Character is Destiny
I’m definitely not the only one that spends far more time than I should truly anguishing over Trump and this is exactly the point. We might have a high-minded, constructive, intelligent disagreement about ideas, political philosophy and policy, but we shouldn’t be having a volatile disagreement over whether a person is morally, temperamentally, and psychologically fit to hold the highest office. Trump is not just divisive, he is polarizing in the extreme. Indeed, his entire political strategy is to polarize and destroy the middle ground. You can love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore him because he won’t let you.
Moral, temperamental and psychological fitness for office should be a given, a basic starting point, a prerequisite for office. It has become common for people to call Trump a narcissist and to dismiss that mental order as if it is no worse than the common cold. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a serious mental disorder. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined in DSM V (the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association). I won’t quote the lengthy “diagnostic features” of this disorder, but the diagnostic criteria are:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
4. Requires excessive admiration
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
If you have the time, it is worthwhile to read the discussion of the “diagnostic features” that I have not quoted. Whether Trump is a narcissist or suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder or both or is just a common liar makes no real difference, he is not a truth-teller.
It has been especially troubling to me that evangelicals and many of their high profile leaders have supported Trump. One would think Christian values as taught in the Bible would be of paramount importance to this group, yet Trump practices none of the Christian values. True, he incessantly courts Christians and Jews by following Pontius Pilate’s playbook of giving them what they ask for, but as I was taught, actions speak louder than words, and one would be hard pressed to reconcile Trump’s life as he has actually lived it with Biblical principles.
This disconnect finally caused Mark Galli, former editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, to publish an editorial (Trump Should be Removed From Office) on December 19, 2019. Mr. Galli’s editorial caused a backlash among some evangelicals, but it also received a lot of support from those evangelicals who had been hoping someone would give voice to what they had been feeling.
Perhaps evangelicals think the ends justify the means. If that is so, they should remember the old, old story of the frog who agreed to carry the scorpion on its back across the pond only because the scorpion promised not to sting him. When the frog, who is dying from the scorpion’s sting, asks the scorpion why he stung him, the scorpion replied: “because I am a scorpion.” The fundamental character of a public official will eventually matter and, in my personal judgment, the higher the office the more it matters.
It is safe to say our enemies have also studied Trump in great detail. They understand what makes him tick. They know his psychological profile. They know how to use his personality weaknesses to their best advantage. You can even see this in action when foreign leaders interact with him. Unfortunately for us, Trump is an open book to be exploited.
If you didn’t see it, the interview of Fiona Hill on the CBS program 60 Minutes last Sunday, March 8, 2020, is well worth watching. Ms. Hill is an expert on Russia. She was a member of the National Security Council. She is exactly the type of careful, competent, credible expert we hope is in our government helping formulate foreign policy. She testified during the impeachment trial, so she was forced out after Trump’s acquittal. She is now with the Brookings Institute. Ms. Hill has studied Vladimir Putin extensively and written a book about him. According to Ms. Hill, Putin, who is a former KGB agent, is an expert profiler who studies the psychological makeup of all political leaders. Although Ms. Hill was guarded and circumspect in her interview concerning whether Putin had used his training and skills to profile Trump, she didn’t have to elaborate for us to know the answer.
A British newspaper commented in 1919 that “character is destiny.” The paper’s comment was intended at the time to be critical of Winston Churchill. The paper was right about character, but wrong about Churchill. But for Churchill’s character, the future of the free world would have been entirely different. Do we really want the destiny of the U.S. to be riding on the character of Trump?