Nancy LeTourneau, the psychologist and family therapist turned political analyst, once offered this reminder:
One of the first articles I read about Donald Trump’s mental health issues was written by Richard Greene. He talked to several psychiatrists about the signs and symptoms related to Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). One description stuck with me.
“There are only two ways to deal with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and they are both dangerous. There is no healthy way of interacting with someone with this affliction. If you criticize them, they will lash out at you, and if they have a great deal of power, that can be consequential. If you compliment them it only acts to increase the delusional and grandiose reality the sufferer has created, causing him to be even more reliant on constant and endless compliments and unwavering support.”
Everyone knows this now. And this matters now. There will be no more forced compliments. And lashing out at any criticism won’t scare anyone now. A narcissist with no power of any kind can be ignored, and will be ignored. Their rage isn’t even interesting. Donald Trump can rage that no one sees that he’s really quite wonderful. But he isn’t. He lost the presidency.
He lost the presidency to perhaps the least narcissistic politician imaginable. Joe Biden accepts criticism – that’s a way to do better next time – and he shrugs at compliments. Those are nice, but there’s work to do. And he doesn’t gloat. Friday evening, four days after Election Day, there was this:
Delaware Sen. Chris Coons spoke to reporters in Wilmington Friday night ahead of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s remarks expected later on.
“I think you will likely hear an update on the race, in which he’ll convey his confidence in the system, his optimism about the ultimate outcome, and his determination to lead a responsible path forward,” Coons said, offering a preview of Biden’s speech.
What people won’t hear, he said, is “a pronouncement [of victory] that might make us feel all a little bit better, and go to sleep sooner.”
In short, there will be no gloating:
Biden, he said, “is respecting the process and making sure it plays out thoroughly.”
Coons also said he didn’t expect any major networks to declare Biden the winner in the key state of Pennsylvania tonight, despite the fact that Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump continues to grow with each new batch of votes.
At 10:00 p.m., Biden was ahead by 27,130 votes in Pennsylvania, with 96% of the count tallied. A win in the state would net Biden 20 additional electoral votes, and put him over the 270-vote threshold to win the presidency.
That was one of six ways Biden was sure to win. This was over, but Biden would not rub it in:
Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris took the stage at Chase Center together just before 11 p.m. Friday, addressing the public for the first time in a long day of waiting as states continued counting outstanding ballots.
Biden acknowledged that votes were still being tabulated but expressed confidence he would soon be able to claim a win. He and Harris lead in four of the six states where the race has not yet been called.
“My fellow Americans, we don’t have a final declaration of victory yet but the numbers tell a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race,” Biden said.
Biden said he and Harris were on track to over 300 electoral college votes and to win the race with a clear majority.
“I know watching these vote tallies on TV moves very slow, slow, and it’s as slow as it goes,” Biden said. “It can be numbing, but never forget the tallies aren’t just numbers. They represent votes and voters.”
So, let’s respect the voters. That victory dance in the end zone can wait, and really doesn’t matter, and may do more harm than good. There’s work to do. He listed some of that. And that work requires that we drop all the anger and nastiness. And he didn’t once say that he was wonderful. He didn’t once claim to be a very stable genius. This wasn’t about him, so let this play out:
He closed by urging patience as states finished counting ballots.
“Remember, we have to remain calm, patient, let the process work out as we count all the votes,” Biden said. “You know, we’re proving again what we’ve proved for 244 years in this country. Democracy works. Your vote will be counted. I don’t care how hard people try to stop… I will not let it happen.”
Yes, Trump keeps shouting STOP THE COUNT! He’s angry. He’s afraid. He’s a narcissist. Biden says let’s see what happens. He can wait.
