simultaneously blessed and cursed with the best and worst advisers he could possibly have, both of whom stare back at him every morning from the mirror.
Although those who dislike or openly hate this president generally will never admit it, Trump is very intelligent and street-smart and typically has good to great instincts. All of these — for anyone willing to honestly look — were on full display in late 2015 and 2016, when he historically got himself elected president almost entirely on his own.
For his entire business career and, now, his presidency, Trump has been a rhetorical gunslinger who habitually, deliberately shoots from the hip. More often than not, he does find his target. But when he misses, he misses badly. And when he does miss, some who support him scream (at least internally), “Why take the high-risk or useless potshot in the first place?”
The answer might be as simple as that the president can’t help himself.
Like a political version of the “Flying Wallendas,” Trump mentally needs to step out onto the high wire. After a half-century of this act, he has become quite adept at it. That said, everyone on the high wire eventually slips and falls. Everyone.
The president may not believe it or accept it, but he just slipped off the high wire twice in the span of but a few days when he went after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). First, he called her “nasty.” Second, he fed the nonsense questioning of her constitutional eligibility to become vice president.
To their everlasting shame, most of the news media, at best, ignore first lady Melania Trump or, at worst, denigrate her. Nevertheless, she is an exceptionally bright, classy and refined woman. And I suspect that, if asked, she would privately tell the president that women don’t like hearing other successful or accomplished women being referred to as “nasty.” The first lady might even tell her husband something along the lines of “If you have an issue with said individual, women would much prefer you base it on the merits of your case or the weakness of theirs.” The vernacular of the locker room may work well when you are up against a Republican primary field of men, but it’s a losing strategy with all women — most especially the first woman of color to be picked as a vice presidential running mate.
Next, there’s the matter of the president fanning the flames of the truly ludicrous assertion that Oakland, Calif.-born Harris might not be constitutionally eligible to become vice president. Even accepting that Trump enjoys poking the tiger simply to see if he can get away with it, some mischief and foolishness must remain unsaid.
Those who support this president truly believe that he is saving the country from the coming implosion of decades-long liberal policy failures, failures that manifest themselves every day in a growing number of Democratic-controlled cities. Yet many of these same supporters truly wish Trump would remember that he represents the high office of the President of the United States and comport himself accordingly.
If the president truly believes he and his policies are the best remedies for the multiple calamities plaguing our nation, then he needs to retire the locker room trash talk and sell himself and his solutions on their merits. Surely even President Trump knows that after five-plus years of his being on the national stage, the “insult strategy” can become ineffectual, if not exasperating, like the background music when your phone call is put on hold.
Who knows? Maybe even a few compliments uttered at precisely the right time might surprise the world and make all the difference.
Humility and kindness: always a winning ticket.
Douglas MacKinnon was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communication at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration. He is the author of: “The Dawn of a Nazi Moon: Book One.”