By Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.*
What may be some of the necessary qualities needed to be a president of a democratic republic, independent of party affiliation and ideological leanings?
Were we to take a sounding in an attempt to answer that question, I think we’d find the following widely listed by most people: good attention span going beyond that required for the 140-characters of a tweet, a commitment to understanding others’ point of view, a willingness to compromise, respect for expertise, diplomacy, curiosity, sincerity, honesty, an understanding of the Constitution, the balance of power, the make-up of Congress, the Courts, their rights, obligations and powers.
That is to say, a president has to work within a democratic framework, accept responsibility for his decisions, the bad as well as the good ones, keep his promises and meet his obligations.
If one were to rate the present president by those criteria, one can wager that most people would give him a grade wavering between an F and a D. Some, who have voted for him and continue to support him, are still fooling themselves and keep pretending that Donald Trump has the intelligence, integrity and understanding to be president. He doesn’t. He is not as smart as he claims to be, not a good person, not even a good businessman, or he would have released the tax forms and other records to prove it.
What he is quite good at is something which made him successful on reality television: he is famous for being a famous kind of celebrity. It catapulted him into the present job, one for which he is unqualified and inadequate; and he knows it, but has neither the will or the ability to reverse the situation, learn from his mistakes and rise to the occasion.
His ego and narcissism (which in psychology goes by the name of pathological narcissism, when it reaches extreme proportions) simply will not allow it. For one thing, he has collapsed the image of an emperor who governs by fiat (Caligula comes to mind immediately) or the captain of a spaceship (Captain Picard) who simply says “let it be so,” and it is done, with the image of a president. He simply does not know the difference. In other words, he is Emperor Caligula of the Roman Empire re-incarnated.
But besides this psychological comparison, there is something that is unique to all narcissists: the ability to externalize and make others pay for their unethical or reprehensible behavior, their misguided choices and mistakes. This is somewhat different from Jung’s projection technique: the projection unto others one’s own vices and faults.
The technique of “externalizing” is used as a response to criticism. For example, in business it means externalizing costs in order to make money by using bankruptcy and tax laws, underpaying one’s contractors, in other words, to force others to pay the costs of one’s failures while one keeps the profits; profits that are most probably less than what he claims or he would have shown his tax returns.
Thus he deflects criticism and failure by behaving like a bully, blaming others, externalizing responsibility and simply disregarding the truth. The truth is what’s convenient at the moment. There is also disregard for consequences. He does not care so much in succeeding (albeit he is perfectly willing to drive his own show into the ground to prevent Schwarzenegger from doing well in it), as he cares in “winning.” Winning is everything. Winning means keeping others down and blaming them (be it the media, Democrats, China, the CIA, or anyone else who fails to pay absolute fealty and praise) for his own failures. Thus he remains the winner takes all.
When Sen. McCain criticizes his characterization of the Navy SEAL mission in Yemen as a winning mission he countered the criticism with a tweet: “Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy! He’s been losing so…long the doesn’t know how to win anymore.” None of those words, of course, have anything to do with the facts which are what they are.
Insults invariably become arguments for sociopaths of various stripes. Rather than explaining why their particular view is different, they simply disparage their critics and accuse the other side of bad motives. They offer alternative facts which they make up as they go along to obfuscate an issue. One of the alternative facts is that the murder rate, as he told a group of sheriffs, has gone up, when in fact it has gone down. Another is that a Broadway show (Hamilton) that he has not seen is “overrated.” The implication is that he knows something the rest of us dummy do not know yet. Another alternative fact is that of voters’ fraud to the tune of 5 million. Illegal aliens went to vote for Clinton. And so did the zombies, one supposes. It’s a delusional world and we may soon inherit its whirlwind.
About the author:
*Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.
This article was published by Modern Diplomacy