He’s not Trump. Trump can’t wait for much of anything. Olivia Nuzzi says Trump opened his presidency as the big man, the biggest and best and manliest man ever, and his presidency is ending small:
Trump is guided by instinct on most days, but the final year of his presidency was marked by something unusual: He wasn’t sure what to believe or what to do anymore. At first, he feared Joe Biden, then he thought he was a joke, and then the joke was on him. By the summer, Trump understood that he could lose. Surrounded by yes-men, he yearned, on occasion, for the truth they would not give him. “At one point, he said, ‘Well, how are all the polls wrong?’” the adviser recalled. And by Election Day, he understood that losing was inevitable. He accepted, even if he had no plans to concede, that his presidency was over.
Nevertheless, in the residence, surrounded by senior advisers and family, he was furious. About everything. He was angry things weren’t going his way. He was angry Fox had called Arizona for Biden. He was angry that Biden had gone out on TV first. Everyone was offering him different ideas about what to say to the nation, to fight or to be measured or to say this or that, contradicting each other as the president grew angrier and angrier, throwing up one hand to silence people as he reviewed notes in the other. He was unhappy with the notes. He was unhappy with everything. And then he went out and ignored everybody who had tried to help.
“As the day wore on, the day wore on him,” the adviser said. White House and campaign staff whispered among themselves. “‘Wow, he’s so down. He knows he’s losing.’”
And then things got worse:
Uncertainty crept back by dawn. When he woke, the race still not called, and his mood changed. On a phone call with the adviser, he said, “Why would I lose to Joe Biden? What’s going on?” He launched a demand – “STOP THE COUNT!” – on Twitter, but he didn’t understand that if the vote count were to stop on Wednesday morning, he’d be handing Joe Biden the presidency.
His staff explained that to him. Everyone agreed that STOP THE FRAUD was a safer thing to shout, and he gave in. He was a bit sullen about that, but he understood. He was the president of the preeminent democracy in the world. Voting is good. Fraud is bad, but voting is good. Got it.
This was getting absurd, and Nuzzi asked one of the president’s friends what the hell was going on:
This person, who speaks to the president often – or, more accurately, who listens and says uh-huh as the president speaks – said that Trump is not just done for, but done. “He wants to lose. He’s out of money. He worries about being arrested. He worried about being assassinated,” they said. “It hasn’t been a great experience for him. He likes showing people around the White House, but the actual day-to-day business of being president? It’s been pretty unpleasant for him.”
And there’s this:
“A lot of what Trump says is the opposite of what he means. That’s true of all of us, to some extent,” the president’s friend said. But when Trump said he didn’t mind losing to Biden, even though he famously hates losers of any ilk, his friend believed him. “He doesn’t believe losing is shameful – quitting is bad. Losing isn’t,” this person said. “He’s afraid. He’s the most insecure, afraid person ever. He’s too afraid to be president. He’s afraid to exercise power. He’s afraid to do the job. It’s why he’s overbearing and crazy – he sabotages himself constantly because he hates himself and wants out. He’s always trying to hurt himself. That guy commits more self-harm than anyone I’ve ever encountered.”
That’s rather bizarre, and perhaps quite wrong:
Former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg didn’t buy that Trump could ever be okay with losing, but he figured he’d find a way to cope. After all, the plan in 2015, before Trump formally announced his candidacy, had been to drop out of the race and return to The Apprentice claiming that he could’ve won if he’d wanted to (NBC inadvertently kept him on the campaign trail when they severed its relationship with him over his anti-immigrant comments). That’s not so different from how Trump is preparing to spin his real loss now. “In general, he hates losing. In general, is he gonna be happy? Do you think this is what he wants, to sit here as Joe Biden gives his acceptance speech? Absolutely not,” Nunberg said, “He lost to an idiot, and he’ll believe this whole thing was rigged and stolen.”
The senior adviser said Trump’s talked about a plan to move to Mar-a-Lago full time instead of returning to Trump Tower.
Ah, he’s really a mellow fellow after all!
No, he’s not. The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report this:
President Trump vowed on Friday to continue to fight the election results, privately urging allies and advisers to defend him publicly and insisting that he still had a path to victory over former vice president Joe Biden.
But behind the scenes over the past two days, advisers have broached with the president the prospect of an electoral defeat, and how he should handle such an outcome, two people familiar with the discussions said.
