Sunday, March 27, 2016

Is Trump a Sociopath?

At our Sabbath lunch table yesterday, one of my guests asked me pointedly, "Given your expertise as a psychologist, would you say Donald Trump is a sociopath?"

I can't give a professional diagnosis, but from his public appearances and the way he continuously makes inflamatory (perhaps racist, perhaps misogynistic) statements, you'd have to wonder. Here's a list of sociopathological characteristics useful in evaluating Trump*:

  • Superficial charm and good intelligence
  • Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
  • Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
  • Unreliability
  • Untruthfulness and insincerity
  • Lack of remorse and shame
  • Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
  • Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
  • Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
  • General poverty in major affective reactions
  • Specific loss of insight
  • Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
  • Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without
  • Sex life impersonal, trivial, and poorly integrated
  • Failure to follow any life plan
You can judge for yourself, but I do know that politically, Trump is dysfunctional and self-destructive. How so? He undermines his own progress by needlessly going on the offensive (literally).

Out of the blue, weeks after his last TV debate with Megyn Kelly, he decided to Tweet another hit on the Fox News anchor, adding to his collection of childish names, including "sick," "overrated," "unwatchable," and "crazy."

He got in trouble previously for snarky comments about former rival Carly Fiorina's looks ("Look at that face. Can you imagine that as the face of our next President?"). Then he went after Heidi Cruz, threatening to "spill the beans" about her, and then publishing an unflattering photo with a glamour shot of his wife, a former-model.

Next comes a front-page Enquirer banner story that blared, "It's over for Pervy Ted! Their
Shocking Claims--Cruz's Five Secret Mistresses!" Cruz quickly called the story "trash" and blamed Trump's "henchmen." (Trump denied association to the Enquirer story, adding, "while they were right about OJ Simpson, John Edwards and many others, I certainly hope they are not right about Lyin' Ted Cruz.")

How does this wallowing in the muck help Trump? Even his base must question the sanity of their candidate's uncontrollable tweets. At at time when Trump most needs to look credibly Presidential, he undermines any gains with his impulsive, aggressive jabs. Trump's success at AIPAC with a speech by his son-in-law Jered Kushner (Trump's only teleprompter-read presentation) was immediately undone by his renewed sleazy attacks.

This is dysfunction: Working to set yourself up for success and then undermining your own efforts.

My husband made an excellent observation: Trump wants to win, but he doesn't want to govern. It's a conflict that causes him to self-sabotage.

If he really wanted to win, he wouldn't shoot himself in the foot (reminds me of his comment "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK?"). If indeed he's not stupid, and I am increasingly unsure about that, he would see that to win, he must widen his support, not endanger it.

He needs to prove his grasp of domestic and international issues, leading the military, and working with those who oppose him. Instead, he's mired in cutting comments, personal lawsuits and scandals, and general assurances that we needn't know specifics because, believe him, his solutions will be great and brilliant. His pattern is to foment criticism, and then lash out with an even harsher attack.

This penchant for self-destruction is now leaving even those who once admired his chutzpah astonished. There's no point in crudely attacking a fellow Republican, especially if Trump has confidence (as he often asserts) that he'll earn nomination. Trump has lowered the campaign to where parents now must shield their children from the political process.

A new Bloomberg poll taken March 18-22 finds Trump's net favorability rating just 29%; his net unfavorable is 68%. Hillary's favorable is 44% and her unfavorable 53%. In a contest between the two, who wins?

John Kasich: I think, therefore I can
Therefore, I repeat my post of two weeks ago: a vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary. At this point, Republicans desperately need a candidate who can attract both Hillary haters and Trump disdainers. Cruz is also disliked, with unfavorables at 55% and favorables just 32%. Kasich seems too far from getting the nod, but his favorability, according to the same Bloomberg poll, is 46%, higher than Hillary's, and his unfavorability is lower than hers, at just 32%. He's actually the best-liked of the lot.

I find Kasich a bit creepy, but I do admire that he refused to join the Trump mud-slinging, and focuses on policies and experience. He might be the best bet to save the GOP, and the nation, from spiraling disaster.

We certainly cannot afford to have a sociopath for President.

* Characteristics of a sociopath from Thomas, M.E., "How to Spot a Sociopath," Psychology Today, May 7, 2013.

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