Approval Junkie Would Kill Us All to Get His Fix

Joel:

So, we’e a little more than 100 days into the misery of a Trump presidency (and what I hope is at least 90% of the way done with it), and I can honestly say that it’s gone better than I expected. So far, Trump’s ego has killed just one Navy SEAL and an American child in his botched raid in Yemen back in January. And think of all the places we haven’t yet had a war with! We’re somehow NOT exchanging nukes with with North Korea or China, which I consider a win.  Sure, Trump is pointlessly escalating the largely pointless war in Afghanistan (Did you think that was over? Wrong!), but if fighting there could keep him distracted from starting a new war, maybe we can call it “harm reduction” rather than “waste of human life.” Sorry to the US soldiers about to lose life and limb for that, but it seems like reality TV just isn’t enough to occupy our fine leader these days, so someone’s gotta do it.

In light of Trump’s cavalier attitude about sharing top-secret information with a Russian that our experts say is a spy, some conservatives are coming around to the idea that Trump maybe just maybe doesn’t have the temperament for a job as a bingo caller, much less to be president, though others are still willing to defend a president who is “unschooled” (as if ignorance of how the office of the presidency works is something we should just tolerate in the honest-to-God-I-still-can’t-believe-it POTUS). I suspect that if they didn’t mind his bringing the nuclear football to lunch and showing up in selfies, they won’t mind him revealing sensitive information about vulnerable allies in the fight against ISIS (which was, I think, supposed to be solved in February, right?).

All of this is predictable. After all, senior intelligence officials warned about it during the campaign.

As a Christian, I like turnaround stories–the scales dropping from Paul’s eyes and his conversion from the chief persecutor of Christians to the architect of the early church. Those who anticipated such a dramatic change between Candidate and President Trump were looking for an equally large miracle, and they were foolish. At 70 years old, Trump’s character was pretty well-formed (or, rather, ill-formed); changing it would be difficult even if Trump himself wanted to, and he doesn’t–and why should he? It, along with inherited millions, got him this far.

Trump’s character is familiar to any of us who have had extended contact with those with fragile egos (by which I mean sense of self, not arrogance). Apparently, 60 million of us didn’t learn this simple playground lesson: the vacuum inside a bully can never be filled from the outside.

Trump’s decision to compromise the safety of allies who provided us with information about ISIS was not even a decision–it was a way for him to get the approval he needs like you and I need oxygen, and he doesn’t hesitate to suck up flattery like we suck in air. Trump, when facing a man his own fragile masculinity recognized as savvier than him,  did the only think a fragile ego can do: he begged for approval. Oh, he can’t ask “Do you like me? Am I the best? Do you respect and fear me?” So instead he brags about his intel–he has “the best intel.” (Of course you do, you rube. You have all the power of the presidency. No one is impressed that you have intel.) Like so many other fragile men, he needs flattery and is willing to trade anything for it. He gave away important, dangerous information, jeopardizing our relationships with our allies, in exchange for the chance to brag about it. He isn’t “the best”; he is the neediest.

Trump’s embarrassing dependency on other’s approval threatens us all. We need to recognize it as a permanent condition, not a temporary lack of judgment. 

That kind of emptiness can never be filled. In exchange for others telling him he is a big and powerful man, Trump would give away every secret, endanger every member of the US military, alienate every ally, stuff the nuclear football in Kim Jong-un’s Christmas stocking, hand Xi Jinping the keys to Fort Knox, and appoint Vladimir Putin as the new Secretary of State. And he would still not be satisfied  because a person without a core, without an identity apart from the admiration of others (which is easy to get when you are rich, even though those who claim to love you–perhaps your wives–despise you), can never have that need met. It’s bottomless.

Which means this will not stop until Congress makes it stop.

Which means, really, it’s up to us.

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