This is what Nancy LeTourneau had mentioned. There are only two ways to deal with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and they are both dangerous:
Some close to the president are advocating that, if Biden is declared the winner of the presidential election, Trump will ultimately offer public remarks in which he commits to a peaceful transition of power, according to allies and Republican officials, who like others on Friday spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. One senior campaign aide, however, said there had been no discussion of a concession speech.
Trump is unlikely to ever concede in the traditional sense, allies said – giving the sort of gracious, magnanimous speech the nation has come to expect at the end of even the most hard-fought presidential contests. If he loses, these people added, they expect Trump to continue to baselessly claim, as he has done for several days now, that the election was stolen.
He is a difficult man:
Since Election Day, the president has acknowledged to some advisers that he faces an uphill battle but has argued it is still a battle worth having. Still, some in Trump’s orbit have worked to calm the president and help push him toward what many privately acknowledge is an increasingly likely outcome: the loss of the White House, for a man who has made clear he detests losing almost above all else.
That won’t be easy:
After an angry appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday evening in which he called into question the legitimacy of the election results, aides persuaded the president on Friday to release a more measured statement about the unfolding vote counting and to refrain from any public appearances.
The statement issued through his campaign called for “full transparency into all vote counting and election certification,” saying that the fight was “no longer about any single election.”
“I will never give up fighting for you and our nation,” the president concluded.
A person close to the campaign described the statement as “a baby step away from defiance and toward a possible loss.”
And then he stepped right back and no one knew what to do with him:
Trump has spent the week talking to a coterie of longtime advisers and allies, several officials said, including Kellyanne Conway, his former counselor who left the White House at the end of August; Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal attorney; Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser; Vice President Pence; Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel; White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; former chief of staff Reince Priebus; and his campaign team.
His allies are still divided into two main factions – one group, led by the president and his family, that still believes he has a path to victory and that he should continue to battle; and another, larger group of advisers and Republican officials who believe the presidency has all but slipped away.
Yet even those who now believe a Biden victory is a foregone conclusion have struggled with how to break the news to Trump. “They know he’s lost, but no one seems willing to tell King Lear or Mad King George that they’ve lost the empire,” said one Republican in frequent touch with the White House.
And so Trump spent much of the day Friday in the Oval Office, watching election updates on cable news and calling allies and advisers to implore them to “fight and defend me,” said someone familiar with the conversations.
All he does now is watch television, television about him and only him, letting others do the work
One ally who spoke to the president on Thursday said that Trump’s adult children seemed angrier at the prospect of a loss than Trump himself. That same day, Trump’s two oldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, took to Twitter to excoriate Republicans for not doing more to publicly defend and fight for their father. And after the president’s family demanded action, the campaign set up a hotline for people to call to report allegations of voter fraud.
The campaign also tapped David Bossie, a Trump adviser who is not a lawyer, to lead the team’s legal effort to contest the results in several key states. With recriminations and finger-pointing already beginning, however, some advisers griped that the president’s team – and Kushner in particular – should have had more of a legal strategy prepared.
But maybe none of that matters:
Advisers said the legal strategy so far seemed to be more about public relations and politics. Advisers were split on whether the strategy was serious and long-term or only intended to kill a few days until the president “gets in a better head space and moves on,” in the words of one leading Trump adviser.
That seems to be the only objective now:
Some advisers have been talking about how to spin a possible loss, arguing that Trump could still take a victory lap – taking solace in the fact that, even in a deadly pandemic, he exceeded expectations, probably helped the Senate hold its Republican majority and gained Republican seats in the House.
This is not a referendum on you, they have told the president.
That’s not what one hundred fifty million voters thought, but this is what it is:
Despite the uncertainty, most in Trump’s orbit said they think it is highly unlikely that, if he does lose, Trump will simply refuse to the leave the White House, as many Democrats have feared. One ally dismissed the concern as “a liberal fever dream.”
