David Roberts+ Your Authors @drvox Seattleite transplanted from Tennessee; now blogging for vox.com/ about energy politics. Climate hawk, deficit dove. Not a doctor. Dec. 30, 2018 5 min read + Your Authors

1. I would just add one thing to this very good thread. (Check out Greg's book!) The question regularly comes up: how conscious is this on Trump's part? To what extent is it a strategy, something he is choosing? Is he trying to deceive us or has he just deceived himself?

2. Anyone who's read my articles (or followed this feed) knows that I think the answer to these questions is both extremely clear & extremely important. To wit: it is not conscious AT ALL. It is 0.0% a strategy. At no point has Trump been capable of behaving otherwise.

3. Trump is a malignant narcissist, which means he's got a gaping, insatiable beast of an ego that needs constant reinforcement & affirmation. He's a slave to it (& is ultimately miserable, like all narcissists). It tells him what reality must be; he builds a world to support it.

4. To be a good liar -- to "deceive," as a conscious act -- one must be able to hold reality & one's lies separate. That very, very basic feature of most people's cognitive landscape simply doesn't apply to Trump. There is ONLY the raging ego & the world it demands.

5. This is why narcissists are so successful so often (at least for limited times): their internal architecture is profoundly unfamiliar to normal people. The separation -- what I want/feel/need over here, the world & other people w/ their own needs over there -- is absent.

6. Most people aren't like that & have trouble believing others are. (Ask anyone who's ever been in an abusive relationship w/ one; it can take a LONG time to accept that it is what it is.) People end up rationalizing narcissists' behavior for them, just to make some sense of it.

7. Anyway, I've been over this a million times. So why does it matter? Lies are lies, bad behavior is bad behavior, who cares how much is conscious? The answer is, it matters because it informs how you assess the ugly political situation we're in.

8. If Trump is some sort of evil communications genius who figured out how to manipulate angry white people & the media enough to hack the system, take over a political party, & win the presidency, then the rest of us are, at least to some extent, exonerated.

9. We were fooled by an evil genius, who saw more deeply than us, tapped more cleverly into the zeitgeist. It's unfortunate, but the solution to the problem is pretty clear -- get rid of the evil genius & return things to normal.

10. But if Trump is a blundering, flailing buffoon, blinded by unquenchable need & bottomless resentment, incapable of the mental discipline necessary to distinguish fantasy from reality ... well then responsibility for all this does not belong with him, but with US. The system.

11. America -- its people, its media, its politics, its institutions, all its systems of self-correction -- is so weakened that even a lumpen orange tangle of uncut venality can trample it. No evil genius required. Raw, theatrical ignorance & resentment will do.

12. Anybody can find themselves outmaneuvered by an evil genius. But when you find yourself laid low by a dimwitted jackass, it's time for some introspection.

13. I'm not going to get into WHY America found itself so vulnerable in 2016. It's some mix of decades of right-wing attacks on US institutions, rapid demographic changes, & lingering pain from the 2008 recession. The lion's share of blame goes to conservative media, IMO.

14. But a thread on that stuff would take forever. My only point here is that it really DOES matter whether Trump is doing what he's doing consciously, strategically, with a plan. If he's not -- and I think the evidence overwhelmingly supports that take -- well, that's real grim.

15. Among other things, it means the problems cannot be solved just by booting Trump out. America's weakness -- its susceptibility to bullshit, demagoguery, gaslighting, lies, & corruption -- is greater than just Trump, and will outlast him.

16. In sum: the fact that Trump is diminishing & degrading America does not mean he is secretly brilliant & diabolical. It means America is secretly weak, afraid, and hollowed out -- not nearly so powerful as it imagines. Er ... Happy New Year! </fin>

17. All right, one other thing to add! (This is all going bye-bye when I nuke my archives on Monday night anyway.) A few people have cited the quote from Trump to Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes. Basically: "I bash the press so people won't believe bad stories about me."

18. Some people point to that as evidence that he DOES have a strategy. But I think it indicates just the opposite, The way Trump sees it, if X person/institution criticizes him, he attacks X. For any value of X. That's all there is to it: press bashes him so he bashed press.

19. WE read special significance into it because for US the press is not just another institution; it is the main mechanism by which the electorate is informed. It's *special*. To go after the press, despite its special status, must be part of some larger evil plan.

20. But to Trump, like any malignant narcissist, NOTHING is special - not the press, not veterans or Gold Star parents, not heads of state. To him, all that stuff is on a flat, undifferentiated plane of Not Me. He will eagerly wage war on any of it to protect his ego.

21. The press has no special status for him, it's just something that is threatening his narcissistic ego protection. "You say bad things about me so I try to destroy you" -- he would say the same to/about any person or institution.

22. I mean, consider: if you had a diabolical plan to systematically weaken a truth-finding institution so that you could lie without restraint ... would you SAY SO, out loud, to a f'ing journalist? That's not how diabolical plans work!

23. To me, this is a classic example of people projecting layered intentions onto Trump because the stupid, stupid truth is too disturbing to contemplate. He said, "you mean to me so I mean to you." Surely there's more to it than that? No. No, there isn't. </fin fer real>

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