Instead, they feel confident Trump will ultimately vacate the White House without ever explicitly conceding defeat.
One Republican close to the campaign chuckled as they imagined a possible future, six months from now: Biden as president, with Trump still griping, “They stole it from me.”
And then this will finally be over. Trump will end up an old man yelling at those damned kids to get off his lawn. He ends up a joke.
William Saletan doubts that:
Donald Trump is a sadist. In 2016, after winning his party’s presidential nomination, he bragged for months about all the Republican candidates he had beaten. As president-elect, he toured the country, boasting about the emotional pain he had inflicted on Democrats and others who had stood in his way. Throughout his presidency, he gloated that just by occupying the White House, he was infuriating his critics. And this year on the campaign trail, he reveled in recounting the anguish of his opponents on election night 2016.
Now Trump’s reign of cruelty is ending where it began: in defeat, disbelief, and agony. But this time, the agony is his.
And he may deserve that:
Every president-elect before Trump made at least a token effort to unite the country. The victor would reach out to heal the wounds of those who had lost. But Trump never tried. In December 2016, he went on a bizarre victory tour, staging rallies to celebrate his defeat of the 54 percent of Americans who had voted against him. He savaged Hillary Clinton and her supporters, calling the election a “slaughter.” He recalled every detail of election night, especially the TV reporters who, in Trump’s retelling, were “devastated” and “throwing up.”
As president, Trump constantly pitted red America against blue America. He scorned “Democrat-run” cities and states, targeting them for tax increases as he cut taxes for his wealthy supporters. He treated his impeachment not as a rebuke but as a triumph over his enemies. He tried to expunge, out of pure spite, every program and policy enacted by President Barack Obama. As COVID-19 killed tens of thousands of Americans, Trump blamed Democratic governors and threatened to withhold aid from them. He gloated that he was sitting in the White House, and his enemies weren’t.
In this year’s campaign, Trump tried to humiliate his opponents once more. He called former Vice President Joe Biden a “dummy” and a “corpse.” In front of white crowds, he mocked Obama’s middle name (“Hussein”) and the first name of Sen. Kamala Harris “If you don’t pronounce her name exactly right, she gets very angry”). He told audiences how much he enjoyed watching the National Guard invade cities after George Floyd’s death (“That was a beautiful sight … They walked down that street with pepper spray and tear gas, and it was pow, pow”) and how disappointed he was when these invasions were averted. He threatened to punish states whose governors displeased him. He demanded that the Department of Justice prosecute his political enemies. He said Clinton, Biden, and other Democrats should be “locked up.”
All of that did happen, and there was this too:
Trump’s favorite riff was reliving the night of the 2016 election. It was “the greatest night in the history of television,” he told a crowd in Wisconsin three weeks ago. “We had so much fun, the tears that were flowing … Remember the tears?”
On Oct. 25, at a rally in New Hampshire, he claimed that as one state after another fell into his column that night – Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania – TV reporters had wept on air. “They’re crying, they crying,” he exulted, recalling the scene. “It was beautiful … You saw these very unbiased anchors with the tears coming down.” In every retelling, Trump boasted that his tally that night, 306 electoral votes, had traumatized the opposition. “We’re going to have an even more amazing evening” on Nov. 3, he promised.
And then it all fell apart:
What we’re watching now, as the ballots pile up against Trump, and as he vows to fight on in the courts, is the slow-motion humiliation of an empty demagogue. The man who mocked Sen. John McCain’s heroism and called former Sen. Jeff Flake “stupid” is trailing in their state, Arizona, thanks to 100,000 Republicans who, at the urging of Flake and of McCain’s widow, voted for Biden. And the rebuke is personal: Republicans held the Senate and won lots of races down the ballot, often beating the president’s margins. Now, as his party slinks away from him, Trump faces the prospect of surrendering the White House to the man he belittled, in every speech, as “the worst candidate in the history of presidential politics.”
It’s such a shame.
Yes, it is. And now it’s time to move on. There’s work to do.